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Blood, Sex, and Royalty (2022) is a new (as of December, when we wrote this — sorry, Snark Week takes months of work!) Netflix docu-drama purporting to be a Fresh New Take on Anne Boleyn. It’s a special, special piece of cinema. It chapped Trystan and Kendra’s asses so much we had to write a combined review!
Side note: Why does this look like a 19th-century-at-best book cover? — Kendra
Susannah Lipscomb, WTF?
Susannah Lipscomb (professor emerita of the University of Roehampton and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Higher Education Academy and the Society of Antiquities) has become one of my favorite historians, and I know Trystan’s too, for her excellently accessible yet thought-out and nuanced podcast, “Not Just the Tudors.” She’s done a number of TV documentaries as well, so she’s clearly committed to being a public historian. But this show is SO BAD, and I’m deeply disappointed in Lipscomb (and Tracy Borman, Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces) for participating in this shlock. — Kendra
No, it doesn’t, but this show doesn’t either.
The Language in Blood, Sex, & Royalty
I’ll note that I usually don’t mind some modernized language — SOME. An “OK” slipping in pre-20th century doesn’t harsh my vibe mortally. But recasting an entire episode of history into incredibly modern language is irritating like walking through a medieval scene wearing a zip-up jumpsuit. This fucking production is even worse than Netflix’s 2002 Persuasion and leans hard into the super modern slang that I guarantee will sound dated in about six months. I threw things at the screen hearing the “updated” versions of Henry‘s love letters to Anne. JUST STOP. It was so fucking stupid and pointless and aggravating. No amount of booze could get me through that nonsense. — Trystan
“Lady W.” “High five.” “BESTIE.” — Kendra
Cardinal Wolsey is “King Henry’s work wife.” Gag. — Kendra
The Sex in Blood, Sex, & Royalty
So what’s supposed to be different about THIS show is that it’s going to show you all the sex! Per Netflix, “A modern take on the British royal drama, this steamy series offers a window into the lives of history’s deadliest, sexiest, and most iconic monarchs.” Except it doesn’t? Seriously, The Tudors has more sex scenes than this, and more revealing ones at that, and possibly most other films and TV series.
Early on in episode one, Anne peers into French king François I‘s bedroom to see an orgy going on… and this is really the only smut going on in this film.
Then, we get Anne wearing a negligee for Henry, and she acts like it’s a huge-ly big deal that she’s revealing herself for the first time, and he acts like it’s the biggest boner ever — except I even lightened this screencap, and there’s nothing revealed in this very opaque robe. Maybe if I stretch I can say “Anne not wearing a corset and/or full dress in front of Henry is super scandalous,” but come on, I shouldn’t have to.
The historians tell us the couple probably did everything-but, repeatedly, but the show never shows this? And when they finally have sexytimes, it’s a tender fireplace shagging moment, not a balls-to-the-wall shag-fest.
As naughty as it gets.
The only other sex is annoyed-Henry sex where his heart isn’t in it, partially because baby Elizabeth is screaming in the same room. THESE PEOPLE ARE ROYALTY, NO ONE LEAVES THEM TO WATCH THE BABY.
