There’s a lot of reasons to be royals obsessed at the moment. First, there’s my breathless anticipation of a hopefully imminent engagement announcement for Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. Then of course there’s the countdown to the next season of The Crown on Netflix.
(Note that this list just assumes you’ve watched the first season of the Netflix original series The Crown. If you haven’t seen this fabulous dramatization of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, stop reading right now. Run to your Netflix and add it to your watch list. I’ll wait.)
As my daughter says, “waiting is haaard”. Luckily, while we wait for the unleashing of all that royal excitement, there’s plenty of streaming available to entertain royal fans. Here’s a few of my picks of the recent crop of additions!
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The Royal House of Windsor
I am a voracious consumer of media about the royal family. So there’s very few stories in circulation about the current generation of the British royal family that I haven’t heard one way or another. This series, produced by the UK’s Channel 4 and recently added to Netflix, retreads a lot of that familiar material again. But it also contains some fascinating stories that I had never heard before. The stories are accompanied by supporting material I’d also never seen. The quotes from family letters in the Windsor archives are fascinating!
The series is brimming with amazing film footage – both black & white and color – of the royal family from the first half of the 20th century that I’d never seen before. For instance, I’d read many times about the famous stutter of King George VI (which was the subject of the Oscar-winning movie The King’s Speech in 2010). But I had never seen actual footage of him speaking until watching this series. The episode on Diana’s relationship with Charles (episode 5 of the six episode series) is a bit sensationalized. I give that misstep a pass though due to how large that scandal looms in the public eye still.
If you loved The Crown on Netflix, then definitely run on over to Amazon to watch season 1 of Victoria on Prime. This ITV production aired on PBS Masterpiece in the United States. Season two is expected to be released early in 2018, so now is the perfect time to get caught up!
Victoria dramatizes the life of Queen Victoria, beginning with the day of her accession to the throne. The narrative arc is strikingly similar to that of The Crown for Queen Elizabeth II. Former Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman plays the young Queen Victoria with a combination of fragility and fire. Coleman’s off-screen love Tom Hughes plays Prince Albert with convincing smolder.
Victoria is largely based on the book Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson. But some storylines involving minor characters are fictionalized (like the one involving Prince Ernst and the Duchess of Sutherland). There’s also a few ongoing fictional storylines involving Victoria’s staff that I admit fall flat at times. But these stories grew on me and didn’t detract from the overall narrative.
Watching The Crown and Victoria together shows startling parallels between the two queens. Both dealt with courtiers who didn’t trust and tried to manipulate the young queens. They both relied on older experienced prime ministers that served as mentors to them. Both women married husbands who chafed at the lack of official role in their wives’ shadows.
Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
My royals obsession began as a starry-eyed ten year old living in Wales in 1981. That was the year of the “fairytale wedding of the century” of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles. I grew up idolizing the Princess. I watched heartbroken along with millions of others when she died in the car crash in Paris in 1997.
This HBO documentary was produced with the cooperation of Diana’s sons to honor her legacy on the 20th anniversary of her death. It offers a rare close-up look at the men her sons grew into with their mother. The documentary features groundbreaking interviews with Prince William and Prince Harry about their mother and her tragic death. There are also interviews with others close to the Princess who have never spoken publicly about her loss before. Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy (available on HBO’s streaming services) is a must-watch for fans of Diana and her sons.
So sit back, grab the popcorn, and stream away. I hope these streaming picks help you wait a little more patiently until Season Two of The Crown comes to Netflix on December 8th!