My Lady Jane: a bonkers historical fantasy

Emily Bader in My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane picked a real historical character – Lady Jane Grey – and completely fabricated a zonked out new history for her with fantasy elements and a bubbling well of twists and surprises. It’s a comedy using modern language, modern music, and a big old cast of terrific players.

Gemma Burgess created My Lady Jane for television based on the book by Cynthia Hand. Jamie Babbit directed 5 of the 8 episodes. The clothing and locations looked authentic, but the story was a wild and funny vaudeville show.

Anna Chancellor, Isabella Brownson, Robyn Betteridge, and Emily Bader in My Lady Jane
The Grey family

Let’s start with the Grey family. Jane (Emily Bader), her youngest sister Margaret (Robyn Betteridge), sister Katherine (Isabella Brownson) and her tyrant of a mother Lady Frances Grey (Anna Chancellor). Lady Frances was a single mother and broke. She was busy finding husbands for her two oldest girls. Her daughters were the cousins of King Edward (Jordan Peters) and theoretically a good catch with access to the throne.

Lord Dudley (Rob Brydon) had two sons and was supposed to be rich. Lady Frances arranged for Lady Jane to marry Lord Guildford Dudley (Edward Bluemel). The other son was Lord Stan Dudley, played with verve by a scene stealing Henry Ashton.

Edward Bluemel and Emily Bader in My Lady Jane
She wants a divorce

Lady Jane didn’t want to get married, but Lord Guildford was handsome and sexy and, well, she fell for him. Even when she was in love with him, she still didn’t want to be married to him.

Rob Brydon, Dominic Cooper, Abbie Hern, and Kate O'Flynn in My Lady Jane
Mary’s sister Bess (Abbie Hern), Mary, Lord Seymour, and Lord Dudley

Going on in the royal household was lots of backstabbing and power grabbing. King Edward’s sister Mary (a wonderfully hysterical Kate O’Flynn) was poisoning him so she could be queen. When he died (or did he?) Jane was his successor. Mary then tried to kill Jane. Mary’s helper among the counselors was Lord Seymour (Dominic Cooper).

That all sounds fairly normal for court intrigue tales, but that isn’t all of it. The kingdom was full of people who were shapeshifters. King Edward was trying to eliminate them. When Mary had power, she wanted to kill them all. These people could shift into cats, dogs, bears, birds, and snakes. One very important character was a horse in the daytime and a man at night.

Lady Jane wanted to live with the shapeshifters in harmony. She had her reasons. Emily Bader is one of those actors who have great chemistry with everyone. Not just Edward Bluemel, her fella, but everyone.

The minor characters were almost as much fun as the major characters: the people who worked in the castle, the people exiled to camps in the woods, the counselors, the royal doctor, and a funny narrator. With 8 episodes to stretch out in, there was time to make the characters more than just cardboard cutout plot devices.

Lady Jane was smart, well read, a genius with herbs and potions, and as gutsy as they come. Her little sister Margaret was a real fireball of a kid.

There was sex and bad language and violence, too. I loved it! You can see it on Prime Video or Freevee.

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