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PBS has set the US premiere date for The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family, a new docudrama series about the Boleyn family dynasty. Check out the preview!

The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family
The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family — Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Quicke / BBC Studios

An epic tale of hubris and ambition, The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family follows the rise and fall of the Boleyn family dynasty, whose hunger for power proved to be their undoing. This new three-part docudrama series premieres in the US on Sunday, August 28, at 8 PM ET, on PBS (check your local listings), with streaming available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app. New episodes will debut weekly through September 11.

Narrated by actress Shelley Conn (Bridgerton), this riveting story of love, sex, betrayal, and obsession features Elizabeth McCafferty (Killed by My Debt) as Mary Boleyn, Max Dowler (Line of Duty) as Thomas Boleyn, Philip Brodie (The Outpost) as Thomas Howard, Rafaelle Cohen (Berlin, I Love You) as Anne Boleyn, Roger Evans (The Pembrokeshire Murders) as Thomas Wolsey, and Sam Retford (Ackley Bridge) as George Boleyn.

Beloved, betrayed, and beheaded, Anne Boleyn is England’s most infamous queen. The second wife of Henry VIII, she was tried on his orders for crimes of adultery and treason, and led from her rooms at the Tower of London to her death by an executioner’s sword. But to fully understand Anne’s rise and fall, it is important to know more about her tight-knit, cunning, and power-hungry family.

Based on 16th-century sources, including rare original letters and documents, The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family uses insights from leading Tudor scholars and dramatic reenactments to bring this story to life from the family’s own perspective. Rising from obscurity to the apex of power, the Boleyns played a dangerous game and paid the ultimate price — but they changed the course of British history and left a remarkable legacy in the form of two magnificent monarchs: Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, and Queen Elizabeth II, a direct descendant of Mary Boleyn.

Episode 1: “Ambition” (Sunday, August 28)

Patriarch Thomas Boleyn is determined to elevate the family name, but it is his ambitions for his three children — Mary, George, and Anne — that will take them to the heart of the Tudor court. Recognizing that Anne is extraordinary, he places her in the most influential courts in Europe from the age of 12. Along with other noble families, Thomas jostles for position in a court rife with gossip, backstabbing rivalries, and intrigue, and realizes that the powerful Cardinal Wolsey is the gatekeeper to the king’s inner circle. With her return from France, Anne, now a sophisticated beauty admired as exotic, stylish, and fashionable, sets her cap for a nobleman far above her station. But Cardinal Wolsey ends the match, something Anne will not forget. However, it is Mary who attracts the king’s eye, and he demands that she become his mistress. Although married, Mary is powerless to resist the will of the king. After their affair begins, Henry promotes Thomas Boleyn to Viscount Rochford, accelerating his rise through the Tudor Court. But Anne’s ambition will soon outstrip even that of her father.

Episode 2: “Desire” (Sunday, September 4)

Henry casts Mary Boleyn aside and turns his attention to her sister, Anne, a calculating courtier who adeptly dazzles with her beauty, wit, and seductive charm. Henry falls under her spell, and Anne does what all Boleyns do: makes good use of an opportunity. She positions herself as a woman of power and refuses to become his mistress, skillfully leveraging his desire for her to negotiate a marriage proposal. In succeeding, she turns the role of Tudor women and royal mistresses upside down. But one obstacle stands in the couple’s way: Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, who failed to deliver a male heir to the throne. Anne directs Henry to enlist Cardinal Wolsey to obtain an annulment from the Pope, but Wolsey drags his feet, and the impatient Henry removes him from his position. The Boleyns are now the most powerful family in Henry’s court. Above them all is Anne herself, pushing the king to get on with the divorce — but holding the reins of power makes the family acutely vulnerable. Now that Wolsey is gone, there is no one standing between them and the unpredictable king.

Episode 3: “The Fall” (Sunday, September 11)

In a high-stakes gamble, Anne makes her play for — and wins — the biggest prize in the kingdom. The Boleyns and their allies push Henry to break with the Catholic Church in Rome and claim his destiny as Supreme Head of the Church of England, overturning 1,000 years of history. With the power to grant his own divorce, Henry makes Anne his queen. She does her best to please the king and provide him with a male heir. But when she fails, first by giving birth to a daughter and then by miscarrying, the knives are out. With Henry’s roving eye already turned to her replacement, the young Jane Seymour, Anne is arrested and tried on charges of treason, adultery, and incest with her brother George, and both are executed. But the Boleyn legacy lives on through Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, the greatest Tudor Queen, and through Elizabeth II, a descendant of Mary Boleyn.

A BBC Studios Production for PBS and BBC, The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family is produced and directed by Richard Curson Smith, with Episode 1 produced and directed by Katie Greening and Emma Frank, and Episodes 2 and 3 produced and directed by Katie Greening. The executive producer is Maxine Watson. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Simon Young, and the producer is Kathryn Ellinger. The Executive in Charge for PBS is Bill Gardner.


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The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family: PBS Sets Premiere Date for Docudrama Series