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Celebrate the Coronation with Outstanding Film and TV

The coronation of a new British monarch is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people, so the ceremony for King Charles on May 6th 2023 is likely to be marked with street parties and picnics up and down the United Kingdom – the famously changeable British weather permitting! But come rain or shine, there will be crowds on the streets of London to watch the pomp and ceremony signifying a country preparing for a new era. As the new King dons the state robes and climbs aboard the golden carriage, you may find yourself wanting to know more about the monarchy, past and present. Happily for you, some great TV and film drama has you covered.

The most recent years of the royal family have been extensively dramatised, most famously in Netflix’s evolving series The Crown, which focused on the long reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II (played through time by Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton). By the third season, that naturally developed to cover her son Charles (Josh Charles and Dominic West) and his relationship with Princess Diana (Emma Cronin and Elizabeth Debicki). Their marriage was also the focus of Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, which cast Kristen Stewart as Diana and Jack Farthing as Charles. Stewart was Oscar nominated for her performance in an extraordinary psychological drama that delves deep into the pressures and strictures of royal life.


The Crown

But those are not the only two royal dramas of recent years, nor are the current royals even the most extensively covered. TV series Anne Boleyn in 2021 starred woman-of-the-moment Jodie Turner Smith (Queen & Slim) as Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife, struggling to survive a hostile court. The following year another TV show, Becoming Elizabeth, focused on Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I. That starred German actress Alicia von Rittberg as Elizabeth, with Romola Garai (Atonement) and Bella Ramsey (The Last Of Us, Game Of Thrones) as two of her rival queens. Von Rittberg stepped into a role previously taken by Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Anne-Marie Duff in The Virgin Queen, and Helen Mirren (TV’s Elizabeth I) – so no pressure then.

England’s other long-lived, extraordinarily powerful queen, Victoria, has also appeared onscreen multiple times. Emily Blunt played the girl who nervously ascended the throne in The Young Victoria, only to hand over to Judi Dench, who played the role not once but twice. She starred opposite Billy Connolly (Brave, Quartet) as the recently widowed Victoria in Mrs Brown way back in 1997 and returned to the role twenty years later in Victoria & Abdul, looking at the relationship between the queen and a young Indian man (Ali Fazal, Death On The Nile) in the later years of the her life.

Of course, those aren’t the only British monarchs to have made it to the screen. Queen Anne was hilariously and raucously played by Olivia Colman, to Oscar winning effect, in The Favourite. Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII, was portrayed in The White Princess,  the 2017 mini-series of the same name starring Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) as a woman trapped in a political marriage of convenience.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

The new King Charles will be glad to know that the male monarchs do sometimes get a look in – but perhaps not quite as he might hope. In The Lost King, Richard III (Harry Lloyd, Wolf Hall) is mostly a figment in the imagination of amateur archaeologist Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins, Paddington 2) as she searches for his long-lost tomb. Outlaw King, meanwhile, sees Chris Pine’s Robert The Bruce fighting for the throne of Scotland, and therefore battling against the English king Edward I (Stephen Dillane, Darkest Hour). Then there’s The King, with Timothée Chalamet as the young Henry V, fighting against a France represented by Robert Pattinson’s Dauphin.

There’s a trend here that Charles will be glad to have avoided: kings fighting for their place, even the ancient ones. The Last Kingdom TV show is a non-stop struggle for survival between Saxons and invading Vikings before the turn of the first millennium, while Anthony Hopkins (The Father) played the even more ancient legend of King Lear in a film of 2018. Made by director Richard Eyre (Iris), the film starred Emma Thompson (Matilda the Musical), Emily Watson (Gosford Park) and Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) as his warring daughters.

The King

The Lost King

So if Charles is looking for fellow kings to be his role models, he might have a happier time modelling himself on the mythical ones. Charlie Hunnam, in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, has to fight for his rightful throne, but with a tight-knit band of friends and a flair for a good coat, he has a happier outcome than poor Lear. Even better, King Charles III could look to Joe Cornish’s The Kid Who Would Be King, which sees an ordinary schoolboy (Louis Serkis) find Excalibur and use it to defend the world against an ancient evil.

All these films make for a rich tapestry of handy dos and don’ts for a newly crowned king, though Charles is – thankfully – unlikely to have to worry about a headman’s axe or any mythical monsters. Still, it’s a good line-up if you want to take a moment to reflect on how far the monarchy has developed through the long centuries, and the many twists and turns of history that have led us to this latest crowned head. Now, time to pack up the sandwiches and find a party…

The Kid Who Would be King