Movie Review:  The Best “Boleyns” Ever

Release date:  August 2021 in UK, August 2022 in U.S.

Review, short version:  All thumbs up.

Review, long version:

When a program is produced by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), I know it will be well done.

When a program is carried by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), I know it will be well worth watching.

Put these two powerhouses together and – you get outstanding:

If you’re a fan of English royal history, Tudor history, the Boleyns, and/or Anne Boleyn, then The Boleyns:  A Scandalous Family is must-see viewing.

My fandom of all these topics started a long time ago with my first novel about Anne.  Since then I’ve read many more novels about her, plus biographies, and watched Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1972), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Wolf Hall (2015) and whatever else I could find.  Some more than once.

But The Boleyns stands out for me because it’s the facts, insofar as they are known, spoken about by articulate experts, with well-done reenactments:

Reenactors portraying (from left, clockwise) Thomas Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Howard (Anne’s uncle), and George Boleyn.

And an interesting thing about those reenactments is that Henry VIII – Anne’s husband and eventual executioner – appears infrequently, more in the shadows than not, and to the best of my recollection had little or no speaking role at all.

But then – this is the Boleyns’ story, after all.

There are many articles online about the documentary, but I thought this description from a PBS station covered it well:

“Based on 16th-century sources, including rare original letters and documents, this new three-part series uses insights from leading Tudor scholars and dramatic re-enactments to bring this story to life from the family’s own perspective.

“Tight-knit, cunning and power-hungry, rising from obscurity to the apex of power, the Boleyns played a dangerous game and paid the ultimate price…A riveting story of love, sex, betrayal and obsession.”

The Boleyns garnered a lot of reviews, some negative – like this one from the United Kingdom, where The Boleyns premiered in 2021:

And this one, also from the UK in 2021, had a rather cheeky (as the Brits would say) headline:

When The Boleyns debuted in the U.S. in August 2022, reviews were largely favorable, and I’ll close with this one:

And how did the Boleyns get that “last laugh” in the headline?

Here’s how:

“The Boleyns changed the course of British history and left a remarkable legacy in the form of two magnificent monarchs:  Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne, and Queen Elizabeth II, a direct descendant of Mary Boleyn”:

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