Blood, Sex & Royalty review – a terrific peek at Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s sexiest bits

Close-up of Amy James-Kelly and Max Parker seen in profile in front of a lake

Amy James-Kelly as Anne Boleyn with Max Parker as Henry Percy in Blood, Sex & Royalty. Photograph: Netflix

Warm, witty and full of universally brilliant acting, this absolute triumph of a docudrama also serves up huge chunks of knowledge, thanks to excellent talking head historians

Idon’t know how optimists manage, I really don’t. Surely having your hopes constantly dashed – by life, humanity, and rail timetables – is a wearying way to move through the world? A constant abrading of the soul. Pessimists, however, have got it made. We go through life either having our worldview satisfyingly confirmed or delightfully overturned. Honestly, it’s great! Join us! Low expectations are the key to happiness.

For example – when you greet me with the news that Netflix is dropping a three-part docudrama called Blood, Sex & Royalty, dramatisng all the sexiest parts of the Henry VIII-Anne Boleyn saga and documenting the facts via historian talking heads, I naturally assume the cringe-making, effortful, down-with-the-kidz worst of both worlds. I expect fatuous reconstructions of key moments in history by actors embarrassed to be there, in costumes one notch up from school-play quality. I anticipate them spouting lines typed by a monkey who has seen a few episodes of The Tudors and been given a banana and an hour at a desk to do its best. I am certain that there will be interviewees trying to hide their expertise and knowledge – as instructed by the producers – so as not to frighten the horses. I presume that there will, in short, be badness.

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