By now, you’ve heard the news: Prince Harry of Wales and American actress Meghan Markle are engaged, the British palace announced today. Markle will be the first American to marry into the royal family since the socialite Wallis Simpson married King Edward VIII in 1936, sparking a constitutional crisis in the UK. The prince and Markle are set to wed sometime in the spring.
If today’s news has sparked, or perhaps re-sparked, your interest in the British royal family, boy do we have a treat for you. Whether because of their cool outfits, lavish lifestyles, or seemingly picturesque lives as some of the world’s most famous and famously elite people, the British royal family has been an obsession of TV and film viewers for decades-for better or worse.
Below are several films and TV shows available for online streaming right now, that depict the drama surrounding the English monarchy throughout history, from the 15th century Wars of the Roses to the present day.
This Netflix original, starring Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in the early years of her reign, won the 2017 Golden Globe for best TV drama in its debut season. Netflix will release a second season worldwide on Dec. 8.
Helen Mirren won the 2006 Oscar for best actress for playing Queen Elizabeth II in this film about the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Elizabeth I (HBO)
Hey, it’s Helen Mirren again! A year before she played Elizabeth II in The Queen, the award-winning English actress played the title monarch (who reigned in the 16th century) in the two-part HBO and Channel 4 miniseries Elizabeth I. If there is an Elizabeth III we can only assume she will be played by Helen Mirren.
Judi Dench stars as the 19th century Queen Victoria in this 1997 critically acclaimed film about the monarch’s relationship with her Scottish servant, John Brown (Billy Connolly). An unofficial sequel, Victoria & Abdul, came out this year.
Edward & Mrs. Simpson (Acorn TV)
This seven-part ITV series about King Edward VIII’s intention to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, and the resulting abdication crisis, won the 1980 Emmy award for best miniseries.
Prince Harry: Frontline Afghanistan (BritBox)
This 2013 BBC documentary followed the newly engaged prince during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot for the British army.
The Young Victoria (Starz)
Emily Blunt stars as Queen Victoria in this film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Big Little Lies), which won the 2009 Academy award for best costume design.
A Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Peabody winner, this 2015 BBC miniseries traces the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) during the 16th-century reign of Henry VIII (Damian Lewis).
This 10-episode Emmy-nominated miniseries follows Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), the Queen Consort to Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses.
Nominated for a best drama Golden Globe in 2007, The Tudors is a four-season series that details the trials and tribulations of Henry VIII and the legendary Tudor dynasty in 1500s England.
This E! drama series follows the Queen Consort Helena (Elizabeth Hurley) and the rest of a fictional modern British royal family that bears a few similarities to the real one.
Victoria, an ongoing 16-episode series from ITV, tracks the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign and marriage to Prince Albert.
Black Mirror, “The National Anthem” (Netflix)
This episode of the dystopian sci-fi anthology series is a doozy. The (fictional) beloved princess of the British royal family is kidnapped, and the prime minister (again, fictional-sorta) is blackmailed into having sexual intercourse with a pig on live television in order to get her back.
More you can buy or rent:
Honorable mention: Kings
The single-season NBC drama depicted a fictional modern American monarchy, led by King Silas Benjamin (Ian McShane). It’s fantastic. You can watch for free in the US on NBC.com, or pay-per-episode on iTunes, YouTube, or Amazon.