Just as we’re mildly obsessed with the Royals in life, so too, are we fascinated wth TV shows focusing on the monarchy. Is it the sumptuous sets? Lavish costumes? For most, it’s the pure escapism factor; it’s a world so removed from our own that we allow ourselves to be utterly taken in. Luckily for you, we’ve scoured the streaming landscape to find some of the best royal-related programming to get stuck into:
BBC series Versailles tells the story of King Louis XIV. The show begins when the king is 28-years-old and decides to make his royal hunting lodge into a grand palace known as Versailles. The Sun King, as he is later called, ultimately succeeds and while his reign is intriguing, the setting almost overshadows everything. Ornate interiors, grand architecture, and expansive gardens make this one so visually appealing (some scenes were filmed at Versailles), you’ll want to watch it to the end. This is a slow burner, but two episodes in, you’ll find yourself hooked.
The White Queen
The White Queen follows the machinations of three powerful women as they attempt to manoeuvre through a bitter and violent war for the throne that has pitted the House of York against the House of Lancaster. The show, based on Philippa Gregory’s series of historical novels, was a hit in the US, but slipped under the radar here. The show follows Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), consort to Edward IV of England, Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) of the House of Lancaster and Anne Neville (Faye Marsay), queen consort of Richard III. And for those that don’t know, Margaret Beaufort was the grandmother of Henry VIII, so you might think it a sort of “prequel” before diving into The Tudors.
Over the course of four seasons, Showtime’s The Tudors tracks the early years of Henry’s reign, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the lusty, arrogant Henry with aplomb – he’s far removed from the infamous portrait in the history books. Created by veteran English screenwriter Michael Hirst, the series breathed fresh life into the age-old tale of an unsatisfied King and six of seven wives who met unfortunate ends. Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer steals the first two seasons as the sensuous Anne Boleyn, but the entire show is enthralling and visually stunning.
The lavish series – it cost Netflix $100 million to make – chronicles the adult life of Queen Elizabeth II (played by a suitably restrained Claire Foy), from her 1947 marriage onwards. All ten episodes were written by Peter Morgan (who was behind the Oscar-winning film The Queen), and it starts just before Elizabeth was forced to take the throne after the sudden death of her father, King George VI in 1952. Foy is exceptional in the title role (playing Britain’s longest-serving ruler was surely a daunting task) as are the accompanying cast; the whole thing is elegant and full of rich detail and historical accuracy as it examines the power of the royal monarchy and the young woman who was to lead it. Worth a re-watch even if you’ve seen it already as we await season 2.
Former sidekick of Doctor Who, Jenna Coleman, shines as the English monarch Queen Victoria and we’re given a fresh insight into her reign and passionate marriage to Prince Albert played by Burberry model-turned-actor Tom Hughes, and the close relationship she enjoyed with her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (played by the highly dashing Rufus Sewell). Season one ended after the birth of her first child and season 2 (set to premiere later this year) opens six weeks after the princess’s birth and will follow Victoria’s adjustment to life as sovereign and mother, while Albert continues to seek an understanding of his role as consort.