What To Watch If You're Obsessed With British Royalty

Robert Viglasky/Netflix
The United States and Britain may speak the same language, but the two countries have different versions of The Office, different relationships to Marmite, and certainly different famous figureheads. We have the Kardashians. They have the Queen. It's no surprise that many Americans — myself included — frequently engage in royal worship.
With these movies and TV shows, you'll see the same figures rendered at different moments in history. In The Crown, Elizabeth II is just starting her reign. In The Queen, she's facing one of the most difficult PR problems in her long career. And that's a queen who's still living. One can hardly count the number of times Queen Victoria, King Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I have been interpreted on film.
Victoria and Abdul, which is out September 22, will reinterpret Queen Victoria toward the end of her reign. The film focuses on a friendship between the aging queen (Judi Dench) and her Indian servant, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Watch enough movies and TV shows about British royalty, and you'll never need to take a history class again.
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Blackadder (1983 – 1989)

Known as one of the best British sitcoms of all time, this show, written by Love Actually's Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean, is the funniest tour through the British monarchy you'll ever see. Each season is set in a different era in British history, from 1485 to 1917. In each, Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) plays a member of the British royal family. As each generation proceeds, Blackadder becomes smarter, and his family declines in power. Edmund never achieves the success he so longs for – but the next generation will try.
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Mrs. Brown (1997)

After her husband, Albert, passes away, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) retreats into isolation. The only person able to bring her out of years-long depression is her husband's old servant, a wild Scotstman named John Brown (Billy Connolly). Their friendship is fiery and intense, and soon, the Queen's advisors and the public are concerned for John Brown's influence over her.
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Elizabeth (1998)

Ah, the original Elizabeth, of elaborate costumes and a love for Shakespeare. This critically acclaimed biopic, which thrust Cate Blanchett into the international spotlight, is based on the early days of Elizabeth's coming into power. Elizabeth is released from prison when her half-sister, Mary I, dies, and soon assumes the throne. Immediately afterward, her advisors start giving Elizabeth husband suggestions. She passes up French and Spanish royalty for an affair with a low-ranking earl, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), because she has good taste.
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The Tudors (2007 — 2010)

When the King of England wants to get married and the church forbids it, you know what the king does? Starts a new church. Henry VIII, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, isn't your usual uptight king. He's a cool king. With a sex-crazed Henry at the helm, The Tudors aimed to recreate a rock 'n' roll version of the British monarchy.
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The Queen (2006)

In The Crown, we see Queen Elizabeth II as a young woman, grappling with the knowledge that her life will never be "normal" again. The troubles she faces in The Queen, a film set much later in Elizabeth's life, are a perfect embodiment of the tremendous responsibility she quivered before in The Crown. After Princess Diana is killed in a tragic car accident, Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) urges Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) to break from her typical reserved persona and show a more outpouring of grief — despite the fact that Diana was no longer a part of the family at the time of her death. What follows is a tug-of-war between Elizabeth's adherence tradition on one side, and Tony Blair's desire to cater to the public mood.
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Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Nine years after Elizabeth, Blanchett reprised her role as the so-called Virgin Queen. Great Britain is gearing up for war with Spain. During this time of turmoil, Elizabeth's advisor, Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), urges her to get married and have an heir so the throne doesn't go to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. Once again, Elizabeth rejects everyone and sets her sights on a wholly unsuitable suitor: explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen).
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The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

This dramatic, steamy, and pretty fictionalized movie looks back at the usual Tudor subjects, one of British royalty's more dramatic moments. King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) has no children, and thus no heirs, with his wife, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent). The Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) orchestrates Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) to seduce the king, and become his mistress. But Henry falls in love with Mary (Scarlett Johansson), Anne's sister. When Mary becomes pregnant, Henry's interest moves back to Anne. So begins a very dangerous love triangle.
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The Young Victoria (2009)

Teenage Victoria (Emily Blunt) is heir to the throne, and everyone wants a piece of her. Her mother wants Victoria to sign a regency order, thus giving the throne over to her and her advisor. Her Belgian uncle, on the other hand, wants Victoria to marry his nephew, Albert, and strengthen ties between their kingdoms. Albert becomes the great love of Victoria's life.
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The King's Speech (2010)

David's (Colin Firth) older brother, King Edward VIII, chooses an inconvenient time to decide to marry a two-time divorcée and abdicate the throne. Britain is on the cusp of war with Germany, and David must do what he never fully expected to: Ascend the throne as King George VI. In order to overcome his stutter, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), encourages him to work with nontraditional speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). George VI's ability to give a speech is tremendously important: As the British people endure WWII, they'll turn to the King on the radio for guidance.
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Mary, Queen of Scots (2013)

So, imagine you, Mary (Camille Rutherford) have a legitimate claim to the throne — but your bastard cousin down in England has seized the throne as you dawdled over in France. All you want, you write to your cousin Elizabeth, is to be her heir to the throne, not her usurper. But Elizabeth is one cold, hard queen. As you try to negotiate your way out of this bind, through marriages and affairs and listening to advisors, Elizabeth becomes more and more intent on one thing: Getting rid of you.

This is family drama that's far more interesting than anything you'll see on reality TV.
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The Crown (2016 — present)

You know her as an elderly woman, trailed by the British empire's heavy history and a line of corgis. But before she became Queen Elizabeth, she was a young wife and mother on the cusp of inheriting one of the gravest roles in the world. This lavish, 10-episode show catches Elizabeth, played by Claire Foy, just as she's transitioning into the role of the Queen of England.
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The White Princess (2017)

Succession wasn't always as simple as it was today. Back in 1464, all of England was engaged in a feud over whether the House of York or the House of Lancaster would inherit the throne — so, yes, a real-life Game of Thrones. The show tells the story of three women all vying for power, and using the royal men they influence as their pawns. The story begins with Richard III's death, leaving his lover, Elizabeth (Jodie Comer) to marry Henry, the new Tudor king (Jacob Collins-Levy), and end the War of the Roses.
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Victoria and Abdul (2017)

20 years ago, Judi Dench played Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown, a movie that focused on one of the queen's great friendships during her long widowhood. In Victoria and Abdul, Victoria, also played by Dench, becomes friends with Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a man sent from India to present the queen with a gold coin at her majesty's jubilee. Dench is at her best when playing royalty with a glint of mischievousness, which she also did in Shakespeare in Love (1998).
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