Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the face of the British Monarchy for 70 years. Her son, now King Charles III, assumed the throne and we celebrated his official coronation on May 6, 2023.
There’s a lot of history behind this throne and it can be fun to go through it in cinematic form. Obviously, movies and TV shows may not be the most accurate depiction of historical events, but some get it right more than others. So go ahead and enjoy each interpretation on VidAngel. Just take it with a grain of salt and don’t rely on it for your history report.
Now we know this likely (never, say never) isn’t history, but what’s a look at British royalty without a nod to the legendary King Arthur? Arthur Pendragon was the mythological first Celtic Briton who led Britain against Saxon invaders. Throw in the fantastical elements of a wizard, the Holy Grail, knights of a round table, and strange women in ponds distributing swords as a basis for a system of government, and you’ve got some good entertainment.
- Merlin (TV-14, 2008) – Amazon Prime, Amazon rent/buy
The unlikely friendship between Merlin, a young man gifted with extraordinary magical powers, and Prince Arthur, heir to the crown of Camelot.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (PG, 1975) – Netflix, Amazon rent/buy
An irreverent take on King Arthur and his knights as they embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.
- The Green Knight (R, 2021) – Amazon rent/buy
An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend. Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men.
KING EGBERT, ruled 827-839
KING AETHELWULF, ruled 839-858
KING ALFRED THE GREAT, ruled 871-899
Egbert (Ecgherht) is usually considered England’s first monarch. He established a stable and extensive rule over all of Anglo-Saxon England. He is followed by his son, Aetheeulf, the father of Alfred the Great. Alfred is popularly known for the children’s story of him being distracted and burning the cakes while taking refuge in the home of a peasant woman and getting scolded.
- Vikings (TV-14, 2013) – Amazon Prime, Amazon rent/buy
This epic series follows the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, the greatest hero of his age, as he rises to become king of the Viking tribes. The show’s name tells you that the focus is not on ancient British royalty, but they are important characters.
- The Last Kingdom (TV-MA, 2015) – Netflix
A show of heroic deeds and epic battles with a thematic depth that embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love, loyalty, and our universal search for identity. It takes place mainly during the reign of Alfred the Great, combining real historical figures and events with fictional characters.
KING EDWARD (The Elder), ruled 899-924
KING ATHELSTAN, ruled 924-939
Edward succeeded his father, Alfred the Great. His son, Athelstan, extended the kingdom’s borders at the Battle of Brunanburh, which is said to be one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on British soil. This battle included armies of Scots, Celts, Danes, and Vikings and (spoiler alert) ended with the first-ever unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom under English rule.
- The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die (R, 2023) – Netflix
In the wake of King Edward’s death, Uhtred of Bebbanburg and his comrades adventure across a fractured kingdom in the hopes of uniting England at last.
KING EDMUND II IRONSIDE, ruled 1016
KING CANUTE (Cnut the Great), ruled 1016-1035
Edmund was chosen king by the people of London after the death of Aethelred II (The Unready), but the king’s council (the Witan) chose Canute, the Dane. Edmund made a treaty with Canute that divided the kingdom between them but gave the entire kingdom to the other if one of them died. Guess what happened to King Edmund? Despite the suspicious circumstances of his co-king’s death, Canute was well-liked and legend has it that taught his subjects that a king is not a god by commanding the tide not to come in … it didn’t listen to him.
- Vikings: Valhalla (TV-MA, 2022) – Netflix
In this sequel to Vikings, a hundred years have passed and a new generation of legendary heroes arise. It may be a little loose with some of the dates and relationships, but there are some real historical events moving the action.
KING RICHARD I (Richard the Lionhearted), ruled 1189 -1199
KING JOHN, ruled 1199 – 1216
Jump forward almost 300 years, past the Norman kings (sorry, William the Conqueror), into the crusades and we meet the well-known king brothers, Richard and John, made famous in the stories of Robin Hood and his merry men.
- Robin Hood (PG-13, 2010) – Amazon rent/buy
Academy Award winner Russell Crowe and visionary director Ridley Scott, reunite for the untold story of the man behind the legend.
KING EDWARD I, ruled 1272-1307
Edward “Longshankes” is often called the Hammer of the Scots. In addition to his brutal battles with Scotland he brought the knights, clergy and nobility, as well as the Lords and Commons together for the first time, forming the Model Parliament.
- Braveheart (R, 1995) – Amazon rent/buy
Enraged at the slaughter of Murron, his new bride and childhood love, Scottish warrior William Wallace slays a platoon of the local English lord’s soldiers, making an enemy of King Edward.
- Outlaw King (R, 2018) – Netflix
Forced into exile after being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce fights to win back Scotland’s independence from King Edward.
KING EDWARD II, ruled 1307-1327 (deposed)
It’s hard to find a positive portrayal of poor Edward. He is only shown as a prince in Braveheart and here again in Knightfall. Both depictions show him as weak and incompetent. His own wife joined her lover in deposing him and he had a rather, uh, infamous death. Filters may be needed on just the description so Google at your own risk.
- Knightfall (TV-MA, 2017) – Netflix
Go deep into the clandestine world of the legendary brotherhood of warrior monks known as The Knights Templar. This show focuses more on the king of France, King Philip, but his daughter, Princess Isabella is engaged to then Prince Edward of England.
EDWARD, The Black Prince (son of King EDWARD III)
After the, shall we say, undignified death of his father, King Edward III ruled 1327-1377. He had a son, also named Edward, who became one of the most renowned warriors around, known as The Black Prince.
