The Boleyn Family Documentary Stream of Consciousness

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I am thoroughly enjoying the new BBC documentary, The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family (2021). I’m a huge documentary nerd, and I loves me some six wives of Henry VIII! Even if I am Team Catherine of Aragon, I find all the wives — and the court in general — fascinating.

And, people, I’M BORED. Pandemic life is getting me down. I’m going through what most of you are: things seemed to be opening up, we were all getting vaccinated, it seemed like we were getting back to “normal.” I even booked a trip to France in early September! And then all the nitwits refused to get vaccinated, and the delta variant wreaked its havoc, and we’re all back to social distancing and masking and all those things that are critical to not killing ourselves and others. People, GET VACCINATED. It’s safe, it’s thoroughly researched, and it will greatly enhance your chances of saving your life and the rest of your community. Note: Frock Flicks is thoroughly pro-vax, pro-science, pro-giving-a-shit-about-others. Any bullshit in the comments will get you banned.

Vaccines save lives

via immunizenevada.org

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How I currently feel about people who are eligible to be vaccinated but are choosing not to.

SO, while I enjoyed this doc, I also overthought it! And this is the result — my stream of consciousness thoughts on the documentary, mostly on the costumes. Because I have FAR TOO MUCH time on my hands.

Overall, I give the doc a solid A for being interesting and entertaining, in particular for taking a new approach to the Anne Boleyn/six wives saga. They’ve really centered Anne’s family, and provided interesting context you don’t usually get. I’ve always wondered why the Boleyns were courtiers, but I’d never heard of the family before/after (okay, after makes more sense), and this doc has really clarified who the family was and how they rose to power. I would have liked more on Mary herself and her relationship with Henry, but I know that there’s very little evidence for that, so on the other hand it’s good that they’re not embellishing. I also wanted more about Anne’s mother, Elizabeth. I did like how the doc is putting the Boleyns themselves center stage, and you only see people like Henry from behind or in shadows (and others are only seen from actual historical portraits). Also, the historians are knowledgeable (and give the occasional sick burn), and the LOCATIONS ARE STUNNING — some fabulous shots of Hever Castle (which I’ve never visited, sob), and in general all the interiors look appropriately Tudor with lots of wood paneling etc.

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Filming at Hever Castle.

The costumes are overall decent by documentary standards, with some quibbles. The only costumer listed on IMDB is Megan Wallace, set costumer; wait, I paused the credits! Also listed are Barbara Elum-Baldres, Jacqueline Macgloire, and Tori Hitchens. In general, they got the men’s Henrician silhouette down WONDERFULLY, although sometimes some of the more minor or background characters will look more Elizabethan. I have lots of thoughts about the women’s, of course, and you’ll get lots more of those below. In general, they seem more Elizabethan than Henrician, although I’m not the expert that Trystan or Sarah are. Of course, we know documentaries have tiny budgets, so by those standards, this is doing quite well.

Since most of this will be stream of consciousness, with definitely unfair nitpicks given limited budgets, you may want to watch the documentary first before reading! It’s available on YouTube in the US, and BBC iPlayer in the UK.

Let’s do this:

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Thomas Boleyn. I’m really loving the men’s looks, especially that high square neckline you see on all the Tudor portraits. The main characters could wear more hats, but I know that’s a Thing(tm) for filmmakers.

King Henry VIII, c.1535. Joos van Cleve. The Royal Collection.

Compare with this later portrait of King Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, c.1535. The Royal Collection.

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Elizabeth and Thomas’s marriage. I think they may be both wearing ensembles made from the same fabric, which is cheesy, but it’s a subtle fabric so it could be worse. I highly question Elizabeth’s veil!

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We don’t see enough of Elizabeth. Here she’s wear a VERY flippy-ended hood.

Detail from Mary Tudor and Queen Louis XII of France, c. 1514, British Library.

It looks like one of these types of hoods. Detail from Mary Tudor and Queen Louis XII of France, c. 1514, British Library.

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Thomas goes off to the court of the Holy Roman Empire… by himself? No retinue? No servants? Nada?

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Margaret of Austria wearing a more Elizabethan-style loose gown. And skirt hiking.

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Young Anne and George. MAJOR hoopline.

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Why does Mary look so much younger than Anne, when the doc has just pointed out that Mary was probably the eldest? Her outfit is also very Little Lord Fauntleroy.

