My Thoughts on Blood, Sex & Royalty: Anne Boleyn

For today’s post, I have decided to share my thoughts on the new Netflix docu-series Blood, Sex & Royalty: Anne Boleyn.   I found this new series as a recommendation from Netflix, which is unsurprising given how much I love the Tudor period.   Of course, given that Anne Boleyn is my favorite Queen of all time, I had to watch this show.   To be honest, at first, I thought it was going to be a straight-up satirical send-up of royal dramas in the vein of The Great.    It was only when I turned on the first of the three episodes that I realized that it was a docu-series, as I saw that Suzannah Lipscomb and Tracy Borman were being interviewed as Tudor experts.

Now, after watching the series I went on to IMDb and saw that the series has several negative reviews.   I do understand where the reviewers were coming from, in that this is not your average docu-series, given that it has a much greater emphasis on the re-enactments by actors.    That being said, I felt that those calling this series insulting to the Tudor figures it portrayed were very unfair.    In large part, I feel that the negative reviews are coming from those that just did not get what this series was trying to do.   To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed this series!   I found it funny and refreshing, mixing the tongue-in-cheek humor with real historical information being interjected by the historians that were featured!   Those who went into this series expecting that it would be another straightforward retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn and her relationship with Henry VIII were surely confused and some were obviously angered.   I went into this expecting satire and I ended up with a bit of satire mixed in with a docu-series that featured some of the great Tudor historians and writers of the modern age!

I am a Tudor history buff, that is certainly true, and I have a very large soft spot for Anne Boleyn, so I do get judgmental over how she is portrayed.   That being said, I think this series did a good job of doing something other docu-series sometimes are unable to do.    It showed us her personality!    The series chose to have a lot of re-enactments so much so that it can almost be considered a scripted mini-series of sorts.    These re-enactments required the actors to do more than the simple scenes featured in most docu-series.    The interviews with the historians were the parts that were shortly interspersed to explain the context and add important information.   Because of this format, the audience gets to see Anne interacting with her world more than most docu-series could allow.    Anne is always described as feisty and witty in books and documentaries, but it is not something we see unless we see a regular scripted show or movie portraying her life.    

I found taking a raunchy comedy and tongue-in-cheek attitude to telling her story to be a fun choice.   It allowed the audience to hear her witty asides (directed to the camera, breaking the fourth wall).   The adoption of modern language when the historical figures are talking to each other is anachronistic, but it helps to tell the story more cohesively.   I honestly found her jokes to the camera to be funny and felt that they captured some of her wit and personality in a new and special way!   In this age of satirical send-ups of historical figures with the aforementioned The Great and also Dickinson, it is not surprising that this form of loving send-up would be brought to the Tudor era.   It is even less surprising that Anne Boleyn would be the first figure to be used in this way, as she is already known for her strong will, wittiness, and rebellious nature.   I think that some Tudor lovers may feel that given her tragic end it is hard to do this kind of thing respectfully, but I felt that giving her a voice and putting us from her point of view through the whole three-part docu-series helped to make the audience empathize with her struggles even more.   After all, someone can both be funny and make people feel for their struggles.   I felt that this series struck a good balance in this regard.

Now, there are some things I would have liked to be done differently.    I wish the series was longer, allowing for more things to be covered.    Henry Percy was briefly mentioned and the relationship between him and Anne was spoken of but left unresolved.    This made her history with Cardinal Wolsey seem vague.    Anne being made Marquess of Pembroke is never mentioned, even though this happened before she and Henry went to France to gain the support of Francis I in their impending marriage.    That being said, the series did manage to discuss some things that are often left out of the narrative.   For instance, her dog falls out of a window and dies.   This tragic event impacted Anne’s mental state and greatly made her fear her enemies in Court.   This is in part because she believed that someone pushed the dog out o the window on purpose to send a message.   Therefore, I enjoyed that it was discussed by the historians and I also appreciate that they did not show this on screen (we only saw Henry tell Anne about the event).

Now that I have thoroughly discussed several aspects of this very unique new form of docu-series I will be wrapping up what I realize is a much longer post than I initially intended.   I hope that you have enjoyed reading my rambling thoughts on this new Netflix docu-series.   Have you seen Blood, Sex & Royalty: Anne Boleyn?    Are you interested in watching it now that I have reviewed it?   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a promotional image from the show.   I found the image on

Further Watching

  • Blood, Sex & Royalty: Anne Boleyn (2022)