England has a very long and interesting history, there’s no doubt about that.
It has always been – and continues to be – one of the most powerful countries in the world and thus, has had her hand in many notable international events throughout history.
One thing that makes England’s history so fascinating, however, is her monarchy. There’s just so much to unpack with it (even to this day, let’s be real), from figuring out political motives to determining who’s next in line to the throne.
On top of that, there’s always the drama and intrigue involved with each ruler’s personality, love life, and well, other personal affairs.
There are plenty of TV shows that touch upon the lives of England’s royalty throughout the centuries, and that’s what this list is for!
Whether they’re central to the show or simply one of the notable figures of that period, we’ve put together a list of the best TV shows about the kings and queens of England!
TV shows about King Alfred the Great
The Last Kingdom, BBC Two/Netflix (2015 – present)
The historical drama The Last Kingdom is based on The Saxon Stories novels by Bernard Cornwell.
It takes us back to 866, right before the start of Alfred the Great’s reign as king of the West Saxons.
We follow the story of Uhtred, a Saxon who is raised by Danish warlord Earl Ragnar after Ragnar’s army killed his family.
Through each conflict, Uhtred is constantly at a crossroads between loyalty to the Danish family that raised him and the Saxon kingdom of his ancestors.
The relationship between Uhtred and Alfred, which is well-recorded in history books, is central to the first three seasons until Alfred’s death.
TV shows about King Henry I
The Pillars of the Earth, Starz/The Movie Network/Channel 4 (2010)
Disputes over lineage and rightful heirs seem to be a common theme throughout a lot of shows that involve royalty.
The Pillars of the Earth is an eight-episode miniseries based on a novel of the same name written by Ken Follett and is set up with both fictional and non-fictional elements.
While the storyline revolves around the construction of a beautiful new cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, the events that transpire unfold over an all-too-real period in English history: The Anarchy, a civil war over King Henry I’s rightful heir after his only legitimate son’s sudden death.
TV shows about King Edward III
World Without End, ReelzChannel/Channel 4 (2012)
Soon after The Pillars of the Earth ended, its sequel – also based on Ken Follett’s sequel novel of the same name – was announced.
World Without End premiered in 2012 with another eight episodes and, as the sequel, takes place 150 years after the events in its predecessor series.
Still in the fictional Kingsbridge, we follow the lives of the town’s ordinary citizens against the backdrop of major events in the 14th century.
This includes the Black Death as it spreads across Europe, as well as Edward III’s decisions that led to the start of the Hundred Years’ War.
TV shows about King Richard II
The Hollow Crown, BBC Two/PBS (2012 – 2016)
The Hollow Crown is a bit of a different format, as each of its 7 episodes is a feature-length TV film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henriad plays and spanned over the history of several of England’s kings.
It starts with Richard II, the son of the previously mentioned Edward III.
Season 1 covers until the reign of Henry V, where France weighs heavily into the picture with his success in the Hundred Years’ War.
Subsequently, Season 2, which was titled The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses after the civil wars concerning control over the throne, covers the reigns of Henry VI (in two parts) and Richard III.
TV shows about King Edward IV
The White Queen, BBC One (2013)
In tandem with the story of the War of the Roses in The Hollow Crown’s second season, BBC One brings a different perspective to the same series of events.
The White Queen, a ten-episode series based on the historical novels in The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory, tells the story of the women involved in the conflict over the throne, beginning in 1464.
Specifically, we meet Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville, all queens in their own right, and watch as they pull the strings behind the curtain in order to gain power.
The White Princess, Starz (2017)
The White Princess is the sequel to The White Queen, and is also based on the second novel in series by Gregory (and, in small part, on the third novel as well).
Of course, The White Princess continues to tell history through the female perspective but focuses more on Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville.
In fact, the central plotline involves the marriage between Margaret’s son Henry VII and Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth “Lizzie” of York, which effectively ended the Hundred Years’ War.
Though the marriage aimed to unite the kingdom, Lizzie resents the marriage, the King, and his mother, and plots to gain complete control.
TV shows about King Henry VIII
The Spanish Princess, Starz (2019 – 2020)
The third and final installment to the chronological installments of Gregory’s novels in Starz’ The Spanish Princess, which is based on both The King’s Curse (the third novel) and another historical fiction novel, The Constant Princess.
