Royalty — and their mysteries & history — has always enticed audiences and made for great entertainment. Even nowadays, whatever little thing The Royal family does goes viral in less than an hour - for no other reason than our fascination with all things royal.
British monarchs in particular have been portrayed many times in both movies and TV shows, which have captivated audiences and amassed a huge fanbases. Below you'll find a selection of series and movies which played the royalty card, and offered us some great queenly performances. But, as we all know, some movies and shows don't exactly strive for historical accuracy, so there's also some background on the real life Queens, just for fun.
1. Elizabeth Woodville
She was Queen consort of England during one of the most memorable historical moments: the War of Roses. Elizabeth was Queen to King Edward IV, a Yorkist who dethroned the Lancastrian King George VII, from 1464 to 1483. She was a widower to a Lancaster supporter, with whom she had two children. Coming from aristocracy, but without an ounce of royal blood in her, Elizabeth became the first queen of England not to come from nobility.
In the Starz miniseries The White Queen (based on Phillipa Gregory's books), she was played by Rebecca Ferguson. In the show - as in real life - Elizabeth wasn't a very popular queen because folks believed she had charmed her way into Edward's heart. As soon as the King was dead, her fragile grip on power deteriorated. Her two male heirs were taken to the Tower of London by their uncle Richard III, where they disappeared never to be seen again. Elizabeth Woodville's lineage lives on till this day, through her eldest daughter - Queen Elizabeth.
2. Anne Neville
Although Queen for only a very brief time (1483-1485), Anne's history is not a merry one. She was Princess of Wales through her marriage to Edward of Westminster, the only son of King George VII. When Edward died trying to depose the Yorkist King Edward IV, Anne went on to marry the king's brother, Richard - making her sister-in-law to Elizabeth Woodville. After King Edward passed, Richard was named Lord Protector, but he soon ascended to the throne when his nephews were considered illegitimate.
Contemporary to Elizabeth Woodville, Anne is also depicted in The White Queen, where she is portrayed by Game of Thrones' alum Faye Marsay. In the series, it is implied that Anne advised her husband to put Elizabeth Woodville's two sons under protection in the Tower of London. After the boys' disappearance, and after her own son died, Anne became guilt-stricken and fell ill. She died five months before her husband perished on the battlefield against Henry Tudor, making Richard II the last English king to die on battle grounds.
3. Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York reigned as queen consort from 1486 until her death in 1503. She became queen through her marriage to Henry Tudor, allying the Yorks and Lancasters, and putting an end to the War of Roses. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and King Edward IV, brother to King Edward V (one of the princes in the Tower of London) and niece to Richard III - making her daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of successive Kings of England. Many believe the characteristic Tudor red hair sprung from her.
A young - and still unmarried - Elizabeth can be seen in The White Queen miniseries as well, played by Freya Mavor. The follow-up series The White Princess will show Elizabeth and Henry's marriage and children (one of whom was King Henry VIII) and their peaceful and prosperous reign. One interesting fact about Elizabeth is that she actually was pretty happily married to King Henry VII, and the couple were said to have had a great deal of care and companionship for one another - some even go as far as to say the King died of a broken heart after the loss of his wife. In The White Princess she'll be played by Jodie Comer.
4. Anne Boleyn
One of the most famous English queens, Anne was the second wife of King Henry VIII (Elizabeth of York's son), and she was pretty much responsible for the setup of English reformation. Henry had been married to Catherine of Aragon - who bore him his first child, Princess Mary - and, after fearing Catherine wouldn't give him a male heir, he divorced her and married Anne Boleyn. Because the Pope refused to grant Henry the separation he wanted, his divorce led to Henry's excommunication and England's reformation from catholic to protestant.
In Showtime's highly acclaimed The Tudors, Natalie Dormer portrays Anne Boleyn. The series, although pretty focused on Henry VIII himself, gives a great insight of Anne's seduction of Henry and her three-year reign from 1533 to 1536. Apart from giving Henry his second daughter, Elizabeth, Anne is extremely influential during the protestant reform. Sadly, when it became clear she wouldn't provide the King with a male heir, he had Anne beheaded under charges of adultery, incest and high treason in the Tower of London.
5. Mary I
Daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary was a devout catholic by influence of her mother. She grew up seeing her mother set aside for Anne Boleyn, seeing her country deny her catholic faith and her father move from one wife to another. That would explain why Mary I sentenced at least 280 religious dissenters to burn at the stake. Her violent and strict rule gave her the posthumous sobriquet 'Bloody Mary'.
Also in The Tudors, Mary is brilliantly played by Once Upon A Time's Sarah Bolger, who was praised for her soft and unusually humane portrayal of the princess. In the series, Mary is an upset and forsaken princess, who resents her father for what he's done to her mother and for sending her away. She helps with young Elizabeth's (Anne Boleyn's daughter) education and upbringing, as well as their brother's. Mary's reign was short lived (1553-1558), ascending to the throne when she was 37 years old, and staying on until her death five years later.
6. Elizabeth I
The Virgin Queen of the English Golden Age was Henry VIII's second child (with Anne Boleyn). Elizabeth I succeeded her sister Mary I - and was the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Although she was protestant like her mother Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth dealt with the religious issue in a much more tolerant way. She never married - although there were several contenders - so she never produced a male heir. She reigned for 44 years, during which the English people strongly developed their sense of nationality and belonging. Her throne went on to James of Scotland, who was the son of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.
Elizabeth I has received some really memorable portrayals, the two most famous being Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. In Elizabeth and its sequel Elizabeth Golden Age, Cate Blanchett delievered a fantastic and iconic Oscar-winning performance. In Shakespeare In Love, it was Judi Dench's turn to earn an Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth.
7. Elizabeth II
Britain's current monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth II ascended in 1952, when she was 26 years old. Since 1947 she's been married to Prince Philip (Duke of Edinburgh), with whom she has four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward. She's the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant in history, and the head of the most popular monarchy in the world.
In the early '80s, the British monarchy became everyone's favorite topic when Princess Diana married Prince Charles. Diana's story and especially her tragic death - only five years after she'd divorced Prince Charles - are at the center of 2006 movie The Queen. It stars Helen Mirren in the role of Queen Elizabeth II, and shows how the Queen and her family dealt with Diana's loss and the media harassment. HM Queen Elizabeth II herself gave Mirren high praise for her performance, and even invited Mirren for dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Whether on the big or small screen, these fine actresses have done a majestic job (see what I did here?) in their depictions of some British queens. While Mirren was audacious enough to take on the role of a still-reigning Queen, the others helped fuel our imagination of what life was like for a medieval queen. Historically accurate or not, their portrayals only kept us hunger for more insight in the life of these powerful and memorable Queens.