Period Dramas Totally Worth Bingeing
If you’re like me, you love a good period drama. These shows tend to be mostly based in the UK. Very fancy people wearing fancy outfits and having dramatic conversations about houses, lords, and ladies, alliances, war, and the like. And if it’s based on true events, forget it. That means not only do I get to enjoy all the fancy talk, but I also get to voluntarily fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole and read pages upon pages of what I call “diet” history. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about the Tudor reign or Vlad The Impaler.
Basically, if it’s the 19th-Century or earlier, I’m in! I love me a period drama. So, I’m obviously an expert on this genre. Seriously, if you see me in the store and feel like talking period dramas, I’m game anytime. Until then, here are my fave period dramas and where to find them.
Poldark – Masterpiece Theatre, PBS
If there is a king in this genre, it’s certainly Masterpiece Theatre. Masterpiece gave us the only Pride and Prejudice adaptation that matters. Yes, the one with Colin Firth. They also gave us Poldark, a very long, drawn-out conversation on the copper mining industry in the late 18th Century. It’s the 1700s, shortly after the Revolutionary War. War hero Ross Poldark returns to Wales to find his father dead, his girl engaged to his cousin, and the family mine in ruins.
Question: Do you know anything about copper mining of the late 18th Century? Well, get ready to learn. You’re about to become an expert and suddenly find the politics of mining companies fascinating.
The Tudors – Starz
The Tudors was like the OG sexy period drama. Sure, Colin Firth took a dip in a lake in P&P, but The Tudors did what no Renaissance painter could do. It made King Henry VIII look hot. Henry the VIII was seriously one of the worst people. A real d-bag with commitment issues if I ever did see one. The Tudors takes us on a journey through all six of King Henry’s wives. Two annulments, two beheadings, one death by childbirth, three Katherines, two Annes, and a Jane.
This period drama can get a little ridiculous and they make Anne Boylen out to be truly obnoxious. However, they managed to be pretty accurate when it comes to Henry’s reign and the women who would, unfortunately, become his queens. What’s most fascinating about The Tudors and Henry VIII’s reign was the break with the Catholic church. When the Pope denied him a divorce, Henry forced his people to establish the Church of England. The English Reformation was a huge deal at the time. Seeing the beginning stages of it is pretty fascinating in-and-of itself.
The White Queen, The White Princess, and The Spanish Princess – Starz
After the success of The Tudors, Starz continued the drama with The White Queen. The War of The Roses (not the movie) was a series of civil wars between the House of Lancaster and The House of York. This conflict was actually part of the inspiration for Game of Thrones. Each house was fighting for the throne of England. Based on Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same name, The White Queen follows Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth is a widow of the house of Lancaster who married the York King Edward IV. Just like The Tudors, The White Queen can get pretty dumb. Especially when they try and make Elizabeth out to be some kind of low-grade witch. This drama goes far beyond just one period in time.
But it does cover the continuing conflict between the houses, Henry Tudor VII, and the Princes in The Tower. Drama! The two York princes, Elizabeth’s sons, were kept in the Tower of London. Nothing good ever happens there, trust me. Suddenly, the two princes disappeared… The White Princess follows her daughter Elizabeth of York, mother to Henry VIII. We also get The Spanish Princess, which just premiered and follows Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII first wife.
Honorable Period Drama Mentions!
Victoria – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Outlander – Totally fictional, but they do dive into Bonnie Prince Charlie, King Louis XV, and the beginnings of the United States.
Gunpowder, Treason & Plot – Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and King James Stuart.
Gunpowder – Remember, remember the fifth of November…
The Crown – Elizabeth II
Marco Polo – Not the hide and seek game, but the explorer making his way around the world for money. Lots of money.
Seriously, just click on PBS or BBC and you’ll find some awesome period drama! But also someone should make a mini-series about Mary Tudor. Girl was only Queen for like a day but she is Bloody Mary after all. And also Catherine the great, Russian Empress and known nympho. Oh and also Countess Elizabeth Báthory, one of history’s first known serial killers.