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Anne goes off to Austria. Okay, she’s a little girl who is clearly counting paving stones as she walks. But EPIC SKIRT HIKING CLOSEUP.

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EPIC.

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The actress playing young Anne (Rosaleen Cunningham-Day) is SUPER cute. Love her slightly wonky tooth and her French! Wonder why her chemise/partlet is more of a blouse with no center front opening?

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Margaret of Austria lost the costume coin toss. That fabric is screaming for a 19th century couch, and WHY ARE HER BOOBS TO LOW/WHY IS THERE SO MUCH SPACE BETWEEN HER BODICE AND HER BODY???!!!

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Anne is all growed up! I felt like a lot of the hoop shapes were REALLY big and REALLY rounded for 1520s-30s. What do you think?

Two Views of a Lady wearing an English Hood (1526–8 or about 1532–5), by Hans Holbein the Younger, Vellum on playing card 159 x 110 mm.

Compare with this look — probably no hoop: Two Views of a Lady wearing an English Hood (1526–8 or about 1532–5), by Hans Holbein the Younger, Vellum on playing card 159 x 110 mm.

Jane Seymour, Whitehall Dynasty Mural of Henry VIII by Remigius van Leemput circa 17th century after Hans Holbein circa 1536-37

Or this — hoop, but small and very triangular. Jane Seymour, Whitehall Dynasty Mural of Henry VIII by Remigius van Leemput circa 17th century after Hans Holbein circa 1536-37, via Wikimedia Commons

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The actress playing Anne (Rafaëlle Cohen — Beauty and the Beast) absolutely is my platonic ideal of Anne Boleyn, looks-wise. This bodice looks very Italian — I think it’s the gathered sleeve caps. There are almost NO hanging sleeves in this production, which are so typical of the era — see the two portraits above.

Anne Boleyn, 1534

Compare with the real Anne Boleyn, 1534, Hever Castle.

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Same dress with a cute hat and cloak for riding. I like that they put her hair in a snood/net, don’t like that isn’t styled underneath that snood/net.

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Mary (left) and Anne preparing for the Chateau Vert pageant. We need to talk about these outfits.

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Anne’s bodice is plausible, although I can’t imagine that being bare-armed was in any way something a lady would do.

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Mary’s is weird and looks like some kind of 19th c. Swedish folk costume. But what I really don’t understand is they’re both wearing these bodices over what are essentially 1930s-style bias-cut gowns. Wait for it.

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Anne is going to wear this dress a LOT. I quite like it from an Elizabethan perspective, not so much from a Tudor. It’s pretty and the colors look good on her.

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On the other hand, it’s got a sewn-in stomacher and y’all know how that peeves me. It reminds me of similar styles from Dangerous Beauty.

Like this, which should look more like the right-hand Portrait of a Lady by Fasolo, 1565-70, Art Institute of Chicago.

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The sheer sleeves. I put out a call to Friends Who Know and yeah, sheer OVERSLEEVES (i.e. over a similarly-shaped undersleeve) were a thing — in the Elizabethan era. They did find one example of sheer sleeves without the undersleeve. Either way, Elizabethan. Also, what’s with the matching bracers?

1580s, Mary Cornwallis, Countess of Bath, by George Gower

One of many examples of sheer oversleeves — see Trystan’s review of Anonymous for many more. Mary Cornwallis, 1580s, Countess of Bath, by George Gower.

Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Gillis Claeissens or Monogrammist GEC, 1568-72, Weiss Gallery

The one example of sheer sleeves without an undersleeve (thanks Lindsey!) — again, 30-40 years later. Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Gillis Claeissens or Monogrammist GEC, 1568-72, Weiss Gallery.

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The gown also laces up the back, which it shouldn’t need to do since it’s technically front-opening over a stomacher (of course, once you sew in that stomacher, you have to do something theatrical to get the thing open).

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Her hair is up in a gold net with a triceratops-y French hood, but this one is mellow by comparison to some of the later hoods.

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Clunky.

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Anne likes to hang out at home in a full-length chemise with just a pair of bodies (corset) over it. Which, okay, but she’s often hanging with her father or brother, and that just seems very casual by 16th century standards. Anne looks very pretty with her hair half-down, and I’m giving it a pass here since she’s undressed.

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The bodies have nice lace across the front accented with pearls, which makes me think they would need to be worn with an open-front gown, because you won’t want big pearls on an undergarment. I think about these things.

