13 of the best movies about British royalty

1. The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech was a critical and commerc

The King’s Speech was a critical and commercial triumph upon its debut in 2010, when it was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four of them, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth’s moving performance as King George IV. As he prepares to deliver a national speech announcing war on Nazi Germany, the monarch worked with a speech and language pathologist to overcome his impediment, which was impenetrable. The film, starring Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, provides a fascinating insight at the ruler’s private fights during one of history’s most pivotal moments.

The Princess Diaries

If there’s one film you’re sure to have seen on this list, it’s The Princess Diaries. Before you scoff at the inclusion of this feel-good Disney classic, hear us out. Sure, heroine Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway in her breakout role) is completely made-up, but a quick refresher of this early aughts film proves that many of the protocols and behaviors the teen is forced to adopt as an heir to the fictional kingdom of Genovia ring rather true as far as royalty goes. For Mia, it’s not enough to simply don a tiara and shine her inner light. Rather, her grandmother, Queen Clarisse of Genovia (Julie Andrews), sets out to mold her into someone more worthy of the crown. With rule after rule to learn (“Princesses never cross their legs in public,” Queen Clarisse declares), Mia is ultimately forced to choose between her life of normalcy and her newfound imperial duties. (Sounds … familiar, no?)

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The Prince Me

For a more light-hearted take on life as a royal, there’s the 2004 rom-com The Prince & Me, in which the fictitious Edvard of Denmark leaves his world as a crowned prince behind to experience life as a student on American soil. There, he meets Paige (Julia Stiles), who opens him up to everything he’s been missing out on. It’s not all doves and roses for the fledgling couple, however; they still must win over Edvard’s disapproving parents, King Harald and Queen Rosalind. The film’s poignant themes of longing for escape from the obligations of public service and feeling “trapped” are likely ones Prince Harry himself could relate to. As Queen Rosalind tells her son’s new paramour, “Being royal requires you to sacrifice who you are for who you must be.”

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Henry V

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A fun thing about William Shakespeare is that he was frequently reliant on royal patronage or, at the very least, the crown’s good favor. Ever wonder why there are so many plays written about English royalty? “Henry V” is perhaps one of the most famous Shakespearean plays about a former king of England, and it receives the blockbuster treatment in this 1989 adaptation from Kenneth Branagh. He both directs and stars in the film, which details the exploits of the young King Henry V, culminating in his famous underdog victory at Agincourt. 

Some audiences may prefer the earlier version of “Henry V” from Laurence Olivier, one of the greatest Shakespearean actors in cinematic history, but there’s something about this interpretation that makes it a powerful adaptation of the text while still managing to be accessible to mainstream audiences. When Branagh launches into his famous St. Crispin’s Day speech, he’s got us hook, line, and sinker.

The Young Victoria

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Most films about English royalty tend to focus on the central conflict of their lives: their responsibilities as a leader and figurehead, and their desire to have a more private life. But while Queen Victoria certainly had her share of issues (her famously overbearing mother forced Victoria to share a bedroom with her until she inherited the throne at age 18), “The Young Victoria” is notable for being one of the lightest, fluffiest royal dramas around. 

It’s mostly about the burgeoning relationship between Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt) and her future husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), a romance that would stand in contrast to many royal marriages that were considered little more than a political tool between nations. When Albert died at the premature age of 42, Victoria was plunged into the deepest mourning, wearing all-black until her own death forty years later. But here, we see them young and happy, one of the rare successful marriages in the Hanoverian line.

20. Shakespeare in Love

It’s not exactly about Shakespeare and how he came to create his masterpieceRomeo and Juliet, but Dame Judi Dench plays Queen Elizabeth I in this film. Everyone wants to know if Juliet is being played by a guy or a woman (now that’s forbidden!). Gwyneth Paltrow’s Viola de Lesseps (Viola de Lesseps) pretends to be a male so that she can perform in the film. Because she “knows something of a woman working in a man’s trade,” Elizabeth allows the play to go on. Queen Elizabeth II was only the second monarch to be a woman.

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