In case you haven’t read, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, has just passed away. Though he may not have enjoyed the same global celebrity as his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, he played an important part in the monarchy throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Few people know this but, he wasn’t born a Brit, but Greek. This particular fact didn’t come to public knowledge until a docuseries on the royal family aired in the early 70s. Similarly, various movies, shows, and documentaries have helped us view the monarchy under a different lens while giving us an insight into how the royal household functions. Here are the best ones to watch if you’ve found your interest in the British monarchy renewed.
Mrs. Brown is unarguably the most emotionally captivating movie to have ever been made on this particular subject as it presented a perspective that so often gets sidelined. Focusing on the days immediately after Queen Victoria’s husband’s death, Prince Albert highlights how tough things can be for a widow that’s expected to mourn but move on with life for her nation’s sake. However, the Queen is hit badly with depression and continues to mourn her husband’s passing, slowly becoming a recluse.
Realizing how detrimental this can be for the nation’s morale, one of her servants strikes an unusual friendship with her. As unlikely as this friendship may seem, it helps the Queen cope with her loss and learn to move on finally. Considering how Queen Elizabeth II will find herself in the same position as her great-great-grandmother, this makes for interesting viewing.
The Royal House of Windsor
When asked what’s the most famous thing they know about Britain, most people worldwide are bound to mention its monarchy, and for a good reason. Few other dynasties have managed to transform themselves so radically with changing times and managed to remain popular with the masses. The Royal House of Windsor is an excellent six-episode history lesson into how Britain’s monarchy first came to be.
As you’d expect, the narrative then shifts to how House Windsor managed to come into power and how unlike other monarchies around Europe, it chose to relinquish its powers gradually. This is precisely what helped the monarchy remain popular with the public and Parliament while cementing it as the personification of Britain’s soft power.
Diana: In Her Own Words
It’s neigh impossible to take about the British monarchy without the usual stroll around the enigma that was Diana. Decades after her unfortunate demise, she’s still one of the most fascinating aspects of the British royal family. Her fallout with her husband was an ugly one, and few documentaries have ever done a better job of covering that topic better than Diana: In Her Own Words. Rather than relying on any dramatization and sensation, it stakes its base in archival footage and personal recordings, quite literally telling Diana’s story in her own words.
What she has to say about the monarchy, its values, and how it wishes to control the lives of those that marry into it caused a PR nightmare for the monarchy. Diana: In Her Own Words found renewed acclaim after the recent Meghan Markle-Prince Harry revelations in their interview with Oprah, providing further evidence of how frustrated Diana must’ve felt in her marriage.
There’s nothing that particularly stands out about Royal Family. The short docuseries’ makers followed both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philips for nearly a year, recording just how exactly they live their lives. So, what makes this series worthy of a mention in this list? Well, this was released in 1969 and was the first time the British royal couple had made themselves be filmed for non-state media.
As you’d expect, the public interest in the royal couple reached the proverbial zenith as the Royal Family ran on BBC each night for nearly seven months, owing to the sheer public interest. Interestingly, it inevitably played a significant role in humanizing the royal family, as it shows the Queen watching television, cuddling with corgis, the Prince feeding horses, enjoying a picnic with his wife, and so much more. Considering how it has never returned to British screens since 1972, Prince Philip’s unfortunate passing may finally warrant a rerun for the show that gave the public first real access to the monarchy.
The Madness of King George
The Madness of King George should make for an interesting viewing since, unlike other shows, movies, and documentaries on this list, it’s neither a drama nor a deep study of the monarchy. George III rules Britain with the help of his advisers. However, things soon begin going awry when it becomes evident that he’s going senile. This results in some truly outlandish decisions on the King’s part and how his advisers scurry to try and devise a way to persuade the King to rethink his decisions.
A brilliant example of dry British humor, it never fails to leave you with a flutter of a laugh while also satirizing the monarchy’s absolute control over the country during that period.
Bonus: The Crown
OK, you knew this list would never be truly complete without The Crown. There’s little else to be said about the Netflix original that hasn’t already been said. With the focus squarely on how Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family have undergone changes during different eras, it paints the perfect portrayal of the royals’ internal struggles.
One of the highlights of the series has been the portrayal of the relationship between the Queen and her late husband and how close they’ve been throughout their lives to one another. That aspect itself calls for another binge-watching session of The Crown this weekend.