When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with The Royal Diaries, a set of books that were fictional diaries written “by” female royalty throughout history. I always wanted them to be happy, but the panels at the back with real-life images and explanations of the rest of their lives were usually filled with tragedy. In the end, those tragic moments usually ended up taking over and dominating my thoughts about the stories. I spent years obsessing over the stories of Anastasia Romanov, Mary Stuart of Scotland, and just about every woman whose lives were touched by King Henry VIII of England. Although the obsession has faded over the years, I’ve always enjoyed the types of stories that were somehow too real and yet too horrifying to be true. Royalty has always abused their power, which means it has produced a lot of fascinating stories. Because of that, it’s baffling to me that Noble Blood is somehow the first podcast I’ve listened to in that vein. What’s not surprising to me, however, is just how well it’s executed.
Dana Schwartz has long since proved her comedy chops, first with the Guy In Your MFA Twitter, and now with her book The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon. Because of that, it’s surprising at first that there isn’t a more humorous element to Noble Blood, especially when podcasts such as My Favorite Murder, a true crime/comedy podcast, are wildly successful. Instead, Noble Blood is first and foremost lead by Schwartz’s impeccable storytelling. When a joke is occasionally thrown in, it’s a wry comment, not something that’ll have you keeled over. It doesn’t need anything but the story because the story is well-researched, written, and performed. Schwartz’s voice carries a calm, “cool-girl” energy within it that makes you feel as though she’s spreading the palace gossip herself. The stories themselves are fascinating and vary between the well-known (Episode 1, Marie Antoinette) and the obscure (Episode 12, Anna Ivanovna). Although the topics are mostly European nobility, Schwartz has also covered tragedies such as Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii (Episode 5) with utter grace, setting a precedent for exploring other topics that I hope she’ll continue with.
I’ll be honest—Noble Blood is my favorite new podcast I listened to in 2019, and I listened to a lot of new podcasts. After binge-listening to all the available episodes, I searched for another royal history podcast that would scratch the itch while I waited another two weeks for the next episode and was wholly unsuccessful. That tells me one thing: Dana Schwartz filled a hole in the podcasting world with Noble Blood, one I didn’t even realize I needed filled. To me, that’s the biggest success of all: she created something that made people want it.