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Wales Online
Wales Online
Sam Cook

Blackadder, The Crown, Game of Thrones: 11 best portrayals of kings and queens on TV

With the coronation of King Charles III just around the corner, everyone seems to be talking about the royals at the moment. Across the country, various events are being put on to mark the momentous occasion. You can read all about how Wales is marking the coronation here.

Although Charles is very much the man of the moment, the current period has given people time to reflect on which monarchs came before. The majority of people, of course, have long-lasting memories of Queen Elizabeth II, who tragically passed away last September at the age of 96.

Over the years, royal history has also been marked on television. Whether it be in dramas or comedies, the monarchy has played a role in a whole host of different shows.

Read more: The TV sitcom families that have had us crying with laughter including The Trotters, The Royles and The Simpsons

Here are just some of the best portrayals of kings and queens on the small screen. You can keep up to date with the latest TV and showbiz news by signing up to the newsletter here.

Queen Elizabeth I (Blackadder II)

Presented as being like a spoiled schoolgirl, Elizabeth I (affectionately known as ‘Queenie’) appeared in BBC comedy Blackadder II. She is childish and silly but possesses a fiery temper.

In the series Queenie, who is played by Miranda Richardson, always holds court in the company of her deranged former nurse, Nursie and the obsequious Lord Melchett. She commands Blackadder to carry out a variety of tasks, some important (such as appointing Blackadder as the Lord High Executioner in "Head") and some petty (such as repeatedly summoning Blackadder to her only for it to turn out as a childish practical joke designed to extract money from him in "Money").

Perhaps one of Queenie’s most iconic quotes in the series is, “First I'm going to have a little ‘drinkie, and then I'm going to execute the whole ‘bally lot of you.” Miranda Richardson would go on to play other roles in both Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth.

Queen Elizabeth II (The Crown)

Claire Foy was the first actress to play The Queen in The Crown (Robert Viglasky/Netflix)

One of the most popular shows currently on television, Netflix's The Crown invites viewers to see what the life of the current royal family is like. Since it first premiered in 2016, the series has chronicled the life of the late Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s to the present day.

Three actresses have played The Queen so far - Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton - and each of them have been a critical hit. A sixth and planned final series of The Crown is set to release later this year.

Would you like to see future series of The Crown after series six? Let us know in the comments.

Queen Victoria (Victoria)

Between 2016-2019 Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman inhabited the role of Queen Victoria in an ITV drama series about the monarch’s early life. The show focused on Victoria’s relationship with her husband Albert and her political responsibilities of the 1830s to the 1850s.

“People see Victoria as the iconic image – a lot older, in black very often and quite stern,” Jenna said of taking on the part in 2016. At the time the actress described how she was particularly interested in showing a different side to the Queen.

Although the series ended in 2019, Jenna has said that she’d be keen to make more episodes if the opportunity arose. As of 2023, ITV have said there are no active plans for a fourth series.

Henry VIII (The Tudors)

Wait... Henry VIII looks different here (© 2010 TM Productions Limited/PA Tudors Inc. An Ireland-Canada Co-Production. All Rights Reserved.)

Renowned for making 16th-Century England ‘sexy’, The Tudors focuses specifically on the reign of Henry VIII. Whereas Henry is usually presented as overweight, Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ interpretation is anything but.

Over the course of the series, which ran between 2007-2010, viewers watched as Henry got married… Again, and again, and again. The Tudors’ final episode ends with Henry approving the now famous Hans Holbein portrait of the Tudor king.

Joffrey Baratheon (Game of Thrones)

From the moment blond-haired Joffrey made his first appearance in Game of Thrones, viewers have despised him. The character is a spoiled, sadistic bully who frequently taunts his family.

Joffrey’s appalling attitude made it all the more satisfying when the character was poisoned at the Purple Wedding in season four. Actor Jack Gleeson subsequently retired from acting following Joffrey’s death at the hands of Olenna Tyrell and Petyr Baelish.

Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)

Joffrey isn’t the only Westeros monarch to make the list as Daenerys Targaryen, the Queen of Dragons, also gets a mention. In the HBO series, she is played by Emilia Clarke.

As an actual Queen, Daenerys is ruthless and responsible for the burning of King’s Landing and numerous other acts of chaos. The character is blinded by her need for the Iron Throne.

Arthur (Merlin)

Bradley James as Prince (later King) Arthur (BBC/Shine/Nick Briggs)

Not officially a King in the series (Merlin, BBC 2008-2012), Arthur is commander of the kingdom of Camelot’s knights. Arthur’s father, King Uther, has a strict no sorcery rule. Little does he know, Arthur’s servant Merlin possesses magical powers and is responsible for saving the young prince on several occasions throughout the duration of the series.

In the series Arthur is played by Bradley James, who has gone on to star in numerous other TV shows and films. Recently he made an appearance in Netflix series Vikings: Valhalla.

Catherine the Great (The Great)

Elle Fanning leads the cast of Hulu/Channel 4's The Great (Channel 4)

American actress Elle Fanning stars as Catherine the Great in Hulu’s (Channel 4 in the UK) series based on empress of Russia’s rise to power. The show, which has been running since 2020, also sees Nicholas Hoult play Peter III of Russia.

Catherine and husband Peter are polar opposites of each other. While she believes in love, he only believes in physical needs.

King Alfred of Wessex (The Last Kingdom)

David Dawson was the first King in The Last Kingdom (BBC)

The first king to feature in The Last Kingdom, Alfred intends to unite the kingdoms of England. He is committed to the spread of Christianity.

Played by David Dawson in the series, Alfred is ruthless and determined. In the series he finds a way to keep lead character Uhtred fighting on the side of the Saxons, but his ongoing mistrust pushes their relationship to its very limits.

Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen)

Before Hollywood came calling, Rebecca Ferguson played Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen (BBC/Company Pictures & ALL3MEDIA/Ed Miller)

In The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville is played by Hollywood star Rebecca Ferguson. The series is set against the backdrop of the War of the Roses and tells the story of the women involved in the long conflict for the throne of England.

For her portrayal, Rebecca Ferguson was nominated for numerous accolades. This included the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television.

RuPaul Charles (Ru Paul’s Drag Race)

The 'Queen of Drag' (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for)

Not strictly speaking an actual royal but definitely drag royalty - RuPaul had to feature on this list. Famed for being one of (if not the) most famous drag queens in the world, RuPaul has received 12 Primetime Emmy Awards for RuPaul’s Drag Race, becoming the most-awarded person of colour in the history of the Primetime Emmys.

RuPaul is not just a drag queen… He is the 'Queen of Drag'.


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