‘Mary And George’ Ending Explained & Series Recap: Does George Kill King James?

For a title as harmless as Mary and George, the Julianne Moore – Nicholas Galitzine-led historical drama turns out to be unimaginably violent and incredibly salacious. Based on the infamous romance between George Villiers, aka the first Duke of Buckingham, and King James (of Scotland and England), Mary and George tells three decades of story within the span of seven episodes at breakneck speed—the kind of approach that we’ve seen in HBO’s House of The Dragon. And while the series matches the extremely violent nature of the HBO show (and its iconic predecessor, Game of Thrones), it also has a very Bridgerton-like soapiness going on. The result is insanely entertaining, seven-hour binge-worthy television that keeps you at the edge of your seat till the very last minute. Nicholas Galitzine is electrifying as George, while Julianne Moore plays Mary with the same energy of her film Sharper (2023), which, in many ways, had a thematically similar plot.


Spoilers Ahead

Who Are Mary And George?

England, 1592. Mary Villiers is anything but happy after the birth of her second son, George. For her, second-borns mean nothing, as they don’t inherit much and always live under the shadow of the firstborn. Twenty years later, George is a brash young man who’s devoid of any motherly affection from Mary, and the two are always at each other’s throats. Unfortunately for Mary, her firstborn, John, sticks out like a sore thumb—a young man who’s weak both in terms of mind and body. The series never makes it clear what John is really suffering from, although there’s a clear suggestion of insanity. With John being a prospective blackhole, Mary’s hope of ascending into the top part of society lies with George. She plans to send George to France, but he’s hellbent on not going. However, things soon go south for George as his father, also named George, dies, and now nobody can stop Mary from doing what she wants. What George doesn’t know is that it’s his mother who has actually murdered his father and made it look like an accident. In Mary’s defense, George Senior seemed like an abusive scumbag, and she’s clearly better off without him. 


But the immediate problem Mary faces is an immediate shortage of wealth. So she does the most obvious thing you can imagine—marrying Sir Thomas Compton, a noble lord who’s looking for some sort of companionship. She promises Sir Thomas to not take a bit from his wealth, except for the fund for George’s French education. George is still reluctant, especially because of his girlfriend Jenny, who’s a stable girl at the Villiers household. He makes a faux suicide attempt, which fails to fool Mary, and now he has no choice but to leave.

Why Does Mary Want George To Seduce The King?

Mary is shown as this cunning woman who would do anything to climb the social ladder. Although she claims to come from the very noble Beaumont family, it’s shortly revealed that she originally belonged to a much lower class family, and her late husband George was probably the only person who knew about the forged identity. This pretty much establishes her motive to find a place in the all-important British society, and she sees the perfect opportunity when King James visits Sir Thomas’ estate. James is a Scotsman who seems to be more into fooling around with his paramour, Robert Carr, aka The Earl of Somerset – than running the country. It appears that James is pretty much in the pocket of Carr and his dangerously scheming wife, Frances, who’s rumored to be practicing witchcraft. Mary realizes that if she can somehow get Carr out of the scene and put George in that empty seat, her family will enjoy all the benefits. Of course, to pull this off, George needs to get into James’ pants. So Mary summons him back from France. Some time have passed, and George is now this ambitious, sexually liberated man who might not be too fond of his mother, but wouldn’t at all mind trying his hand at what she’s suggesting.


What Happens To The Earl Of Somerset And His Wife?

Robert and Frances Carr turn out to be the biggest obstacles in Mary and George’s path, expectedly. The moment they get the whiff of the mother-son duo cooking something against them, they pounce on Mary and George like bloodthirsty hounds. That can’t stop George from getting noticed by the King, even though that happens through things like tripping with a food tray while serving dinner. Soon, George gets into the King’s inner circle of men and even manages to scrape a chance of getting physical with James. Overthrowing Robert still seems like a distant dream, though.

While George is at play, Mary finds an ally in Sir David, who’s a mainstay in the King’s entourage but also hates the idea of a Scottish King with another Scotsman, Robert, at the helm of England. Naturally, he’s all game with Mary’s plan and ready to help her with everything. But it’s soon revealed that Sir David is very much aware of Mary’s secret and actually wants to use her (and George) as pawns only. If there’s one thing that Mary absolutely hates, then it has to be men like David threatening her, so she soon gets back at him, with the assistance of her newfound lover, Miss Brookes. Together, they drug and kill David and his partner in crime, Wearstrap. Although Wearstrap actually doesn’t die, Mary makes sure to take care of that problem, which only shows up later in the narrative.