So, what was the point of this fucking series then, if NOT to show all the sexy-sex we’ve supposedly been missing out on? — Kendra
The Deeply Hideous Costumes in Blood, Sex, & Royalty
Guys, this is where stretch velvet (and AliExpress) went to die. To wit:
Why is Mary Boleyn so aggressively blonde? Why is she getting tight-laced into a corset/gown when this isn’t a tight-lacing period? Why is her maid dressed in German or Italian costume that has a big ol’ gap at the waist? — Trystan
Why does her hair look like some kind of synthetic cheerleader curls attachment? — Kendra
Why is Henry wearing 18th-century pants? In leather? — Trystan
WHY IS MARY BOLEYN HAVING THIS MUCH FUN — Kendra
Is that tinsel? — Trystan
I think it’s some kind of hot-glued plastic pearl bridal headdress. — Kendra
Yes, I think it’s tinsel. Or at least plastic. — Trystan
Is she wearing a button-down shirt as a partlet??!! — Kendra
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH GAPPAGE BETWEEN HER BODICE AND HER CHEST??!! — Kendra
Pretty sure the blue dress is recycled from somewhere, maybe The Spanish Princess? It’s the least offensive thing worn in this picture. The fucking orange headband on Anne pisses me off. — Trystan
But the level of We Are Not Even Trying expressed by this red dress is epic. Just admit you don’t give the tiniest fuck about history, m’kay? — Trystan
We’re at 1950s levels of bullet-bra princess seams here people. Also, no one burn test that fabric unless you want to see ALL the plastic melt. Thirdly, gaposis #1. — Kendra
Oh wait, this shitty dress wasn’t even custom-made for the actress? Because that’s a pretty wide lacing gap there. You can’t have actually rented it from somewhere — I didn’t know David’s Bridal had rentals! Fuck. — Trystan
EVERY FUCKING DRESS had this massive lacing gap in back. I assume this means they rented every single costume? — Kendra
Can’t see it too well, but Catherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting are wearing crappy attempts at balzos — a 1530s Italian headdress. Catherine of Aragon was from Spain, fwiw. — Trystan
Henry and Catherine are literally introduced by a herald as “Henry King of England and CATHERINE OF ARAGON.” SHE’S NOT CATHERINE OF ARAGON. SHE’S THE QUEEN OF FUCKING ENGLAND. — Kendra
Also, note brunette. And those earrings look modern AF. — Kendra
I think this is Jane Rochford, wife of George Boleyn. That’s a weird padded Minnie Mouse head croissant. — Kendra
Another visor-as-shitty-French-hood! — Trystan
THE STRETCH PANNE VELVET — Kendra
Catherine of Aragon gets one outfit throughout. I’ve seen that blue Indian brocade on eBay. — Kendra
Those are some BRIGHT COLORS for the 16th century. — Kendra
Bets on whether or not the green thing zips up the front? — Trystan
DYING — Kendra
WHAT’S WITH THE CHICKEN FEATHERS — Kendra
Of course there’s skirt-hiking. — Trystan
In their defense, I think this was one of the few times. Not in their defense, that poly baroque satin is killing me. — Kendra
FFS, does nothing fit these actresses?!? — Trystan
It’s on every dress, but the fact they went with CONTRAST lacing here further killed me. — Kendra
OMG, what the hell is going on in the back of this overgown thing?!? — Trystan
Could they not afford the $2 acetate satin, so had to go with the $1?? — Kendra
The giant clunky beads around the neckline on Anne… — Kendra
Wait, there’s a second shitty blue dress? Looks like the same fabric, only this one attempts that split-front bit that’s only seen in a couple period images but modern flicks thing is ooooo so sexy. — Trystan
Gaposis #2. — Kendra
More way-too-wide back-lacing! Did everyone miss their fittings? — Trystan
I loved that Henry just kept wearing this outfit. For years. — Kendra
This might just be the shittiest dress in the whole production, except we don’t get a full frontal of it. The big honkin’ undoubtedly plastic beads all over seal the deal though. — Trystan
IT’S SO BAD — Kendra
ANNE’S CORONATION DRESS. When we know she wore white. This is possibly the world’s worst fit. — Kendra
Watch Anne’s bodice stick up into space! Watch the machine-embroidered appliques get hot-glued on! Also … is that a SHRUG? — Kendra
PUPPY. Yes, there’s one good thing! EXCEPT HE DIES. — Kendra
This is my reaction the whole series: wretch, gag, puke. — Trystan
Did Anne time travel to 1860 to get this aniline-dyed fabric for her dress? — Kendra
PEOPLE, THIS IS THE FAMOUS YELLOW DRESS THAT ANNE WEARS WHEN CATHERINE OF ARAGON DIES. It’s like they combined the shitty bodices seen previously with an AliExpress nylon tulle ballgown skirt. — Kendra
I’m still irritated by the giant back-lacing, but getting a back view of this so-called French hood is sapping my will to live. — Trystan
Preeeeetty sure that’s craft felt. — Kendra
Add one to the Shitty Historical Portraits list! That is just an inkjet printout of a photo, and the printer cartridge is low. — Trystan
I HATE THESE SPLIT-FRONT BODICES. MAKE THEM STOP. — Trystan
I feel like I’d need to reach down a foot to find her boobs. The lack of chemise is the least of her problems. — Kendra
Skirt-hiking, start ’em early. — Trystan
To be fair, this is a cute scene where Princess Elizabeth is trying on her mom’s shoes. To be even fairer, what’s with the 18th-century pocket hoops? — Kendra
THERE IS NO FAIRNESS IN SNARK WEEK! — Trystan
What offended you most about Blood, Sex, and Royalty? What questions do you have?
