The Guide to Period Drama's You Didn't Know You Needed

Period Drama’s are the very backbone of the acting industry. I’m not kidding you, as someone who grew up acting, there is no bigger dream than to do a period drama and completely lose yourself in the past. Now as a woman studying to be a Historian who grew up doing acting, they’re my guilty pleasure and my entire Netflix list. Rule one to period drama’s if it’s on BBC you might as well watch it. Rule two, Game of Thrones isn’t a period drama, it’s a fantasy so file that next to The Hobbit. Rule three, never ever ever ever believe that what you’re watching is how it really happened. So please enjoy this review from your favorite CofC editors and History majors and see how ridiculously passionate we about these. 

HCXO,  Ciara

Poldark

  • BBC One (2015-Present)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 8/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 7.5/10

Poldark is set in Cornwall at the end of the 18th century. It's a fictional story based off the Poldark novel by Winston Graham, that I've heard the United Kingdom is in love with. It really has a bit of everything a love story, action and adventure, hot guys shirtless, really great costumes, cute kids and animals, and more. It's one of those shows I binge hard when I watch it you. With a morally gray main character and some really great boss women that keep you invested in the show it might be one of the best period dramas currently being aired. Season one and two are both available on Amazon Prime and Season three airs on PBS Masterpiece on October 1st. 

Demelza and Ross Poldark the main characters of the show ( Image Source )

 

The White Queen

  • BBC One with Starz (2013)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 4/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 8/10

I have the biggest love hate relationship in the world with The White Queen. I hate it historically, I love it as a viewer. It's one of those historical drama's you want to watch. The White Queen is based off the terrible novels by Phillpa Gregory, who is not a historian never let anyone tell you she is, that look at the view of the War of the Roses from the perspectives of the women during it. Which sounds like it would be amazing right? The women of the War of the Roses are literally some of the most incredible women in history, these novels however paint them in a light that isn't true to who they were and there for the show isn't either. The show is great though, there is nothing better than a good period drama that catches your attention which it does. If you ignore how historically inacurate and the fact that theres magic in it, it's an incredible show. There's a reason it had Emmy and Golden Globes buzz. However it goes to show that the directors cut trailer tells the story almost better than the writing. However, the White Queen is must watch period drama for entertainment. And yes, the War of the Roses is one of the things Game of Thrones was based off. The White Queen is currently available on Starz and Amazon Prime. 

Margaret Beaufort "The Red Queen" in red, Elizabeth Woodville "The White Queen" in white, and Anne Neville "The Kingmakers Daughter" in blue. (Image Source)

 

Versailles

  • Canal+ (2015-Present)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 6.5/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 8.5/10

Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette is one upped in aesthetics by Versailles. Versailles tells the story of King Louis the XIV as Versailles is being constructed. It's fascinating, fun, makes you want to get on a plane to France so you too can drink wine and roam the gardens of Versailles. It's cinematically pleasing, the plots intertwining and thickening to entertain the viewer. That entertainment of course throws history aside and a few of the major plot lines of season one are completely inaccurate. Versailles is incredible though, it makes you jealous when you think someone's job is to literally spend all their time dressed up in a period costume in the palace. It's a show definitely recommend sitting down and binging with headphones though because it's so raunchy the French made toy kits for children to play with and be distracted with while their parents watch the show. Over all don't miss out and not watch this show. 

The Cast of Versailles during a scene (Image Source)

 

Reign

  • CW (2013-2017)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 2/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING:  6/10

Reign is the telling of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots and her life at French Court. When I heard this show was coming out I was very excited! While Mary is not my favorite Queen in history, her story is very interesting to me. But I was deeply disappointed with the show as I watched it. Like many other shows on the CW, they needed multiple love interests for Mary, historically it's accurate with her 3 husbands in her life, but the CW decided to add a fictional character to a historical period drama. Bash is the son of King Henry II and his mistress, so he is the half-brother of Francis II. The show plays off on a romance between Mary and Bash as she tries to decided what life she wants to lead. I will admit, I loved Bash, he was my favorite and I absolutely loved Bash and Mary's relationship, but it's not historically accurate at all. Other than a blip in fake characters, I need to speak about the costumes. To me, costumes make or break a show that's based on true events. In this show, the women's supposed 16th century gowns are more so Prom dresses you would see girls wearing today! While gowns were full of grandeur and opulence to signal royalty, the dresses worn in Reign are not historically accurate at all. But other than that, Reign is a decent show. It has his thrilling moments, sword fights, forbidden loves that women love, and an attractive cast. If you can get past season 3 however I will be impressed. 