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All of the historians are insightful, but Prof. Susan Doran wins: “As for Anne, I would be surprised if she was really in love with Henry VIII. That’s because I can’t imagine anyone being in love with Henry VIII.” #sickburn

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Mary putting on a loose gown. The sprig print seems a little far-fetched, but I like the line of the gown itself and the trimming layout.

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A fur-trimmed loose gown. I like it! Although I am missing the hanging sleeves.

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Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, looking ULTRA fabulous in his giant Henrician gown. Also, so many shoes (instead of cheesy boots!).

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Although most of his plotting is shown via ominous eating-of-fruit, which is always such a hilarious device to me.

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The skirt hiking is EPIC IN THIS.

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Skirt hiking to walk DOWN stairs!

The Boleyns a Scandalous Family (2021)
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Can we talk about this embroidery? The motif is SO NOT 16TH CENTURY and reminds me of the clunky couch pillow stomacher in The Other Boleyn Girl.

2008 The Other Boleyn Girl

This one.

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I’ll let those who know metal-thread embroidery better than me tell us if it’s machine or hand embroidered.

Aha! Trystan informs me this dress is recycled from The Tudors, which, of course, explains its clunk.

The Tudors

Clunkity clunk clunk.

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George Boleyn looking goooood…

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Anne’s ladies-in-waiting all wear matching (clunky sewn-in stomacher) gowns.

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And weird hoods, which at least don’t stick up for once.

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Anne goes with Henry to Calais to meet with the French king, who by meeting with her, is publicly acknowledging her. She enters as part of a masked dance, and now she and the other dancers are wearing those 1930s evening dresses without even the bodices over them (as they did above).

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Anne does a dance that is completely implausible by 16th-century standards. I didn’t realize Martha Graham was that old!

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Anne is pregnant, her ladies dress her. I’m confused by the wide ivory sash. Also, more dramatic fruit eating.

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Anne has a new dress!

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That’s recognizably Tudor!

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With actual proper hanging sleeves!

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I guess they saved the most accurate for last?

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Her hood, however, is Team Triceratops.

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Not good, people.

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Mary has remarried without consent and is pregnant. She finally gets a caul.

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She’s exiled from court and back in her loose gown.

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Even baby Elizabeth has to wear a sticky-uppy plastic visor French hood.

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So much upholstery fabric!

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A loose gown for miscarrying.

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Jane Seymour rises! Wearing a weird sheer 18th century men’s style shirt. This show REALLY LOVES the blindfolded touchy-feely game.

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Uh oh, Jane Seymour is getting frisky with her hair down and headband!

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Anne is sent to the Tower, where she’s dressed and executed in this black bodice. It’s got some sparkle on the center front, but this is all you see of it.

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Of course there has to be a dramatic corset lacing shot! Why no crucifixion pose?

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She adds a fur wrap.

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Mary outlives ’em all in a very shaggy fur. You’ll see a bit more of this dress in the last shot.

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NO ONE is having more fun in this production than cutie baby Elizabeth, weird gown notwithstanding (also, note attendant’s dress).

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Queen Elizabeth may have the body of a woman, but she hikes her skirts like the best of them!

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Ghostly Boleyns, with a bit more of Mary’s blue dress.

 

Have you seen The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family yet?

49 Responses

    • Kendra

      No, I’d say it’s mostly documentary with talking head historians, they’re just using actors as the visuals. The actors occasionally read an actual quote from the character they’re playing.

      Reply
  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Gotta watch but costumes are all over the place. And with all the skirt hiking, they need an advisor for the actors I’m walking without doing it.

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Also I’m pro-vax too. But I’m in Louisiana and recovering from Ida– no electricity at house, but work has.

    Reply
  3. Constance

    I saw this on YouTube last week not knowing it was new…enjoyed it mostly but a lot of hair flying around when it would not have been…I should be used to that by now but I do expect more from documentary-style, perhaps wrongly…

    Reply
  4. Leslie Spilman

    Your comments are hilarious!

    I’m reading CJ Sansom’s book, ‘Tombland’ at the moment, and it centres on the Boleyn family, although is later in date… Elizabeth is just 15 in it. It feels very synchronistic to watch this docu-drama now. Thanks for the heads up.