While much of the details are highly fictionalized, The Spanish Princess tells the story of Catherine of Aragon, the eponymous Spanish princess who first traveled to England to wed Arthur, then-Prince of Wales.
After his sudden death just months into their marriage, Cathrine seeks to continue the peace between England and Spain by pursuing Arthur’s younger brother, who would soon become King Henry VIII.
Henry VIII, ITV (2003)
Henry VIII is probably one of the more well-known British monarchs in history, though it’s not often for any political contribution to the country.
The aforementioned Catherine of Aragon does indeed become his wife and queen… until their annulment 24 years later. Indeed, Henry VIII is known as having been married six times.
ITV’s two-part serial Henry VIII chronicles much of his life, beginning with his marriage to Catherine up until his death in 1547.
Woven through the story of his relationships is what really lay at the core: his determination and struggle to secure the line of succession with a male heir.
The Tudors, Showtime (2007 – 2010)
The title of this four-season series may be a reference to the entire House of Tudor family, but it really centers on King Henry VIII.
If you watched ITV’s two-parter mentioned above but just can’t get enough of the drama and intrigue, The Tudors is definitely the show for you.
The series, which is set in the 16th century, goes deeper into Henry’s marriages to his six wives and the politics of it all – as well as the fate that awaited them when the marriage came to an end.
However, there are many (intentional, according to creator Michael Hirst) departures from historical accuracy throughout each season, so The Tudors should, by all means, be taken with a grain of salt!
Wolf Hall, BBC Two (2015)
Each royal throughout countries and history has their close circle of trusted advisors who are there to help them make the right decisions – be it for the greater good of the kingdom or for their own selfish agenda.
Wolf Hall from BBC Two tells the story of one such advisor to King Henry VIII named Thomas Cromwell.
Cromwell was a lawyer and statesman when he became chief minister to Henry VIII and was instrumental in his annulment from Catherine and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.
Wolf Hall shines the spotlight on Cromwell and his achievements – as well as the cost they came at.
TV shows about Mary, Queen of Scots
Reign, The CW (2013 – 2017)
The CW’s Reign is, indeed, a historical drama, but it definitely leans more heavily on creative license and thus, a lot of the events based on real-life happenings are inaccurate and heavily romanticized.
Still, that just makes for really entertaining TV!
Reign covers the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, beginning with her return to Scotland from a convent in order to marry Prince Francis and secure their rule.
Later seasons begin to center as well on Mary’s claim on the throne of England and her conflict with her own cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
Gunpowder, Treason & Plot, BBC Two (2004)
“Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November; the Gunpowder Treason and Plot.”
Though this line has been made famous as part of what some would call a nursery rhyme, it’s about an event that’s hardly suitable for children: the Gunpowder Plot to kill King James I and the Parliament.
BBC Two’s Gunpowder, Treason & Plot is a two-part miniseries where each episode focuses on one of two monarchs: Mary, Queen of Scots, and her reign alongside various king consorts.
And then of her son James VI of Scotland (or James I of England) – the very man who was targeted by the Gunpowder Plot.
TV shows about Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I, Channel 4/HBO (2005)
Unlike her father Henry VIII and his multiple marriages, Queen Elizabeth I never married – and it was never really made clear why, as no husband no child also meant no heir and subsequently, the end of the Tudor line.
In the two-part miniseries from Channel 4 titled Elizabeth I, we still may not find the answer to that but at the very least, we get an insight into some of her brushes with men and love.
Elizabeth I primarily focuses on the latter half of her 45-year reign and her relationships with the Duke of Anjou, and the Earls of Leicester and Essex.
Becoming Elizabeth, Starz (2022)
In a different vein, Starz’ Becoming Elizabeth is one yet upcoming this 2022.
With the titular Elizabeth I once again at the forefront, this series takes us to the opposite end of the timeline.
Where Elizabeth I showed us the latter end of her reign until her death, Becoming Elizabeth introduces us to her as a teenager, now orphaned after the death of her father the king.
At this young age, she is thrown into the dangerous world of English royal politics which she and her siblings must learn to maneuver amidst the outside forces vying for their own way to the throne.
The Virgin Queen, PBS (2005)
The title of PBS’ historical drama The Virgin Queen is actually a nickname given to Queen Elizabeth I precisely because of her choice to remain chaste and unmarried.