Left to right: Ladies in Waiting, Kenna, Greer, and Lola and Mary, Queen of Scots. (Image Source)

Medici: Masters of Florence

  • Netflix (2015-Present)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 4/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 9/10

I love Medici: Masters of Florence with my whole heart. They really strayed away from history for the purpose of telling a really detailed crime story. It's honestly fascinating, with how they did it, not to mention Richard Madden looks absolutely incredible in almost every scene he's in. It's a show that's a complete hit in Italy, let alone in America. The show is currently filming it's second season which goes to the next generation after each series. Medici is definitely the show to watch when you want to watch something that's thrilling, yet historical at the the same time. 

Richard Madden as Cosimo de Medici (Image Source)

The Borgias

  • Canal+ (2015-Present)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 6.5/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 8/10

If you aren't a history buff then you most likely won't know who The Borgias are. They were a very notorious family during the 15th and 16th century. Out of everyone in that family, the most popular Borgia is Cesare Borgia, whom you may have read about in Niccolo Machiavelli's novel The Prince. Now, this show is set in the Vatican City, which is a city-state in Italy, and centers around the lives of the Borgias and how they rose in power. In terms of history, it is pretty accurate. It does a great job at detailing the history of the family. How Rodrigo really came to be Pope through simony, his long term affair with Vannozza dei Cattanei. The show also did a great job with the personalities of the entire family. They did add some parts to make for more drama, such as fictional characters that were not real. The downside of this show is the amount of graphic sex scenes and the showing of the incestuous relationship between Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, which has bee speculated throughout history. If you love history and drama this is the show for you! I could honestly go on and on about how much I love this show and how much I love Francois Arnaud. (He plays Cesare Borgia, peep the photo below).  

Left to right: Francois Arnaud, Holliday Grainger and Jeremy Irons. (Image Source)

 

The Tudors

  • Canal+ (2015-Present)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 6.5/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 8.5/10

Ok, so this show to me is one of the OG historical period dramas. Beautiful cast, beautifully made. The show is about the reign and scandals of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  While not the best in terms of historical accuracy, it makes up for it in the costumes and the acting. In my own humble opinion, this show has one of the best costumes departments with the accuracy in the outfits the actors wore. The costuming department rented and bought every single 16th century costume avalible during the time of the shows filming. Another highlight is the portrayal of Anne Boleyn played my Natalie Dormer, and Henry Cavill who portray King Henry VIII's right hand man Charles Brandon. A very beautiful cast this show has. It only has four seasons but the episodes are very long, so if you don't like to sit and watch hour long episodes, this show isn't for you.

Season One cast of The Tudors (Image Source)

 

The White Princess

  • Starz (2017)
  • HISTORICAL RATING: 2/10
  • ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 6/10

If you're wondering how entertaining The White Princess was, just know I'm being generous and added a whole point from Jacob Collins Levy's performance as Henry VII which literally ruined my life. The White Princess which is supposed to be the story of Elizabeth of York, it isn't, is quite frankly terrible. It's bad, like this is coming from someone who loves and adores Elizabeth of York, especially her pure marriage and love story with Henry VII which is totally screwed over by Phillipa Gregory, a terrible human being, saying their relationship started with him basically raping her. Honestly if you could see me watching these terrible eight episodes you'd feel sorry for me, it was painful but I wanted to see how wrongly they did my baby. That's the sole reason I made this sticker on RedBubble, she was disrespected. Honestly, just don't watch The White Princess, it's not good. There are times I think Game of Thrones is more Historically Accurate than The White Princess if that tells you anything of how terrible the show is. Just don't watch it. 

Jacob Collins-Levy as King Henry VII in The White Princess. (Image Source)