    Reply
  5. Mizdema

    Planning a trip to France in september ? Maybe , you could watch this movie «Délicieux», it’s about the opening of the first restaurant circa 1789 . Not much about frocks, but a lot about food.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      I canceled the trip because of Delta :(

      But I am always up for a new 18th century film, especially one that’s French! I’ll check it out, thanks.

      Reply
  6. Boxermom

    I just don’t understand why people are incapable of getting french hoods right; now I’ve got a headache. (Sorry, this is one of my pet peeves).

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Apparently French hoods are REALLY hard. I can get that the period approach would be hard to film because of all the layers, but you could still hot glue that sucker together without making it stick up to high heaven!

      Reply
      • Saraquill

        I’ve seen portraits with simplified hoods, a coif and the crescent in front. Productions could try that.

        …And I’m getting flashbacks to that Karolina Zebrowska video where a history buff tries to consult for a period movie.

        Reply
    • Beck

      People are still working them out. Current thinking from the Tudor Tailor, I think, is that although they stick up in many pictures, they’d actually have lain flat.

      Reply
  7. M.E. Lawrence

    Susan, best of luck to you, and may your electricity soon return. Must watch “The Boleyns”; sounds like a genuine effort, and I really want to see and hear this Anne, whose face ranges from a bit vulpine to gorgeous in the photos–she was, after all, supposedly not that great looking by contemporary standards, but a charmer nonetheless. (I also like that she and Mary do seem like sisters.) I wonder whether stage, as in Shakespearean, actresses have any better luck walking gracefully without hiking their skirts?

    Eek–just found it on Y.T. Three episodes! I’m almost done rewatching “Lillie” and now this! Thanks so much, Kendra.

    Reply
  8. Tanya Stewart

    That maroon gown with the awkward leafy fronds reminded me of a dress Barbara Streisand wore in one of her “zany” flicks—the one with embroidered/sequined hands holding her boobs.

    Reply
    • hsc

      HA! Yep, you’re right– I remember that one well.

      That was THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, a 1970 comedy in which Babs played an aspiring actress/model/part-time prostitute who moves in with stodgy aspiring writer George Segal after he reports her sideline business to their landlord and gets her booted from her own apartment. Wackiness and eventual romance ensue.

      The outfit was prominently featured in all the advertising, so it became pretty famous.

      It was actually a Frederick’s of Hollywood-type see-through “baby doll” negligee top with matching long pants, worn over panties with a sequined heart-trimmed crotch, with pink satin applique hands strategically covering the boobs.

      IOW, “comedy hooker wear.”

      The weird thing, though, is that Streisand just one year previous had worn a similar black see-through “pajama” top/pants combo over a black bra and panties to accept her Oscar for FUNNY GIRL.

      Even though it was haute couture (Arnold Scaasi) and was offset by an exaggeratedly demure white “schoolgirl” collar and cuffs, it raised a lot of eyebrows at the time, and was only topped by Cher a couple of decades later– twice.

      Reply
  9. SmallCatharine

    Margaret of Austria’s gown is really weird – she should be permanently in black, mourning her second husband and showing off her power and wealth with the expensive dyes. Of course, her hair was never uncovered, and she seems to have favoured white hoods and veils.
    Incidentally, the black wool cloth Margaret should have been wearing was a specialty of Flanders, where she ruled. Anne thus spent her time at Margarets court in the various palaces around Brussels and Ghent, and never went to Austria.
    Incidentally, she and her successors Maria of Hungary and Margaretha of Parma were even more interesting than Anne Boleyn.

    Reply
  10. Kaite Fink

    Yea, the costumes are pretty documentary standard. Some good, some bad. Mostly meh. I watched it as I enjoy Gareth Russell as a writer and historian. His books are fabulous. So I watched this because of him. The historians were really the highlight, as were the cast. I thought they did a great job in casting.

    Reply
  11. Karin

    I liked it too, despite some of the costume weirdness – not as bad as in other documentaries (German TV – ZDF History, I am looking at you!!!).
    Yes, great comment about Anne not being in love with Henry. BUT that commentary about being at the French court being “like a Geisha girl, but without the sex” – gah! Geishas are not prostitutes. Everybody should know that by now.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Geisha did sometimes accept a patron as a lover but that meant leaving the profession.
      The comparison however isn’t totally false. Geisha are entertainers who are sexy, in a formalized traditional fashion.
      The game of Courtly Love was much the same, formalized, titillating but definitely not supposed to involve actual sex. Done well it was tremendous fun for both parties. Anne did it very well. Henry was an expert player too. Their relationship started out as a standard courtly flirt then got serious.

