Five Films for Five Monarchs

Learn about the Tudor monarchs in these stellar screen adaptations…

There are no shortage of movies and television series depicting the lives of the Tudor monarchs, but finding an enjoyable one will usually come at the cost of historical accuracy.

Whilst it’s hard to recommend the following films on the basis of their adherence to the recorded truth, they work best as dramatic introductions to the ruling monarchs of the Tudor family. As with most period dramas, some viewer discretion is advised.

The 15th and 16th centuries were violent times; War was raged frequently, matters of the bedroom were often a matter of public concern and violent uprisings were not uncommon – these films often touch upon these matters and, as such, might not be suitable for younger viewers.

With that being said, movies are often a great way to get young people into the History of Britain’s monarchs – make sure to check out the film on Kids in Mind so that you’re fully aware of what you might be getting yourself and your kids into!

Henry VII

Although his ascension to the throne is arguably one of the most thrilling stories in English history, there are very few films or television series actively focusing on Henry VII as a main character. Perhaps it is because one of the greatest English writers essentially covered the rise of the House of Tudor in his landmark play Richard III. Richard Loncraine’s 1995 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, starring Ian McKellen in the title role, is set in an alternate fascistic 1930s Britain and stars Dominic West as Henry Tudor.

Henry VIII

For a truly exhaustive (and entirely explicit) look at the life of Henry VIII you need look no further than Showtime’s The Tudors. Those with less time on their hands, or who would prefer to watch with younger viewers, can look up the classic Henry VIII and His Six Wives. At just over 2 hours, this 1972 movie quickly runs through Henry’s fascinating marital history, whilst also introducing viewers to some other important players of the time.

Edward VI

Due to his very brief stint as reigning monarch of England (as well as his young age) there are very few cultural depictions of Edward Tudor. Edward was only nine years old when he was crowned King, by the age of 15 he had died and left the country on shaky political grounds, having uprooted the previously Catholic system with his Protestant upbringing. The background machinations to the end of his reign are dramatised in the 1986 romance-drama Lady Jane.

Mary I

Despite a surprisingly favourable portrayal in the aforementioned The Tudors, Mary is often depicted as being somewhat cold or unforgiving, usually because of the hard line approach that she took to enforcing Catholicism upon the country – as a reaction to the previous six years of Protestant rule under Edward VI.

1936’s Mary of Scotland starring Katherine Hepburn, directed by John Ford, takes liberties with history and depicts the monarch as somewhat sulky, whereas 2013’s Mary Queen of Scots might be a little dry for young viewers, yet provides a lot more detail for avid historians.

Elizabeth I

As an iconic leader and one of the originators of a common English culture, there are numerous depictions of Elizabeth I in pop-culture. Her long reign makes for exciting viewing, from her dramatic ascension to the battles with Spain and several attempts on her life. Although compulsory viewing for any lover of Elizabeth I will be Judi Dench’s award-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love; Cate Blanchett’s eponymous roles in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age are definitive viewing for anyone who wants to learn more about her.