Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

ANNE BOLEYN: A redemption for a doomed queen and a powerful black Anne

Anne Boleyn (Jodie Turner-Smith) surrounded by subjects.
Anne Boleyn (Jodie Turner-Smith) surrounded by subjects.

There are few regal figures in British history who faced so much rumour, speculation, and gossip than Anne Boleyn.

Centuries after her reign, certain myths and legends remain stuck to her name. During a fateful marriage to Henry VIII as his second wife, Anne’s inability to birth him a male heir seemed to seal her fate, with some stories invented in order for the King to have her removed so he could wed Jane Seymour.

As the story goes, Anne was a serial adulterer, even taking her brother George as a lover; she had an extra finger on her right hand; practiced sorcery; and plotted to have Henry killed.

A spiky, no-nonsense monarch

In a new three-part psychological drama from Channel 5, Anne Boleyn’s name is being rescued from such a permanent blaze of bad publicity.

As reimagined by first-time TV writer Eve Hedderwick Turner and Scottish director Lynsey Miller (previous credits include Deadwater Fell and Doing Money), Anne takes form in Jodie Turner-Smith, a formidable actress who brings gravitas and humanity to the role.

Jodie Turner-Smith’s casting as Anne Boleyn caused an outcry, but she owns the role, Brian Donaldson says..

Her Anne is a spiky, no-nonsense monarch who doesn’t bend to be likeable (she demands that some noisy pheasants be exterminated, and is curt to many in the Tudor court), but is ultimately vanquished by a cruel husband who cared more about his own legacy than the woman (and women) he married.

“There’s so much about Anne’s legend that people believe, and we’ve seen all these things portrayed in popular culture,” says Jodie who co-starred in 2020 British movie Queen & Slim alongside Daniel Kaluuya.

“For the most part we’ve seen her story told through the lens of other people around her. But this time we are trying to tell a more human story about this figure who really was just a woman trying to survive in her time and, in many ways, was a woman before her time.”

The final months of Anne Boleyn’s life

The series explores the final months of Anne Boleyn’s life in 1536 from her perspective, as she aims to secure a future for her daughter (later to be crowned Elizabeth I) and to challenge the powerful patriarchy closing in around her, led by the scheming Thomas Cromwell (played here by Barry Ward) with Henry (Mark Stanley) as its figurehead.

When we first meet her, Anne has suffered two miscarriages but is now pregnant with a child that Henry insists must be male. The pregnancy reaches a devastatingly sad and early termination, with Henry mentally and physically moving on to his next wife, the far meeker Jane Seymour (Lola Petticrew, recently seen in Irish drama Three Families).

“As history is written by the victor, Anne’s been branded everything from an enigma, to a witch, a sexual temptress, a cold opportunist, and a traitor,” notes Lynsey Miller.

“But the crux of it was that she challenged the status quo, and that terrified those whose positions were dependent on maintaining it and denying equal opportunity. We see those same struggles today.”

Madge Shelton ( Thalissa Teixeira) and<br />Anne Boleyn (Jodie Turner-Smith)

When Jodie Turner-Smith was cast in the role, the internet blew up in scandalous fervour, annoyed that a black actress was playing a white monarch.

“People get very mixed up between history and historical drama,” states Dan Jones, executive producer and historical advisor on the series.

Historical drama vs history

“That’s understandable because there is a huge overlap between them: history is about rooting objectively for what happened, but historical drama is different. It gives you a greater license to indulge in a conversation between past and present.

“Of course, you root your drama in things that actually happened; but the whole purpose of doing historical drama is to depart somewhat from the truth. Otherwise we would just be making documentaries.”

For those who remain unconvinced by the thought of such a portrayal, they should be swayed after a few moments of Anne Boleyn.

Jodie Turner-Smith inhabits the role with such a mix of strength and vulnerability that it soon becomes difficult to imagine anyone else in the part.

“Too often we’ve seen the story of Anne Boleyn reduced to her through the eyes of Henry,” adds Dan.

“In the old rhyme, ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died’, her only function as a character is to come into Henry VIII’s life and then have her head chopped off, before another wife rolls in. I think that’s a profoundly unfair way of looking at this remarkable woman’s story.”

  • Anne Boleyn airs on Channel 5, Tuesday June 1–Thursday June 3, 9pm.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]