      Reply
  12. J. Stephan Edwards, PhD

    I have an observation regarding the costumes and the “costume designers” for documentaries like this one. I was one of the on-air talking head experts for the BBC4 documentary about Lady Jane Grey (2017), so I have some first-hand knowledge of the process. First, all of these BBC documentaries are produced on budgets so small that Hollywood types would die laughing. I would bet anything that not a single costume seen in this documentary was bespoke for this production. Instead, it is 99% likely that virtually all of the costumes were rented or “hired,” as the Brits say. There is an entire industry in the UK developed around costume rental/hire for documentaries and lower budget movies. So the “costume designers” did not “design” so much as they “went shopping” through inventory catalogues and storage facilities looking for whatever would best serve the purpose. Thus the sometimes odd fit (rentals cannot be significantly altered) and not-quite-period-accurate designs (as in horseshoes, getting close counts). To the extent that the “costume designers” actually “designed” anything, it was almost certainly limited to making a period costume identifiable to a modern audience (e.g.: the totally anachronistic veil on Elizabeth Boleyn at her wedding). The low budgets associated with BBC documentaries also explain some of the glaring social inaccuracies, especially things like Thomas Boleyn riding out alone to go to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor. It is far cheaper to hire one horse and handler and to equip that horse with one period saddle and harness and the one rider with a costume than it is to hire the full retinue of men, horses, and equipage that Boleyn would have actually had with him. Frankly, I think they did a reasonable job in light of the microscopic budget. Compare the historical accuracies of these “low budget” costumes to the abominations foisted on viewers by the high-budget Showtime tripe “The Tudors” (a.k.a. Desperate Palacewives)! So do try to be a little bit charitable and remember that the producers had a tiny budget with which to work. Just as a “for example,” my parts in the Jane Grey documentary were filmed in the living room of the Clapham Common home of one of the production assistants. And she did extra duty as both make-up person and craft services! And like this production about Anne Boleyn, the costuming for the Jane Grey documentary was … shall we say “adequate for the casual viewer”?

    Reply
    • Janet

      Thank you so much for pointing this out to us, Dr. J.S. Edwards. I think most of us Frock Flick fans, do understand that the budget for documentaires can be very small to non existent. And the Frock Flick Ladies do often mention this fact in their posts. Was the 2018 documentary you contributed to known as ‘England’s Forgotten Queen: Lady Jane Grey’ presented by Historian Helen Castor? As I truly enjoyed that particular one. Just like I did this recently aired BBC series. Especially with all that happened in Lady Jane Grey’s short “reign” was truly fascinating. Most of us garner so many new insights from History TV series like these. Thank you for sharing your time and well researched knowledge.
      Warmest greetings from The Netherlands.

      Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yep, we’re aware that documentaries use recycled costumes :) And we don’t usually nitpick the costumes in documentaries (I think it’s like shooting fish in a barrel for that reason) but what the heck, it’s fun on occasion. We’re all about the snark!

      Reply
    • Kendra

      Absolutely! As I mentioned in the introduction, these costumes are decent by documentary standards. As I wrote, “Of course, we know documentaries have tiny budgets, so by those standards, this is doing quite well.”

      Similarly, I’m absolutely sure having Thomas Boleyn ride by himself is totally a budget issue! But I do think, “He needs a retinue!” nonetheless. I don’t expect them to throw money at a documentary, but I can’t turn off my brain ;)

      Reply
    • Karin

      Thank you for the insights! I gobble up documentaries like this and BBC4 is a very happy place for me ;-).
      I think we all realise that the budgets for costumes for these documentaries are not very high, and like others said – this one was decent for a documentary. I mentioned German TV ZDF and their ZDF History series in my comment above. The costuming in those is so atrocious, that I would prefer them not having any acted scenes. It’s not that they are renting low-budget costumes as much as that they are putting things on the actors that are just so completely wrong, as if they had never even looked at a fashion history book.

      Reply
    • Beck

      That all makes, sense, thank you! What I wonder is why, if there are no lines to speak, they don’t use re-enactors more. We’ve got the kit, we know how to walk in it, we don’t walk around with flowing locks, and lots of us would do stuff for fun, or possibly make a new costume specially, just for the hell of it. Maybe it’s a union thing.