- A Knight’s Tale (PG-13, 2001) – Netflix, Amazon rent/by
This one is definitely more for fun than for research, but the Black Prince makes an appearance in this delightful modernized tale of William Thatcher, a peasant, who is sent to apprentice with a knight named Hector as a young boy. Urged by his father to “change his Stars”, he assumes Sir Hector’s place in a tournament when Hector dies in the middle of it.
KING HENRY V, ruled 1413-1422
Not THAT King Henry, yet. Knighted at age 12, Hal was pious, stern, and a skillful soldier. He also became recognized as the king of France, but died before he could succeed to the French throne.
- The King (R, 2019) – Netflix
In 15th-century England, Prince Hal transforms from wayward wastrel to powerful King Henry after he reluctantly inherits the throne and its many conflicts.
KING HENRY VIII, ruled 1509-1547
A few Henries and more Edwards later, we come to the infamous Henry VIII and his many wives. The divorce from his first wife, Cathrine of Aragon, caused the English to split from Rome; Henry declared himself as head of the new Church of England. He is the father of Mary (Bloody Mary) and Elizabeth I.
- The Tudors (TV-MA, 2007) – Amazon Prime, Amazon Showtime
The Tudors is a series following the young, vibrant King Henry VIII, a competitive and lustful monarch who navigates the intrigues of the English court and the human heart with equal vigor and justifiable suspicion.
QUEEN ELIZABETH I, ruled 1558-1603
Now we come to the famous Queen Elizabeth I. Similar to the more recent Queen, this Elizabeth was also popular with the people. She was noted for her learning and wisdom. She never married and is often known as The Virgin Queen. Shakespeare was at the height of his popularity during her reign.
- Elizabeth (R, 1998) – Amazon rent/buy
This acclaimed epic of the Queen’s treacherous rise to power received seven Academy Award nominations and stars Oscar winners Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, and Richard Attenborough.
- Elizabeth: The Golden Age (PG-13, 2007) – Amazon STARZ, Amazon rent/buy
A mature Queen Elizabeth endures multiple crises late in her reign including court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada, and romantic disappointments.
- Mary Queen of Scots (R, 2018) – Amazon rent/buy
In 1561, Mary Stuart, widow of the King of France, returns to Scotland, reclaims her rightful throne, and menaces the future of Queen Elizabeth I as ruler of England, because she has a legitimate claim to the English throne.
- Shakespeare in Love (R, 1998) – Amazon Showtime, Amazon rent/buy
In this fanciful interpretation, a young Shakespeare is forced to stage his latest comedy, “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter,” before it’s even written. The Queen of England will be attending.
KING CHARLES II, ruled 1660-1685
He was chosen to rule after the collapse of the Protectorate when there were no official kings for a time and Britain was declared a republic of the Commonwealth. He had many mistresses and illegitimate children, but never an heir. The Great Plague and the Great Fire of London happened during his reign.
- Versailles (TV-MA, 2015) – Netflix
As you may have guessed, this show focuses more on King Louis XIV of France and his fancy house, but he must interact with King Charles II in season one. Historical and fictional characters guide us in a world of betrayal and political maneuvering, revealing Versailles in all its glory and brutality.
QUEEN ANNE, ruled 1702-1714
One of the lesser-known female monarchs, Queen Anne was in power when the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the union of England and Scotland. She had 17 pregnancies, but only one child survived.
- Yellowbeard (PG, 1983) – Amazon rent/buy
For years, Yellowbeard had looted the Spanish Main, but he can’t remember where he buried his treasure. In this spoof swashbuckler, Queen Anne is unflatteringly played by Peter Bull.
KING GEORGE III, ruled 1760-1820
He’s famous in our neck of the woods for waging war against the American colonies. During this regency era many famous English writers made their debut: Jane Austen, Bryon, Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth. Due to illness later in life, he eventually became blind and insane; his son ruled as Prince Regent after 1811 until his father’s death.
- Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (TV-MA, 2023) – Netflix
A prequel to the Bridgerton series, this is certainly more fun than fact. Indulge in the storytelling about the king’s dutiful new bride. Behind palace doors, fearless young Queen Charlotte discovers her power–and the real meaning of love.
- Turn: Washington’s Spies (TV-14, 2014) – Amazon AMC+, Amazon rent/buy
Set in 1778, this period drama recounts the story of Abe Woodhull, an American cabbage farmer obliged to begin spying on the British enemy.
- Bridgerton (TV-MA, 2020) – Netflix
With many artistic liberties taken, you can watch wealth, lust, and betrayal set in the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.
QUEEN VICTORIA, ruled 1837-1901
Last in our list but certainly not least, Queen Victoria had institutions of art, science, and learning developed. She is also known for her great love toward her husband, Albert. During her reign, British world power had reached its highest point.
- Victoria (TV-PG, 2016) – Amazon Prime, Amazon PBS, Amazon rent/buy
The story of Queen Victoria, who came to the throne at a time of great economic turbulence and resurgent republicanism – and died 64 years later the head of the largest empire the world had ever seen, having revitalized the throne’s public image and become “the grandmother of Europe”.
- The Young Victoria (PG, 2009) – Netflix, Amazon rent/buy
Caught in a power struggle with her closest advisors, a young and inexperienced queen draws strength from the handsome prince whose love and affection has stolen her heart.
- Dolittle (PG, 2020) – Amazon rent/buy
After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle, famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company, until he’s called on a mission to save the queen’s life.
- Holmes & Watson (PG-13, 2018) – Amazon AMC+, Amazon rent/buy
This irreverent take on the fictional characters of Detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, join forces to investigate a murder at Buckingham Palace. They soon learn that they have only four days to solve the case, or the queen will become the next victim.
- Victoria and Abdul (PG-13, 2017) – Netflix, Amazon rent/buy
A mature Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.