If, like me, you’ve already binge-watched your way through Shonda Rhimes’ fabulous new Netflix series Bridgerton and you need more period drama in your life, look no further than these shows guaranteed to put a bee in your bonnet!
ITV/Red Planet Pictures
Bridgerton‘s closest living relative is definitely Sanditon. This Regency era series first aired in 2019, and follows an interpolated plot based on Jane Austen’s final unfinished novel of the same name. Charlotte Heywood arrives in the up-and-coming seaside town of Sanditon eager to experience all that small-town life has to offer! She soon makes an impression on several of Sanditon’s scheming inhabitants, as well as the dashing but unpredictable Sidney Parker, with whom she reluctantly becomes enamoured. Starring: Rose Williams, Theo James, Kris Marshall. Where to watch: PBS/ Prime Video
ITV/Amazon Studios/Mammoth Screen
Another very recent historical drama by ITV, this compelling series follows intelligent social climber Becky Sharp as she attempts to seduce her way into high society London by any means necessary. Based on the 1848 novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, the story pokes fun at early 19th-century British society and its various faults, including its reductive attitude towards women. It also stars Eloise Bridgerton actor Claudia Jessie as Becky’s BFF, Emmy!
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anthony Head, Frances de la Tour. Where to watch: Prime Video
North & South
A firm favourite among many a period romance fan, this 2004 series was an overnight success with viewers, surprising even the BBC who made it! The story – based on an Elizabeth Gaskell novel – tells of a young Southern English woman who moves with her middle-class family to the industrial North of England in the early 1850s. There, she finds herself torn between her affinity for the working class people around her, and her infatuation with the snobbish but incredibly handsome John Thornton.
Starring: Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage, Lesley Manville. Where to watch: Prime Video
This is by far one of the best Dickens serials out there! An absolutely banging ensemble cast brings to life the mammoth Dickens novel from 1852, which charts the lives of several people connected to a lengthy and convoluted court case known as Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The OG legal drama mostly follows Esther Summerson, a hired companion who narrates some of the events of the novel, and is full of more clever twists and turns than you can shake a stick at!
Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance. Where to watch: BBC iPlayer
Hulu/Paramount Television Studios
Bombastic and highly absurd, this Hulu series released earlier this year revolves around the rise to power of Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia. The story strays considerably (and purposefully) from the fascinating real events that saw Catherine II usurp her husband and second cousin Peter III in 1762, but it’s nonetheless entertaining and super addictive, with arousing performances all around!
Starring: Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Sacha Dhawan. Where to watch: Hulu
Lost in Austen
ITV/Mammoth Screen Ltd
This superb late noughties series is pretty unique in that it follows a modern-day woman – and
Pride and Prejudice superfan – who accidentally finds herself transposed into the plot of her favourite novel! With Elizabeth Bennet missing in modern-day London, Amanda Price must quickly integrate into Regency England and discreetly manipulate the characters and events around her in order to avoid messing up the novel’s chronology. A must see for any Austen fan! Starring: Jemima Rooper, Gemma Arterton, Alex Kingston. Where to watch: BritBox
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Gemma’s spellbinding turn as Tess Durbeyfield, an impoverished country girl who becomes entangled in a sexual scandal, is a seriously underrated performance. Based on Thomas Hardy’s famous novel, Tess is sent away by her enterprising parents to forge connections with the D’Urberville family, only for the whole encounter to end in tragedy. Later, Tess becomes involved with the handsome Angel Clare, but struggles to conceal her allegedly “sinful” past from him.
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Redmayne, Jodie Whittaker. Where to watch: Prime Video
The CW/Warner Bros. Television / CBS Television Studios
Loosely based on the early life of Mary, Queen of Scots – a controversial figure in European history who was married three times, ruled over Scotland and France, and was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I – this wild coming-of-age series charts the dramatic shifts in political power that occupied much of the Mary’s life. Packed full of sexy drama, beautiful people, and steamy scenes, this camp historical romance should be everyone’s on guilty pleasure watchlist.