      Reply
  13. Anna

    It’s so bizarre hearing people plan trips and go places when I’ve only just been able to book my first vaccine appointment late this month. Very excited though!

    Reply
    • Janet

      Glad you are able to receive your first Covid jab. Hope all goes well.
      I’m truly grateful to be fully vaxed. It’s truly astonishing to me that most 1st World Countries could/will offer vaccinations for all their citizens…and yet so many refuse to take them. If you look at how desperate things can & did get in India (and other countries) with the new Delta Variant. And what further gets me as well is how (often unvaccinated) people want to go back to “normal” – when nothing is normal. My unvaccinated friends went on Summer holidays, outside of The Netherlands, here in Europe. Even if they weren’t allowed much freedom by the French government, if they were NOT vaccinated. Plus they came back infected and are still in total forced quarantine/self-isolation as a family. “Hurrah for freewill” 😔.

      Reply
      • hsc

        Okay, I’ve got to say this:

        I’m absolutely NOT an anti-vaxxer, and I even went online early and got myself and my partner on waiting lists to get the jab the minute it became available to us– me the first of March, him a month later.

        And I work in a university in a deep blue, “minority-majority” (nearly 50% AA) city and state that is about as “woke” a setting as you can get– not “Trump country.”

        BUT– there are still plenty of holdouts among students and staffers, even though the vaccine has been available locally at absolutely no cost for months.

        What I have repeatedly heard from unvaxxed AA workers (blue collar contractees that have not yet been required by the university to be vaxxed) is not that they are unable to get the vaccine, despite a lot of press about “disparities of access to care.”

        They universally tell me that they don’t trust the vaccine, because it was rushed into production by Trump and we’re all just guinea pigs for something that hasn’t even been properly tested. And then they always cite “Tuskegee.”

        And when I hear this, I can’t help but think back to the debates, when Kamala Harris said she wouldn’t take the vaccine if Trump told her to– at a time when polls showed confidence in the vaccines was dropping.

        And while Harris also said that she would take the vaccine if Fauci told her to, she had separately stated to CNN her feeling that the medical experts would be “muzzled, they’ll be suppressed, they will be sidelined” by Trump.

        Unfortunately, the pandemic hit in a year of HUGE social divisions– even more than usual for an election year– and I can’t help but feel that maybe there should’ve been a little less “us vs. the evil forces” and a little more “we’re all in this together.”

        Additionally. just before the school year started, the university mandated masks indoors for all people– even fully vaccinated individuals– and there’s been a large amount of push-back against this policy from people who are clearly not Trumpistas.

        So to be totally honest– it’s not as easy as saying “THOSE people” about this.

        Reply
        • Roxana

          I honestly don’t understand fear of vaccines. Of course a lot of people are afraid of needles, I used to be myself but a fight with cancer cured me of that, the cancer too btw. The horrendous Tuskegee experiments were quite a long time ago and it’s unfortunate that they’re still frightening people away from medical care.
          There is a lot of garbage on the internet of course, and the mixed messages from authority don’t help. You must get the shot! But the shot won’t keep you from getting sick and you have to get a mask regardless, or so We’re told. No wonder people ask why get the shot at all. And of course the coverage of side effects doesn’t help either.

          Reply
  14. HeidiLea

    I’ve skipped over a bit, because I haven’t watched the most recent episode yet, but I am super digging it too (despite the weirdo costumes and skirt hiking and Margaret of Austria looking decidedly un-queenly). I also like that they’re focusing on just the family, or other key players (Like the other Thomases) rather than the straight-up Henry 8 direction. I had never heard about the letter that 12 year old Anne wrote her father, and it’s quite beautiful and eloquent, and touching, even if the family probably had it’s own toxic dynamics.

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    • Roxana

      Maybe. But there’s good reason to believe Anne was Thomas’s favorite. He passed over her older sister to give Anne this big opportunity. Anne was every bit as able and ambitious as her father, and probably her mother too. Elizabeth was a Howard!

      Reply
  15. Gill

    I watched the first episode when it aired on the BBC, gritting my teeth and moaning on occasion at the costumes and the skirt-hitching. The historians were fascinating, particularly about the rise of the family. I wonder why the men were so much more accurately dressed than the women, though.

