My Lady Jane

by Bruce Sylvester

Looking back to 16th-century Renaissance England, no fiction writer could invent the ruling Tudor family with oft-married Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, cautious Queen Elizabeth, and the boy king Edward VI, who became the monarch at age nine. Then there was the first Tudor king’s granddaughter Lady Jane Grey, a brilliant scholar. In 1533, at age 16, when her young friend King Edward died, Jane usurped the crown for nine days and paid with her life.

Scene from My Lady Jane on Prime Video

Premiering June 27, Prime Video’s eight-part series My Lady Jane fictionalizes and revises her story. She doesn‘t get beheaded, and she strives toward her goal of self-determination. The scriptwriters leave out her religious fanaticism in what Prime Video calls an alt-universe of action, history, fantasy, comedy, romance, and rompy-pompy.

The more a viewer has already read on the colorful Tudors, the more they can savor the subtleties in the script such as scenes that are fictitious but beneath the surface are very close to things that really did happen, examples being several scenes with Jane’s conniving mother and, more nobly, one with Edward’s loyal dog, one of the few creatures he could trust in a palace where treachery ran rampant.

This Renaissance sci-fi reflects an era when plenty of people knew that shape shifters – here called ethians – could change from one species to another in an instant. What a great way to get out of a jam. Ethians add a lot to the excitement. In folk songs of the day, women turned into swans, but here instead the soundtrack blasts “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie. This being historical fiction, the film can take any liberty it wants. Boy King Edward – a typical light-complected, red-haired Tudor – is played by an adult Black actor, Jordan Peters. On the other hand, Jane’s mother looks like her authentic portrait from back then, and Jane resembles descriptions of her by her contemporaries. Her power-hungry father-in-law, the evil Duke of Northumberland , is another matter. The doomed arranged marriage between his favorite son and Jane takes different surprising turns here than it did back in the 16th century.

My Lady Jane is based on a novel by Cynthia Hand and directed by Jamie Babbit, who previously brought us But I’m a Cheerleader. During filming, cast and crew could have nicknamed this one But I’m Queen of England. If only the real Jane or Jane here had wanted the crown rather than merely caving in to pressure and going along with a scheme her parents and in-laws hatched. Emily Bader plays Jane with appropriate strength of character, while Edward Bluemel plays her young husband in what the studio terms a romantasy. The real Jane Grey should have been as fortunate. As for the scene where Edward’s dog saves his life, in the real event the dog was shot to death by the would-be kidnapper, Edward’s uncle. Here the dog lives to tell about it.

Scene from My Lady Jane on Prime Video

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