TV Article: Addictive Royal Dramas

Written by Sydney O'Keefe October 11, 2017

The Crown

Royal dramas have long been a popular genre of not only film, but television shows. Netflix’s smash hit success The Crown has won 10 awards after the premiere of their first season. The breakout success has a highly anticipated second season that will be premiering on Netflix in early December. It’s dramatic, emotional, and just plain addictive. But if you’re desperate for some royal drama immediately, here are some dramas on Elizabeth’s II predecessors you can binge watch while you wait.

Reign1

Reign follows the historical figure Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) as she navigates her brief tenure as Queen of France and the constant struggle between herself and her cousin the protestant Queen Elizabeth I (Rachel Skarsten). However, the most interesting character in the script is the Queen Mother, Catherine De Medici (Megan Fellows). Often lauded as the most powerful woman of her time, she is the one character the writers don’t skimp on. Coming from a complex backstory of Italian pseudo royalty, Catherine is often considered the true king of France while she acts as an adviser to her oldest son Francis (Toby Regbo) and regent to his successor King Charles (Spencer Macpherson). Catherine’s duplicitous character and actions makes her the anti heroine that is so rare on teen dramas.

“The first lesson I ever learned is to never wait for a man’s rescue. History is written by the survivors, and I am surely that.”

The series often follows the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth. As queens of proud nations, they have struggled to maintain their crown as well as their lives. Reign’s first seasons focus on Mary, but the third and fourth seasons begin to show Elizabeth’s side of their infamous rivalry. Elizabeth mirrors Mary’s constant anxiety over her rival. They’ve both spent their entire lives with a sword hanging over their head, threatened by the existence of one another. Never knowing if they would die today, assassinated or executed for the circumstances of their birth. The mirroring effect of Elizabeth and Mary’s characters really show the ongoing conflict in the show – their struggle to maintain their crown (and by extension their lives) in a misogynistic society that constantly pushes against them.

The tudors

But before Reign, there was The Tudors. The Tudors illustrates the series of events that lead to Elizabeth I’s birth and turbulent reign. The show uses four seasons to depict the infamous reign of Henry VIII (Johnathon Rhys Meyer) and his six wives. The series begins with Henry already married to his brother’s wife Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Their marriage is shadowed by Catherine’s infertility after the birth of their daughter. This makes it easy Henry to be taken in by the beguiling Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) and her promise of a son.

“You think you know a story, but you only know how it ends. To get to the heart of the story, you have to go back to the beginning.”

The chronicling of Henry’s life is not historically accurate in the timing of events, but does generally follow the sequence of his rule. The acting in this series is truly amazing and the first two seasons are incredibly entertaining as we watch Anne attempt to hold on to her crown. The rise and fall of the six queens is an interesting take on women in history. It’s also the infamous story of two beheadings, two divorces, and one natural death. The costumes are stunning and Jonathan deserves recognition for his excellent acting as Henry VIII. But the real star of the series was undoubtedly Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn. The series shows the overall history of the most interesting and dramatic reign in English history with a focus on the time’s most interesting characters. The Tudors does an excellent job of showing Henry as a charismatic megalomaniac. The final episodes which depict Henry’s last days as he is haunted by the memory of all of his wives are especially chilling.

The White Queen

This BBC mini series is based on the books of Phillipa Gregory and follow the royal family predeceasing the infamous Tudors, a time commonly known as the war of the roses. The war of the roses begins with King Edward VI (Max Irons) and his wife Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson). The White Queen depicts two branches of the same family, the Yorks and the Lancasters, vying for the throne. The series focuses on the life of Elizabeth Woodville, Margret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), and Anne Neville (Faye Marsay).

“Men go to battle. Women wage war.”

Elizabeth Woodville is the main character in Gregory’s novel entitled The White Queen. She also wrote The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter about Margret Beaufort and Anne Neville respectively. The three of these novels then make up this series. This series is particularly interesting as there is a direct rivalry between three very different women for the same crown. All three are also cousins and described as being, “Three different but equally determined women who vie for the throne.” At first the titular White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, seems rather boring. She is more of a passive love interest than a driving political force, but she grows as a character. But this series was nominated at the Golden Globes for best actress, best supporting actress, and best miniseries. The acting and writing is unique because it depicts three different female perspectives on the English monarchy. Unfortunately, like most historical dramas, the lack of time allows the series to fall flat into a very black and white version of events. Of course, fitting 30 years into 10 hours is no easy task. The overarching theme of the series is to show how a woman’s fight for power, and of course her imprisonment and subsequent downfall.

the crown

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