With David gone, Mary seeks another ally in Edward Coke, a judge and also a notable public figure with a really bitter wife, Lady Hatton. Thanks to Frances’ former husband, Mary finds out how the devious woman uses black magic to eliminate (or harm) her enemies, including the dead Thomas Overbury. Sir Overbury had to face Frances’ wrath because he objected to her second marriage, to Robert. Little did Frances know that one day she would have to face the consequences of the sin, thanks to one Mary Villiers being hellbent on destroying her. With Edward by her side, Mary has it quite easy putting Frances and Robert on trial, where both are sentenced to be hanged until death. Frances, who’s pregnant, is allowed to deliver the baby, which would be snatched from her right after the birth. In a strange turn of events, Robert confesses to George that all he ever did to keep George away from King James was not for the King, but for his admiration towards George. He, in fact, is in love with George and, considering Robert’s days are numbered – we’ve got every reason to believe him. Suggesting it was Frances who was responsible for all the devilish things, Robert seeks help from George. Sadly for Robert, George has now successfully molded himself into the perfect son of Mary – who doesn’t hesitate to throw Robert under the bus, even after getting heavily physical with him.

Why Does King James Go To Edinburgh?

Not only has George successfully managed to fill the empty seat of Robert as James’ paramour, he has also managed to insert his younger brother Kit into the King’s entourage. On a trip with James and co. in Edinburgh, George meets Peter Carr, a cousin of Robert – who, despite knowing the history of George and Robert, appears to be quite friendly. George soon cheats on James with Robert, which puts James into a pit of depression. However, Peter soon reveals it was all part of an elaborate plan for revenge against George by attempting to murder him in the deserted Ruthvan castle. Thanks to Kit intuitively following and blowing Peter’s head off with a smoothbore pistol just at the right moment, George gets saved at the knick of time.


James eventually reveals the true purpose of his trip to Edinburgh – which is as heartbreaking as digging up his former lover Lord Lennox’s embalmed heart, which James once buried under the grounds of Edinburgh. Lennox was James’ one true love, who was exiled to a lonely death in France – at a time when young James was unable to do anything. After hearing about it from James, George appears to be truly moved and he promises to stay by his side.

Around the same time, Mary focuses on her plan to marry her firstborn, John, to Edward Cole’s daughter, Frances Coke (not to be confused with the Countess of Somerset). Coke is on board with the idea – given Mary’s family is doing really good at becoming the who’s who of the society, which is a huge deal, considering the time and context of the story. But thanks to Lady Hatton not being particularly excited about the idea, Mary’s initial attempt goes in vain. In fact, Lady Hatton vigorously insults Mary’s whole family – including the prospective groom, John. But Mary being Mary, she decides to give it another go – this time by kidnapping Frances and getting Coke to sign off his daughter to her, a custom which used to be quite normal for that era. Lady Hatton is also not someone who’s going to give up easily so she consults Francis Bacon for a solution. Pardon me for not mentioning the name of Francis Bacon before, especially given the character has huge significance in the latter half of the plot. Bacon and Mary are rivals in the story from the moment they know each other, thanks to him taking an interest in George and tactfully sliding into the role of his mentor cum friend. In the absence of the King, Bacon is the man-in-charge who decides to put Lady Hatton, Frances, and Mary all in the same house to avoid any squabble until the King returns. Of course, he actually wants to turn things in Lady Hatton’s favor – which honestly seems like the right thing to do, compared to what Mary’s doing. Sadly, Mary beats Bacon at his own game by traveling to Edinburgh before him, and getting the approval of King James for the marriage. Despite Lady Hatton’s disapproval, the wedding takes place – effectively meaning Frances is doomed. I should probably mention here that after finishing the show, I googled certain things out of curiosity and stumbled onto articles describing how unhappy Frances Coke used to be – just saying.


What Happens To Miss Brookes?

Niamh Algar’s Miss Brookes, aka Sandie, has to be one of most important characters in the show – thanks to her romance with Mary. Although the two meet each other at a brothel, thanks to Brookes’ profession, they soon get to the point where they can’t live without each other. Mary might be an evil, scheming woman who wouldn’t mind pimping her own son out; but her relationship with Miss Brookes seems genuine enough to root for. Miss Brookes’ position in society often puts her and Mary under scrutiny, mostly by the men in the show, but that couldn’t stop the relationship from flourishing. In fact, it only made the bond between Mary and Miss Brookes stronger.

But one has to pay for the sin they’ve committed, and while Brookes’ love for Mary is unquestionable, it can’t be ignored that the duo have done so many terrible things, without even batting an eyelid. It gets to a point where Brookes actually develops a conscience, especially after seeing the condition of Frances (Coke, the one married to insane John). It is quite evident that a lot of things she does are for Mary only, who she truly loves. Had she not met Mary, Miss Brookes would have survived in this life. Instead, her life ends with her getting violently stabbed by this random woman – it’s the doing of Francis Bacon, taking his revenge on Mary.