Okay, I’d actually really like that yellow dress if it was in a Netflix Christmas Prince movie or a Princess Diaries movie (and was properly fitted in the back) and also if they straight up burned the matching yellow felt alien spaceship attacking her head.
The puppy DIES?? Aren’t there rules about that?
To be fair, Anne Boleyn did have a spaniel (presumably a French spaniel, as he was given to her by the wife of the governor of Calais and was called Purkoy, otherwise “Pourquoi?”) who really did die – he fell out of a window.
The adorable dog playing Purkoy (or some other spaniel-type dog) is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel; a breed not created until the seventeenth century (popularized by and named for its patrons King Charles I and II). Actually, the original Cavalier breed died out and was recreated in the nineteenth or 20th century; but you would not have seen a dog like this in England in Anne Boleyn’s arms or indeed anywhere. (a Papillon might have been a more historically accurate choice to play Purkoy)
I was going to say: the Cav looks out of period. Wolf Hall, which is pretty good, does not use a Cav. (Cute note from the books: Cromwell always has a dog, always named Bella, after the one he had to leave behind him when he ran away from home. Pretty sure they’re of no particular breed).
Thank you. I took one look at that picture and thought, “King Charles Spaniel. The clue’s in the name”, but don’t know enough about the breed to know its history.
I mean, it’s a loooong way off being the worst thing in this hellhole of a show, but still.
Thanks so much ladies, for watching this crap so we don’t have to. I think I would have broken the T.V. Long live the snark! :)
So deserving of snark.
Even people who don’t care about costumes should be concerned.
I got through ten minutes and gave up.
Yep. That was my experience to. Sending Trystan and Kendra a BIG HUG for sitting through this series for our enjoyment!
Great kick off to Snark Week 2023. Those are some very bright colors for the early 1500s. Ouch.
It just seems to me that they put huge amounts of EFFORT into getting everything spectacularly wrong. Surely it would have been easier and cheaper (and couldn’t have fitted any worse) just to hire a load of halfway decent stuff made for better productions?
I think the sheer IDGAF of the costumes can be summed up by the fact that Anne’s ‘B’ necklace was clearly originally longer (likely another AliExpress special given how plastic shiny those pearls are) but the costume designers (or someone else) decided they wanted it to be more choker-style (as the original appeared in portraits of Anne); except instead of cutting down the length and reaffixing the clasp, they just awkwardly wrapped the longer ends around the back (very visible in the 3rd blue dress, contrast lacing screenshot) and prayed for the best.
OMG I missed that! Dying!
Yes! I noticed that as well! It looks like one of those super cheap settings that are on stiff wire. One size fits all, no need to bother with a clasp!
How can something made by Netflix look so cheap? Coincidentally, I just rewatched Lucy Worseley’s Secrets of the Six Wives yesterday, and it probably had a much smaller budget, but I like it so much more.
Umm…the guy who plays Henry is kind of cute? Otherwise, yikes, what a dumpster fire.
Everything about this series was straight-up garbage, but I watched it anyway. It actually made me laugh.
You were obviously so mesmerized by the costumes that you forgot to mention the state-of-the-art make up!
Thanks for giving me the time I might have spent watching this so I can do something constructive, like washing my hair.
Congratulations to The Tudors, nobody can ever really say anything about Anne’s weird Royal Ascot fascinator for the “golden age” scene after Katherine’s death, not so long as this Big-Bird-hued, pokey-bodiced, stolen-from-a-high-school-production-of-Beauty-and-the-Beast yellow-tulle nightmare exists. I refuse to believe professional designers were involved in this. They did some kind of intern program for people rejected by Project Runway, right?
The yellow tulle made me think quinceañera, which seems unlikely in Tudor England!