    I’m afraid I skipped the rest, as I’ve read a great deal about Anne. I wish they had had the budget to hire the Wolf Hall costumes, but those will still be in the top price tier, I imagine. I really wish they didn’t feel they had to use hoops leftover from bridal gowns. They tried, but I so very much with they could choose slightly less well-known stories to retell.

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  16. spanielpatter14

    I haven’t seen the third episode yet. Didn’t know it was out. I enjoyed the first two episodes. Is it weird to think that Thomas Boleyn and his brother-in-law Norfolk are HOT in this docudrama? George isn’t bad either.

    I got my two Moderna shots in the spring; and, following my doctor’s advice, just had a third Moderna shot as a booster (even though it’s now five months, not six months, since my second shot). I have very little tolerance for people who won’t mask indoors and who won’t get the shots unless they have good medical reasons in both cases; not just discomfort in wearing masks.

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  17. Roxana

    I noticed that the men’s costumes are much better than the women’s.
    The Boleyn’s rose from yeoman origins thanks to hard work, education and most importantly good marriages. Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London had a gentlry mother and his wife Anne Hoo was the heiress of a baronial house. Her daughter in law, Thomas’s mother, was co- heiress to the enormously wealthy Earl of Ormond but her inheritance was contested by the heir male, the succeeding Earl of Ormond.
    Thomas came by his ambition honestly. He made himself useful to Henry VIII but the notion he threw his daughters at the king is false. Henry was not known for enriching his mistresses families. Or for maintaining a relationship any length of time pre Anne. If Thomas wanted to make good marriages for his daughters he’d protect their reputations.
    There’s reason to believe Anne was his favorite. It was Anne, not the older Mary who was sent to Margaret of Austria’s court. And a letter from Margaret praising Anne survives as does a letter in french from Anne to her father promising to work hard and make the most of her chance. Anne went from Margaret’s service to that of Queen Claude of France who lived mostly apart from her husband and was notably pious. Anne probably spent more time thinking about religion than flirting. She learned all the courtly graces yes, but she also developed a serious interest in evangelical catholicism and church reform long before they became politically useful to her.
    Meanwhile Mary had an almost certainly brief relationship with Henry and was rewarded with a suitable husband, William Carey one of Henry’s favored gentlemen. The whole matter was handled discretely, we’d know no more about Mary than we do about Henry’s other flickering lights o’ love if he hadn’t gotten serious about Anne later. Mary certainly was not infamous as a strumpet, she’d never have been at court at all if she was.
    Thomas may have been less than pleased. An affair, even with a king, pretty much ruined a girl’s value on the marriage market. That’s why honorable lovers had to find a match for their cast offs. William Carey was far from a glittering match though there was every reason to expect he’d go far in Henry’s service. But Thomas lined up a really splendid match for Anne, another reason to believed he favored her. Thomas got Henry to back a marriage between Anne and Piers Butler, heir to the Earl of Ormond, probably combined with some kind of property settlement. But the whole business fell through, we’re not sure why.
    Anne however had been promised an Earl and meant to settle for nothing less. She successfully charmed Henry Percy but that fell through too. It is unlikely Henry or Wolsey had anything to do with it. The Earl of Northumberland preferred to match his heir with another earl’s daughter. Anne was probably furious and disappointed but there’s no evidence she was banished from court over the contrempts. Or that Henry was particularly interested in her -yet.
    IMO Anne was dead serious about rejecting Henry’s overtures. She wasn’t going to be palmed off on somebody suitable, she was going to get herself a lord and lords didn’t marry used goods. She was undoubtedly braced for Henry’s anger. She certainly didn’t expect him to persist. She’d have had no reason at all to expect him to offer marriage. It must have been quite a shock. She apparently found it necessary to take herself off to Hever and think very carefully about it, and possibly discuss the matter with her parents before giving Henry a yes.
    Elizabeth Howard’s role in it all tends to be ignored, Agnes Strickland even thought she was dead before Anne emerged into history. In fact Lady Boleyn was in the thick of things, at her daughters side throughout. When she was taken to the Tower Anne is said to have worried about the effect on her mother.
    In fact the deaths of their two children may have destroyed Thomas and Elizabeth. They both died a year or two after. Mary of course survived and apparently she and her children kept up contact with Elizabeth, as did some of the more remote connections. Elizabeth grew up knowing her mother’s kin, and perhaps much more about her mother than is generally thought. She didn’t talk much about Anne, at least not for the historical record, but she did make it clear that she believed in her mother’s innocence and in her virtue.

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