October 4, 2022

A still from 'the white princess'

10 Series to watch to understand English history in Chronological Order

English history is important to know from the perspective to learn the events, which caused important turning points in our country’s history and also in many other ways. Every type of knowledge is important to every knowledge seeker but some people of different categories should know the history for their learning. For example, if you are Indian and a student of political science, English literature and law, then knowing the English timeline may help you to understand your subject conveniently.

If you are political science student then to understand the theories of political science and principle of administration and other theories, you also have to know the English history because a number of theories are derived from English system and to know the history may help you to learn how this theory and principle developed. For example, Hobbes’s leviathan was the result of political conditions of his time.

If you are a student of English literature then to understand the development of English literature and any piece of work, you should also know the political history of that time because these are political, social and economic conditions that affect the literature of that time.

And if you are law student then you know very well how our law indebted to English law in almost every field except personal law. Also, when we search for jurisprudence of any law and legal theory, we have to read the political history of England which caused the development of that theory.

Therefore, for all these purposes, it may be beneficial for students to know and understand the timeline of English history. In this article, I am suggesting some web-series according to the historical timeline –

1. The Last Kingdom

To start from the beginning, a series ‘the last kingdom’ is perfect to watch. This series is set at ‘Anglo-Saxon period’ when England was divided in seven kingdoms, Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex. The title ‘the last kingdom’ refers to ‘Wessex’ which was the kingdom of ‘king Alfred, the great’.

This series helps to understand the composition of England at that time, the time period of ‘king Alfred the great’, and Norman conquest. It is important to know the Norman conquest because it changed the history of England.

This series starts when Normans were settled to ‘Northumbria’ but to watch the arrival of Normans in England, the series ‘Viking’ is the best recommendation. But, ‘Vikings’ is more about Vikings than England.

2. Hollow Crown

The series ‘Hollow Crown’ is the adaptation of Shakespeare’s historical plays. Although, this is miniseries but every episode is of two and half hours. Every episode covers a whole play. It starts from ‘Richard II’ and end on ‘Richard III’. Thus, it covers the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III.

The only problem with this series is that, it uses Old English language in its dialogues. Basically, they adopted the language of ‘Shakespearean Plays’ but the use of this language limits its audience. Every person is not supposed to know the form of Old English.[1] But if you understand that language, then this series is best recommendation to you.

3. The white queen

The white queen is the story of ‘Elizabeth Woodville’ the wife of Edward IV who was the monarch of England from 1461 to 1483. This series depicts the history from the coronation of Edward IV in 1461 to the battle of Bosworth in 1485 where Richard III, the brother of Edward IV who became the king after him, fought the battle against Henry VII of Lancaster.

This series shows the causes of ‘War of Roses’, (a series of war that was fought between England and France or if say in other words, between ‘House of York’ and ‘House of Lancaster) and conflict between two houses and their efforts to get the throne. This series ends with the episode of battle of Bosworth where henry IV defeated the Richard III and became the king of England and established the Tudor dynasty.

4.The white princess

The white princess is the follow up series of ‘the white queen’ and starts from the time where ‘the white queen’ ends. ‘The white princess’ i.e. Elizabeth of York is the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth of Woodville. She has to marry new king ‘Henry VI’ to strengthen the unity of York and Lancaster to establish peace.

The series mainly focuses on conflict and love of Henry VI and Elizabeth of York and succession claim from Elizabeth of Woodville to her sons. Thus, this series depicts the rivalry between claim of Yorks and Lancaster.

5.The Spanish Princess

To strengthen the relation between England and Spain, king henry VI decided the marriage of his son Arthur and Spanish Princess ‘Catherine de Aragon’ who was the daughter of brave queen of Spain ‘Isabela’. This series begins with the arrival of Spanish princess in England and ends her banishment from castle.

This series focuses on the marriage efforts for Henry VIII and Spanish princess and then struggle for a son. Apart from it, this series also shows the struggle of Princess Margret, sister of Henry VIII, to bind her kingdom of Scotland and Princess Mary’s marriage to king louis of France. Henry VIII was infamous for his six wives but this series mainly focus on Catherine, however, while depiction of Catherine’s struggle to produce a son, we also see two other mistresses of Henry VIII.

