I adore historical fiction in all its forms. From novels, to plays, to television programmes and films – give me a good piece of historical fiction in just about any format, and I will happily devour it.
Over the last week I’ve been binge-watching Victoria, ITV’s period drama about Queen Victoria’s reign. I’ve completely fallen in love with the characters and story, and have loved learning more about Victoria’s first few years as Queen.
Since I’ve been loving this series so much, I decided it would be fun to list some of my other favourite period dramas of all time.
1. The Crown
Sticking to the royal theme, the first series I absolutely MUST mention is The Crown, the incredible Netflix original series centring around Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. When I first started watching Victoria, I was pretty certain it couldn’t come close to matching The Crown – and although I am really enjoying Victoria, I think The Crown is still my favourite of the two.
The main reason I adore this show so much is the amazing acting, especially from Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth, and Matt Smith who plays Prince Philip. Their particular roles must be quite a daunting task, especially as the Queen is still the reigning monarch – but I really feel both actors are simply perfect for the roles.
I think what’s so interesting about this series is that it offers a rare glimpse into the lives of the royal family. Continuously in the public eye as they are, it can often be easy to forget that the Queen and her family are real people too. What this show does so well is to make us consider what it must have been like for Elizabeth the person to be thrown into the life of a reigning monarch at such a young age. Coupled with costumes to die for and a beautiful set, this is a series well worth watching.
2. Mr Selfridge
This show was recommended to me by my mum (who also recommended Victoria – she knows me so well!), and is another that I thoroughly enjoyed. Throughout its four series, Mr Selfridge depicts the life of businessman Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridges department store which opened in 1909.
What I loved about this show was the fact that it focused on the lives of the workers in the store as much as those of Harry Selfridge and his family. It really helped create a vivid picture of what it must have been like to work in one of the most exciting and forward-thinking stores of its time. I also particularly enjoyed the storylines centring around the developments in women’s rights.
My only slight negative point is that the final series of the show became quite dark and miserable, with too many sad things happening for my liking! This is only my personal preference, though, and I still enjoyed all four series a lot.
3. Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC miniseries)
Would any discussion about period dramas be complete without this, the absolute all-time best (in my opinion) adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? This simply has to be my ultimate favourite period drama; watching it is like having Jane Austen’s world come to life right before my eyes.
I can’t write about this adaptation without mentioning Colin Firth, who will always be my favourite Darcy. Jennifer Ehle, too, makes a perfect Elizabeth – and, to be honest, the whole cast seem as though they were meant for their roles, from the incredibly silly Mrs Bennet to the waffling Mr Collins, and the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
I love absolutely everything about this adaptation. The costumes and the sets are so authentic, as are the script and plot, sticking very closely to Jane Austen’s original novel. For these reasons, amongst others, this is a favourite Jane Austen adaptation of many Austen fans. If you love Pride and Prejudice – or if you love costume dramas in general – this is certainly the crème de la crème and a must-watch!
So there we have it – my top period dramas! Let me know if any of the above are favourites of yours, or if you have others that you love, because I’m always looking for new shows to watch! Also, this list focused on British period dramas, because that’s mostly what I have watched – but if anyone knows of any great international period dramas, do let me know.
Featured image Credit: ITV