What, in the name of all that is holy? I seem to have skilfully managed to avoid this costuming nightmare. It CAN be done correctly in a docu-drama – just look at Lucy Worsley’s Six Wives. Each costume seems worse than the one previous and for some unexplained reason they seem to have dressed the lead players in the shittiest of the lot. What is going on with that tulle skirted, yellow dress on Anne? It looks like she is about to pirouette into a movement from the Nutcracker suite! It is awful and I can’t even begin to fathom how they researched the costumes in this mess. Some of the extras in the background seem to have semi acceptable gowns – so why is Anne dressed like a badly (and very cheaply) styled Disney Princess… with the exception of her coronation gown, which looks like it was rejected from the Wicked Queen’s wardrobe whilst filming The Brother’s Grimm. Those bizarre split topped bodices defy any explanation and what is going on with all those nasty, non-historical, non-Tudor sleeves? A complete travesty! Oh, how I love Snark Week! rubs hands together in glee
I don’t plan to watch it, but do we really need a “fresh new take” on Anne Boleyn? There are so many books and movies about her already. I think there’s a Parr Movie coming out, isn’t there? Do one on Cleves or Howard.
It’s the MOOOOST wonderful time oooof the year
With the snark freely flowing
And everyone showing craaaft show cheeer
It’s the MOOOST wonderful time of the yeeeeaaar
My 13yo son just walked in as I was scrolling through this and he said: “What are you looking at? Did someone have a dress-up party?”
Holy moly. I hadn’t heard of this… and thank you for saving me the trouble. There is so much wrong. Didn’t you all cover a Netflix docu-drama about the Romanovs that was also bizarre? If I were a historian and Netflix asked me to participate in something like this I think I’d run for the hills.
I think I am getting negged here, because I am hearing myself in my head thinking things like, “Yes, but at least the craft felt on that french hood isn’t GLITTER FELT” and “At least the wide back lacing isn’t a back zip” and, “At least they had their hair up.”
Honestly when I can only think of ways it could have been worse, it is BAAAAD.
I feel you, it’s hard to get worked up when there’s SO MUCH crappy costuming out there.
Prejudiced, maybe, but as soon as I saw the teaser image (not even the trailer) and read the description on Netflix I was certain this was going to be utter garbage, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to check it out so far. Thanks for this super entertaining review!
What offends me? Well the title to start with and it clearly goes downhill from there!
Is that French hood with the yellow tulle dress just yellow felt with raw edges? And I had a hair barrette like the one in her hair under the Joann’s craft aisle hood – bought at Walmart in the early 90s.
I got through the first episode, but then had to stop because of all the pain of watching this series. On top of all the costume disasters…in fairness to Anne’s actress, I feel like she was trying, but she had zero chemistry with Henry, he was giving her NOTHING to work with.
Actually I agree — I though the lead actress gave a good performance! It’s too bad it was surrounded by all this WTFrock.
I’m not going to lie, having decided to give this programme a try (pretty ladies wearing historic fashions is a Serious Weakness of mine) I lasted all of … look, I wasn’t counting the seconds, but basically that first “Anne is not like the other girlies, she READS” bit was a red flag, so I ran screaming and have never gone back.
I have no regrets, not least since this review gives me the strong impression that WOLF HALL is sexier than this series (mostly through the power of Charity Wakefield, especially when putting the moves on Master Cromwell in that one scene).
Serious study of religion was common among aristocratic women of the time. Anne would have been going with the fashion.
Yes, indeed, and Catherine Parr was another such learned woman. In fact she once provoked Henry’s violent displeasure by expressing advanced Protestant views, and only managed to weasel out of potentially lethal danger by saying she had only done so to distract his mind from troubles and gain the benefit of his great learning and masculine wisdom by listening to his refutation of said views.
Being aware of that, the show’s efforts to persuade me otherwise were what sent up the Red Flag. (-:
I noped out pretty quickly as well. The “hair croissant” made me laugh so hard I scared the cat on my lap. I love you ladies!
It’s a good thing Emma Watson did not see that yellow dress when she was making beauty and the beast. You thought that dress she wore was horrific, This 1 would’ve been so much worse !
I will say that it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air to have a portrayal that actually shows the Boleyn parents as CARING about their children. Most recent ones play up the whole “Pimp Daddy Boleyn” characterization…at best, Thomas Boleyn cares nothing for his daughters except as means to advance his own fortunes and at worst, he actively pimps them out to their royal lovers. And many of these portray the Boleyn family as so loveless you wonder why Anne, on her arrest, would lament that her mother would die of sorrow on hearing about it. (Elizabeth DID die only a short time afterwards, and Thomas followed within a year, so maybe Anne was right.)