6.The Tudors

The Tudors is about the reign of ‘Henry VIII’, who was the second king of ‘House of Tudor’ and known for his Six wives and also as the father of ‘Queen Elizabeth I’. This series covers the all aspects of his reign i.e. foreign relations to France and Spain, the attempt of divorce to Catherine and his marriages to another five women.

In early episodes, you many find some repetitions of the scenes that you have watched in ‘the Spanish princess’ but while the Spanish princess focuses mainly on Catherine, ‘the Tudors’ covers all marriages with detail.

But, in zeal to show the marriages and affairs of Henry VIII, they developed this series to soft porn and Jonathan Rhys Meyers does not look like a king in his portrayal of ‘Henry VIII’.

7. Mary queen of Scots

The True Story of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I | History|  Smithsonian Magazine

This is not a series but a movie. I found it good to mention here. It is about the sister of queen Elizabeth who was married to Francis II of France and after his death returned to Scotland. This movie starts from her arrival at Scotland and end on her execution.

The movie is good to understand the period of Scotland when ‘Queen Mary’ became the first queen of Scotland, and the reign of Elizabeth in England. Thus, at that time, first time two women who were also sisters, were ruling two kingdoms at same island.

There is also a series ‘Queens-the virgin and the martyr’ on the rivalry of both queens but I didn’t watch that as that series in Spanish language also don’t have an appeal.

8. Becoming Elizabeth

There are many movies and series on the personal life and reign of Queen Elizabeth. But, only one or two movies can be said as good. In series, there is ‘virgin queen’ and Starz network also started a series ‘becoming Elizabeth’ recently.

The above mentioned series from ‘the white queen’ to ‘the Spanish princess’ also streamed by ‘Starz’ network and those are the best historical series, So, we can also expect ‘becoming Elizabeth’ a promising one. Till date, only three episodes of this series have streamed.

9. Victoria

Victoria on MASTERPIECE: Season 1, Episode 4 Recap

This series is my personal favorite. It beautifully depicts the early reign of Queen Victoria from her coronation at the little age of 18 in 1838 to the grand opening of ‘the great exhibition’ in 1851. In three seasons, every episode discusses about a major historical event of her reign, for example, presentation of slavery abolition bill, potato famine, cholera outbreak, invention of computer and train, great exhibition, relations of English royalty with German and France, protest for universal suffrage.

First season wholly dedicated in settling the personal life of queen Victoria, second and third seasons revolves around historical events. Last but not the least, the title music of the series “Gloriana Halleluja” is luxury to the ears.

 10. The crown

I think the most famous historical series at present time is ‘The crown’. This is about the present queen of England, queen Elizabeth II. The series almost begins from the death of king George VI and crowing of Queen Elizabeth II. This mostly focuses on the personal life of Windsor family, the life of Elizabeth and her husband Philip; princess Margaret and her relationships, reasons for abdication of throne by Edward VIII, and Diana and Charles etc.

This series is renewing in the last months of this year.

Are all series historically accurate?

No period drama is 100% historically accurate because otherwise that will become a documentary rather than a show. Also, many people already know the whole history, So, the idea to present the hundred percent historical shows will cease the suspense and curiosity from the show.

Some shows just use the historical characters and fictionalized entire story like ‘Reign’, ‘The royals’ but many shows use the limited fiction to increase the level of intrigue, romance and violence.  There are many historical shows but I chose only those shows which are almost historically accurate, good in presentation and production, and give the understanding of that time.


[1] If you want to learn the ‘Old English form’, you can start from ‘Grimm’s fairy tales’, it is a collection of almost all fairytales yet known. It this book, the characters of the stories use old English in their dialogues but apart from that it is in regular English. Also, the conversation of the characters in this book, is very easy to understand if we compare to the conversation used in Shakespearean plays.

This article is written by Arshi hayat Gnagohi. She is a lawyer, blogger at ababeelfolks and writes on laws, culture, books, cinema, and literature.