However, the series actually calls this into question as it places Elizabeth’s public and private life at the center – including why she made a vow of chastity in the first place.
In exploring her motivation, we witness one of England’s greatest monarchs balance her duty to her country against her personal aspirations.
This includes her political triumphs as well as her relationship with her friend, Robert Dudley.
Elizabeth R, BBC 2 (1971)
Nope, that “R” in the title isn’t some typo, and nor is it random placement or a reference to another name.
Some of you may know already but for those who don’t, the “R” comes from how monarchs sign their name – a sort of standard initial to signify “regent”.
The Elizabeth I BBC drama serial consists of 6 almost film-length episodes that begin with the events just before her ascension to the throne.
Once she claims it, her advisers are quick to push the marriage agenda but, as we all know and now witness again with Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth chooses her own path.
TV shows about King George III
Bridgerton, Netflix (2020 – present)
Bridgerton is one of the more recent shows on the list, and one that shot up in popularity very quickly after it premiered on Netflix.
More romance drama than historical, it’s based on Julia Quinn’s series of novels of the same name and is set in the competitive world of Britain’s upper-class during the Regency era.
Think of it as Gossip Girl in the 19th century: with a narration from the anonymous newsletter columnist Lady Whistledown, we follow the Bridgerton siblings as they navigate high society in their search for love.
TV shows about Queen Victoria
Victoria, ITV (2016 – 2019)
By the time Queen Victoria’s almost 64-year reign ended, it was longer than any other monarch who had come before her.
This leaves much room to dive into her personal and political life, as well as her accomplishments while holding the crown.
ITV’s Victoria begins by covering the first few years as she ascended to the throne at the age of 18, including her relationship with her adviser Lord Melbourne and eventual marriage to Prince Albert.
Later seasons moved to showcase real-life historical events and how Victoria balanced her royal duties to those for her husband and children.
Victoria Regina, Net Playhouse (1964)
Victoria Regina is one of the older shows on our list, having aired its four episodes in 1964.
Not much is known about the series, though we do know that the role of the monarch was played by Patricia Routledge, who has a decorated TV and film career.
Victoria Regina covers the 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign, ending just a few years before her death in 1901, especially highlighting the largest milestones in her achievements for England.
TV shows about King Edward VII
Edward the Seventh, ITV (1975)
Because Victoria’s reign was so long, her successor – her son King Edward VII – ascended to the throne when he was nearly 60 years old and remained for only 9 years before his own death.
The ITV drama Edward the Seventh was based on the biography of the king by Philip Magnus.
Though the series spans 13 episodes, it’s really only the latter 3 that cover his actual reign as king; we follow then-Prince Albert Edward’s childhood where, as the male heir, he had been groomed to take over since he was a child known fondly as Bertie.
TV shows about Queen Elizabeth II
The Crown, Netflix (2016 – present)
Finally, after centuries of history and monarchs, we’ve reached the present with Netflix’s The Crown, a highly praised and well-loved historical drama about the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Having risen to the throne at just 25 years old in 1952, she is celebrating her 70th year as queen this year!
The Crown is coming up on its fifth season, where the first four seasons have covered specific periods in Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
The most recent season covers Margaret Thatcher’s period as Prime Minister and Prince Charles’ marriage to Lady Diana, and these last two seasons will cover the 21st century.
The Windsors, Channel 4 (2016 – 2020)
After all the serious historical dramas, our penultimate series is a sitcom and parody of the real current royal family.
Over three seasons with 20 episodes, the events portrayed in the series are completely fictionalized to emulate a soap opera and yet have some basis in real life.
The characters are portrayed in an entirely different light; Kate Middleton, for example, is a gypsy traveler, Prince Harry is an illiterate party boy, and Queen Elizabeth is largely absent.
The Windsors clearly takes its cue from tabloids!
TV shows about a fictional British royal family
The Royals, E! (2015 – 2018)
Finally, we’re giving a little bonus called The Royals. It’s just a bonus show for fun because it’s actually completely fictional – characters, events, and all!
The series follows Queen Helena, the queen consort of a modern-day royal family who fights to keep control over them in both the private and public eye.
Things are thrown into disarray, however, when their eldest son and heir to the throne dies in a plane crash.
With their second son unfit to rule when the king dies, Helena must find allies to help keep them in power.