Anna Bolena’s life becomes a TV series: the difference with the true story

Games of thrones, power intrigues and unbridled passions. Today we have a very particular vision of the royal dynasties that have come and gone over the course of time. An artificial photograph, distant from reality, in which the court was depicted as a den of debauchery, sex (even non-consensual) and impossible loves. A true but too extreme image which, over time, has distorted the importance of some historical figures important to our cultural heritage. On TV, as in the cinema, there are many reconstructions that try to tell the story with its courses and appeals. It also tries Blood, sex and royaltythe series available on Netflix that mixes the technique of documentary to that of one soap opera to tell a very complex page of the Tudor dynasty.

Three episodes for a pop, fashionable and unscrupulous reconstruction of the court life of Henry VIII and, more precisely, of the legendary figure of Anne Boleyn. Woman come on easy costumesi but intelligent and unconventional, she was the architect of the break with the Anglican church when the king requested (and obtained) the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Blood, sex and royalty opens a parenthesis on a historical period of great artistic and cultural ferment, digging deeply into the heart of a woman who was the involuntary creator of a unique historical event. Despite this, the Netflix show – which needless to say is in the top ten of the most watched series of the streaming giant – does not make the screen as many would have hoped. We are faced with a false documentary that hints at history but does not give a sincere image of the myth of Anne Boleyn.

A look at 16th century England

Created and developed by Karen Kelly, the three episodes of the series open a long parenthesis on the history of the English kingdom at the beginning of the 1500s. interviews to historians, writers and connoisseurs of the Tudor dynasty, the series wants to distance itself from all genre productions, giving the public a more contemporary vision of history, with pop music, fresh and pushed language, and with many erotic scenes to tell the English monarchy at the time of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Indeed, Blood, sex and royalty dwells more on the figure of the noblewoman who became Queen of England and Ireland in 1533, upsetting the life of the sovereign and the United Kingdom itself. An image of great value, sought after and of great impact – with all its strengths and weaknesses -, conceived to bring young people closer to history and allow them to discover and appreciate a woman who, for the time, was in step with the times and which consequently has left an imprint on the popular culture of yesterday and today.

A woman against the tide

Obviously, by focusing attention on the character of Anne Boleyn, it was impossible that a biting story and a piqued criticism of the figure of the woman. Which is good but for the time this criticism is decidedly anachronistic. Historically, even if noble, the woman had to be only a wife and a mother and stand by her husband without taking a position on state affairs or political controversies. And the unscrupulous tale of Blood, sex and royalty explains all too well the condition of women in 1500 and, precisely for this reason, the choice to tell the Anglican schism was entrusted to Anna Bolena. Despite the positions taken and the all too contemporary language, the series tries to tell the struggle between Church and State, between what is right and what is wrong, through the gaze of a restless woman but with great acumen who never wanted to bend to the rules of the nobility. The narration begins right from the moment in which the Boleyn knows Henry VIII. It is said that between the two it was love at first sight and that the king did everything to invite Anna to her bed. But the woman wanted more. She didn’t just want to be the king’s concubine, she didn’t want to make the mistakes her sister made. She wanted the throne, she wanted to have a say and not just be a woman. She succeeded in the end. The price, however, was very expensive.

A very young and not very adult approach

The contents are there and the narration is very excited, so as not to get lost in small talk. The fact is that Blood, sex and royalty still fails to fully convince. Even if supported by the advice of historians and industry experts, the series has too unconventional an approach to hope to be able to tell something new and different about the myth of Anne Boleyn and the english court. The contemporary music, the too glossy direction, the continuous winking of the protagonist at the video camera, the sumptuous and “out of time” clothes and that inappropriate language, have made the transposition unrealistic and distant from all the prisms of a historical drama. A young and soap-opera-smelling vision of Anne Boleyn’s life takes shape after true events, more intent on astonishing the public than trying to tell her story and legacy. Certainly, it is an adult series for its content but aimed at an audience that is not attentive and interested in the topics.

Is Blood, Sex and Royalty a necessary series?

Three episodes for three hours that run fast, without yawning and without forcing. And, for sure, this is the glaring reason why audiences are staying tuned to Blood, sex and royalty. But, beyond that, the series doesn’t offer anything new on the subject. Indeed it does nothing but mix all the most salient events on the Boleyn, condensing the story with languid looks, biting jokes, cover physicists and dreams of a better future. Apart from the more documentary part (which is the most interesting), the Netflix show just fails to hit the mark.

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Between history and myth: the true story of Anna Bolena

Anne Boleyn, this is her real name, was born between 1501 and 1507 in Hever Castle. A woman against the tide since she was a little girl, it was not easy to reconstruct the stories about her origins of the Queen of England given that, for a long period of time, there has been an attempt to erase from history the woman who, in fact, split the Anglican church. She died at the Tower of London accused of being a usurper. She enters the court in 1522, during a ball in honor of the imperial ambassadors, but it is immediately clear that she is interested in the king and not in James Butler, her cousin and betrothed. L’infatuation of the king opened the “Great Question”, putting the relationship between the crown and religion at risk. With the annulment of the marriage with Catherine of Aragon, the Boleyn becomes her queen but during her short reign a very difficult period begins. The sovereign is not well regarded precisely because of Anna and too much discontent spreads throughout the court. The marriage relationship between King Henry and Anna was stormy: periods of tranquility and happiness alternated with periods of tension and quarrels, mostly due to Henry’s repeated infidelities, which led Anna to violent fits of tears and anger; on the other hand, Anna’s strong intelligence and political acumen were considered by Enrico very irritating. The son who never came was another breaking point. Then the arrest, trial and death by beheading.

The court of Henry VIII in popular culture

Today we are still captivated by stories of dynasties, of secrets and games of thrones, as demonstrated by the great interest shown by the press (and not only) in the English, Monegasque or Spanish royal families. Nothing is anyone, though, beats what happened during the Tudor reign. At the schism with the Anglican church, the conflicting relations with the Vatican and the wars with France, that of Henry VIII was certainly a very complicated reign. So fascinating that it has become a source of inspiration for films and TV series. On the life of Anne Boleyn, for example, there is The other woman of the king with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. And on TV there is the series about Tudors which, right between the second and third seasons, opens a parenthesis on the story of Anna Bolena. And like the series of reign which tells, with an excellent teen, what happened before the Tudor dynasty.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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