Around this time last year, the world stood still for the wedding of England’s Prince Harry and America’s Meghan Markle. Now it’s time for the sequel, as the royal couple welcomes the arrival of their first baby. Want to celebrate by binge-watching stories about British castles and lines of succession? Here are a few very regal movies and TV series you can stream right now. (Tea and corgis optional, but advised.)
Where better to start than with the family in question? Lifetime has released scripted original movies about the courtships of both Windsor princes. The first, William & Kate (available to stream for purchase on iTunes)—which originally aired less than two weeks before the titular protagonists’ real-life 2011 wedding—features future Grey’s Anatomy star Camilla Luddington as the commoner-turned-duchess. Just don’t get too attached to the stars of the second, Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance (2018; available to stream for purchase on Amazon); though there will be a sequel to the film of sorts premiering on Lifetime May 27, the original leads are not reprising their roles.
Diana (2013; available to buy or rent on iTunes) stars Naomi Watts as the boys’ late mother, and covers her romantic relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Lost’s Naveen Andrews) toward the end of her life. Speaking of which, The Queen (2006; free to stream for Starz subscribers) goes deep on the emotional and P.R. phases the titular monarch (Helen Mirren) went through immediately following the shocking death of her former daughter-in-law in 1997.
Go even further back in Elizabeth II’s biography with The Crown (free to stream for Netflix subscribers), which follows the monarch from just before her coronation through the births of her children—and, with this year’s forthcoming third season, beyond. For a nonfiction take, there’s Queen of the World (free to stream for HBO subscribers), a contemporary look at Queen Elizabeth II built from over a year’s worth of intimate footage.
Queen Elizabeth II’s father is the subject of The King’s Speech (2010; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon), about the challenges King George VI (Colin Firth) faced while attempting to overcome a stutter—after his surprise coronation, which followed his brother’s abdication from the throne. It didn’t quitesweep the 2011 Oscars, but winning best original screenplay, director, actor, and picture is close.
And why not revisit Meghan’s pre-royal career? She plays a singleton who tries to change her luck with men by following every rule in a self-help guide in the Hallmark original Dater’s Handbook (2017; available to stream for $7.99 purchase on Amazon).
As for Harry’s pre-marital TV efforts . . . well, actually, that wasn’t really him on Fox’s Joe Millionaire-like prank dating show, I Wanna Marry “Harry,” in which a passel of possibly nearsighted single ladies competed for the hand of a so-so Prince Harry impersonator, on the promise that he was the real deal. It’s not streaming on any subscription service, but for a mere $4.99, you can buy all the giddy hijinks to stream in H.D. on Amazon.
THE 18TH & 19TH CENTURIES
Queen Victoria is an evergreen subject on screens big and small, due to her remarkably long reign of 60-plus years. (At least, it was remarkable until 2015, when her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth blew past her record.) But although her name has been co-opted as an adjective meaning conservative—nay, prudish—more recent offerings have attempted to counter this narrative by portraying the queen as a frisky newlywed, as in the feature film The Young Victoria (2009; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon), starring Emily Blunt, and the TV series Victoria (free to stream for Amazon Prime subscribers) with Doctor Who alumna Jenna Coleman.
The Madness Of King George (1994; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon) tells the story of an unconventional mental-illness treatment for a very unconventional patient. It would make a strong double feature with either The King’s Speech or the more comedic Blackadder the Third (free to stream for Hulu subscribers), a sitcom set in the household of the doltish Prince Regent George IV (Hugh Laurie) and his scheming butler (Rowan Atkinson).
Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite (2018; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon) goes further back in history, to the reign of Queen Anne—telling the story of her particular susceptibility to persuasion, of various sorts, by women in her court. Olivia Colman won a best-actress Oscar this year for her portrayal of the bunny-loving sovereign.
Like that of Victoria, the court of Henry VIII—a king so horny he changed the course of religious history—has provided source material for so many adaptations that there are probably a couple even the most devoted Anglophile would not be familiar with. Wolf Hall (free to stream for Amazon Prime subscribers), a miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed novels, stars future Oscar winner Mark Rylance as royal counselor Thomas Cromwell; future Spider-Man Tom Holland as Cromwell’s son; future Queen Elizabeth Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn; and Damian Lewis (of Billions and Homeland) as Henry.
New this week to Starz is The Spanish Princess (free to stream for Starz subscribers), in which Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) takes her first steps toward marriage to Henry VIII. If a once-a-week release schedule is too slow, you can binge previous royals-focused Starz series The White Queen, with Mission: Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson; and The White Princess, starring Killing Evebreakout Jodie Comer.
Starz is also the subscription streaming service that is currently home to both the Cate Blanchett launchpad Elizabeth (1998; free to stream for Starz subscribers)—which earned the star her first of many best-actress Oscar nominations—and its sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007; free to stream for Starz subscribers), about Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I. Blanchett is savage and magnetic, and, perhaps most importantly, she also gets to fool around with Joseph Fiennes and Clive Owen. Samantha Morton also appears in the second film as her antagonist, Mary Stuart.
If their clash intrigues you, you can explore it in more depth in the recent Mary Queen of Scots (2018; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon). Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie play (respectively) the titular Mary and her English foe, Elizabeth I, battling for control of the English throne. The CW’s TV series Reign (free to stream for Netflix subscribers) also dramatizes Queen Mary’s life, but with a teen-friendly gloss—meaning that the costumes look like they were purchased at Free People. The court of Queen Elizabeth was also the setting for a season of Blackadder—this time, Blackadder II (free to stream for Hulu subscribers), with Oscar nominee Miranda Richardson as a giddy Elizabeth and Atkinson as a lord desperate to remain in her favor.
If it’s the legendary King Arthur and/or his Knights of the Round Table you’re interested in watching, you’re truly spoiled for choice. Interested in a musical? There’s Camelot (1967; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon), with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. Animated? Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (1963; available to stream for rent or purchase on Amazon), about Arthur’s pre-throne childhood. Like your history with a modern twist? There’s also a Camelot TV series (free to stream for Hulu subscribers), with the aforementioned Joseph Fiennes as Merlin, or . . . Merlin (free to stream for Hulu subscribers), with Buffy’s Anthony Stewart Head as Uther Pendragon.
Perhaps you’re less interested in the Sussexes’ baby news than you are in imagining an alternate universe in which British royals are trading partners and doing drugs? Thirsty for contemporary royal misbehavior with swears and partial nudity? Four scandalous seasons of E!’s soap The Royals (free to stream for Amazon Prime subscribers) are here for you to devour like a greasy chip butty.