Before you dismiss Blood Sex & Royalty with a groan of not another Henry-and-Anne story, it would be a good idea to give the show a chance. Having done so, you will be captivated. Using a modern sensibility and language, Blood Sex & Royalty is a gripping, raunchy, retelling of one of the greatest love stories ever told — that of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Blood Sex & Royalty
While it is described as a docu-drama, Blood Sex & Royalty is more a reenactment of the major points in the doomed love affair, set to techno and rap music, and with a panel of experts giving a historical perspective to the unfolding events. Though at first breaking the fourth wall might be a tad distracting and would require a bit of getting used to, it is well worth the effort.
Teenaged Anne (Amy James-Kelly), the younger daughter of the charming but horrendously ambitious diplomat, Thomas Boleyn (Adam Astill), is shocked by the licentious ways of King Francis’ (Matas Dirginčius) French court. Her sister, Mary (Lois Brabin-Platt), one of the king’s many mistresses, is quite the party girl and tells bookish Anne that there are things she could learn about life beyond the pages.
We then move ahead to the fateful year of 1536. Anne is in the tower, imprisoned for treason. Switching between Anne in the tower and the beginnings of Anne’s relationship with the dashing King Henry VIII (Max Parker), the series follows the affair from its early, heady days, to the break with the church, the annulment of Henry’s first marriage, Anne and Henry’s marriage, the coronation, the birth of Elizabeth, and Anne’s fall from grace as she fails to provide Henry with the male heir he so desires.
Anne’s vivacity, sharp wit and intellect are very much on show when she challenges various beliefs including the one that the Bible should only be in Latin and not in English. King Francis’s sister Marguerite D’Angouleme (Georgia Sansom) encourages Anne to read and embrace her inner feminist.
Anne does not lack enemies in court, from Cardinal Wolsey (Callum Coates) and Thomas Cromwell (Stephen Fewell) to her frenemy, her lady in waiting, Lady Worcester (Nikhita Lesler) and her sister-in-law Jane (Sophie Boettge).
Among the experts who comment on the goings-on are historians and authors Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, Tracy Borman, ( The Private Lives of the Tudors), and Lauren Mackay, ( Among the Wolves of Court). Owen Emmerson, a Hever Castle historian, and Nandini Das, a professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford, are also among the talking heads.
Emmerson’s description of the 1520 meeting between Henry and Francis near Calais as “Woodstock on steroids” gives a fair idea of the tone of the show.
By creating believable protagonists in this well-known tale of love, lust, ambition, treason, and betrayal, Blood Sex & Royalty becomes a show that one can invest in despite knowing how the story will end.
Blood Sex & Royalty is presently streaming on Netflix