I’ve said it before and can safely say again that moving to London is your key to history and culture, and the endless references to this city that you’ll find in what you read and watch without even trying is one of the most fun aspects of being a London expat. I enjoyed compiling my recent list of British Christmas movies—in part due to the unexpected challenge that posed, but also because I’m a sucker for a good film and enjoy how such a medium can creatively enhance one’s experiences and education. Today’s post is directly inspired by a DVD viewed on my last night in the States this week, and while you should certainly do your research to get a handle on accurate historical facts of England, I hope the following Top Fiver dedicated to English monarchs provides you with enlightening entertainment as well.
[You know I hate to start one of these without a proper drumroll…*ddddddddd*…there, that’s better. Cheers!]
1. The Young Victoria (2009) – Actors Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend portray the romance of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, whose partnership in marriage and royal rule guided England’s growth and prosperity during what we famously know as the Victorian Era. Victoria was Queen of England for over 63 years, rendering her the nation’s longest reigning monarch. (Related London sightseeing for this monarch: The Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington Palace, Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall)
2. The Queen (2006) – Helen Mirren performs her interpretation of the presently reigning Queen Elizabeth II as she goes tête-a-tête with former Prime Minister Tony Blair over conflicting approaches to PR in the wake of Lady Diana’s death. Queen Elizabeth’s reign has spanned 57 years and counting. (Related London sightseeing for this monarch: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, 10 Downing Street)
3. Elizabeth (1998) – Let’s make this a twofer and include its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) as well, in which actress Cate Blanchett reprises her role as the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. The allegedly illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (whose controversal marriage was not recognized by all when the legitimacy of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon was questioned), Elizabeth’s 44-year reign is considered a golden age indeed. (Related London sightseeing for this monarch: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey)
4. The Tudors (TV series, 2007-10) – Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as King Henry VIII in this saucy BBC historical fiction series, loosely based on the relationships and politics of this sovereign (and presenting him as better eye candy than the real deal :)). Take the history lessons learned here with a grain of salt, but the series does well in engaging a contemporary audience with this English period. Infamous for his six wives (who’ve inspired another series of historical fiction taking creative license on Henry’s escapades—namely, Philippa Gregory’s novel series that includes The Other Boleyn Girl, which was adapted to the screen in 2008 and stars Natalie Portman), Henry’s reign lasted over 37 years. (Related London sightseeing for this monarch: Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, Windsor Castle)
5. The King’s Speech (2010) – Now playing in the States and scheduled for release in the UK next month, this already critically-acclaimed film stars Colin Firth as the stammering King George VI. The present Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI reigned for 15 years. (Related London sightseeing for this monarch: Buckingham Palace, St. George’s Chapel, Carlton Gardens)
So there’s a sample of recent movies depicting some of the monarchy of the United Kingdom, which I’ll be keen to add to in the future with old and new. I’ve heard there are two upcoming movies in which Keira Knightly and Charlize Theron are respectively slated to portray Princess Diana, and someday it will be Princess Kate…and, if all goes well for William, Queen Kate! In the meantime, while you can visit the Tower of London for the actual crown jewels, explore the above cinematic gems within the comforts of your London apartment.