Why Does George Kill King James?

The peace treaty between Spain and England becomes the most pivotal plot point of the last leg of Mary and George. All the trouble begins with statesman Sir Walter Raleigh attacking a Spanish troupe of soldiers in Guyana without provocation – and subsequently making up a fake story of him and his soldier being attacked first by the Spaniards. There’s a motive behind the action, exacting revenge on the Spanish, who in fact, killed every last one of Walters’ army, including his son. Spanish Count Diego lets King James, Francis Bacon and Edward Coke know about it and seeks justice from them but they decide to hear from Walter first. Upon hearing Walter’s version of the story, George, who’s installed himself into the King’s council, gives the verdict in Walters’ favor. This understandably upsets James, as he didn’t expect George to throw around judgment in the presence of the King himself. Thanks to Bacon’s interference, George soon realizes his mistake. He apologizes to James and eventually prompts the King to make Sir Walter pay for his crime. Based on the order of King James, Walter ends up at the receiving end of a very public beheading. This upsets ailing Queen Anne, who’s a huge supporter of Sir Walter. King James’ decision is also not taken well by the public, who are used to seeing Walter as a war hero. For most, King James has sided with the enemy – the Spanish.

Following this, James goes into hibernation, which goes on for years. He stops appearing at council meetings and only sees a selective number of people – George, Mary, his son Charles, Francis Bacon and a few others. The lives of George and Mary have changed quite a bit, during this period. George has found a wife in Katherine, who’s very aware of their entire situation. Edward Coke is not an ally to Mary anymore, mainly due to the terrible state of his own daughter – Frances. George and Mary have also drifted apart, thanks to each individually vying for the attention of King James. He’s clearly not the mama’s boy anymore, and has no problem asking Mary to get out of his way, in a very insulting manner. Mary is in further trouble, with Edward Coke now looking into the whole murdering Sir David thing, aided by Francis Bacon. Miss Brookes gets arrested as the primary suspect of the said murder, while Mary looks to free the love of her life. She does find an opportunity thanks to George’s new scheme – where he is in cahoots with Diego, and planning an alliance between England and Spain, through the marriage of Charles and Diego’s daughter, Infanta. To acquire more authority and power, George doesn’t hesitate getting his friend, Francis Bacon out of his way by framing false charges of taking bribes from the Spaniards. With Wearstrap, the only witness to Sir David’s murder, out of the picture already – Mary has no problem freeing Miss Brookes. Sadly, Bacon, who has now lost everything, wouldn’t let his no. 1 rival, Mary, have a happy ending so he arranges the death of Mrs Brookes. And the person who encourages Bacon to do this to Mary is none other than George, who still has an understanding with Bacon.


George’s over-ambitious plan of forging an alliance between Spain and England through the marriage of Charles and Infanta goes in vain when the Spaniards refuse to say yes to the proposal. Enraged at his failure, George asks King James to wage a war against Spain, which lands him into further trouble. What he gets instead is an angry and tired King James stripping off all his titles and sentencing him to death. Fortunately for him, his mother is the only other person around when James announces his decision. Mary is not exactly a profound example of a loving mother, but she clearly doesn’t want George to die. And despite their differences, both of them are the epitomes of utmost toxicity after all. Naturally, seeing no other option for avoiding the death penalty, George smothers King James to death – with the blessings of his dearest mother.

Does George Die In The End?

It’s rather sad to see James’ son, Charles, getting deceived so many times by George – who he considers a friend. After James’ death, Charles takes on the role of the King, with George right by his side. We all know for a fact that it’s George who’s really running the show. Ironically, George turns out to be terrible at it – losing war after war. And after everything he has done, getting violently stabbed by a lowly soldier who got mad at George for waging unnecessary wars comes off as very poetic. Upon hearing the news, Mary doesn’t quite show any sign of sadness – which only proves that George really meant nothing to her. 


And Finally, Is It A True Story?

First things first, Mary and George happens to take inspiration from a non-fiction book. All the characters, other than Miss Brookes, are people who actually existed, if we go by history. The book itself was about the affair between James and George, and there is clear evidence of that actually happening, once upon a time. Every other major event shown in the show, from the trial of Robert and Frances Carr to Frances Coke’s traumatizing marriage with George’s older brother, John, did take place in history. So it can be concluded that Mary and George is a true story. But I do believe the makers of the show took the liberty of bringing a hyper-erotic tone, elements of pulpy violence, and horror into the narrative to make the whole thing exciting for the audience. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I would say, especially considering how Mary and George has turned out.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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