Starring: Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, Toby Regbo. Where to watch: Netflix
War and Peace
BBC One/A&E Networks
Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus
War and Peace has been made into a films and TV series a thousand times over, but it’s the recent 2016 BBC adaptation which really captures the mutable spirit of the classic novel. Taking place in Russia during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s, the series follows three idealistic young people and their families who all must find their place in an ever-changing war-torn world. Starring: Paul Dano, Lily James, James Norton. Where to watch: BritBox
Starz/Sony Pictures Television
Runway hit series
Outlander follows Claire, a 20th-century nurse, who is accidentally thrust back into 18th-century Scotland during the Jacobite Risings – a Scottish rebellion that sought to reclaim the British throne. There she meets gorgeous Highland warrior, Jamie who she falls in love with. Based on a series of historical fiction novels by Diana Gabaldon, this time-travel series juggles several timelines and features many a steamy sex scene, captivating scenery, and great chemistry between the two leads. Starring: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies. Where to watch: StarzPlay
Margaret Wells is a tenacious brothel owner in 18th-century London who only wants the best for her daughters. Having broken away from her former employer in order to start her own bawdy house, Margaret relocates to Soho in order to find wealthier clientele, putting her in direction competition with the very same Madame who once employed her. This brilliant series is both hilarious and provocative, encouraging viewers to think about the precarious position of women in regency England.
Starring: Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville, Liv Tyler. Where to watch: Hulu
Based on a 2016 novel of the same name by
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, Belgravia tells the story of the well-to-do Trenchard family who move into the newly constructed London neighbourhood of Belgravia and become friends with the affluent Bellasis clan. Both families are concealing dark secrets from years past which unite them all, and it’s only a matter of time before the pieces of the puzzle come together. Starring: Alice Eve, Tamsin Greig, Tom Wilkinson. Where to watch: BritBox
Big Light Productions/Rai 1
Game of Thrones and Bridgerton lies Medici, a political drama set during the Renaissance era in Florence, Italy. The series follows the iconic banking dynasty family who were at one time the richest in Europe as well as significant patrons of the arts and sciences. Series one, Medici: Masters of Florence, follows the adult life of Cosimo de’ Medici after he takes over as head of the family; series two and three, Medici: The Magnificent, chart the life of Cosimo’s grandson Lorenzo de’ Medici. Starring: Richard Madden, Dustin Hoffman, Annabel Scholey. Where to watch: Netflix
Pride and Prejudice
The now iconic 1995 TV serial adaptation of
Pride and Prejudice – you know, the one that put Colin Firth on the map – is a definite must-watch for any period drama fan. The story follows an intelligent yet indifferent young woman who manages to unwittingly charm an emotionally restrained aristocrat. This series is probably one of the most beloved period drama adaptations of all time – it even inspired Helen Fielding to write her Bridget Jones novels, which would later star Firth as a version of himself as Darcy! Starring: Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth, Alison Steadman. Where to watch: Netflix
BBC Two/CBC / Showtime/Sony Pictures Television
The infamous reign of King Henry VIII comes into focus in this seminal British-American serial full of erotic scenes and incredible dramatic performances. A particularly turbulent time for politics, religion, and the economy as it existed then, Henry’s rule has become synonymous with British history as a whole. This series chronicles his fascinating life from his first marriage in season one, up until his death in season four, and features all the famous figures you already know and love!
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill, Natalie Dormer. Where to watch: Showtime
As you may have already guessed, this ITV show depicts the reign of iconic British monarch Queen Victoria from her first few years as Queen, up until the Great Exhibition of 1851 when Victoria was 32 years old. The detailed exploration of her political, personal, and family lives blend fact and fiction, but generally the series offers up a super engaging portrayal of the monarch’s indelible legacy. The show is currently on hiatus from production but
is scheduled to return with a fourth series. Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Diana Rigg. Where to watch: BritBox
Set in France during the time of Louis XIV – the longest-reigning monarch of all time –
Versailles tells the story of how the seventeenth-century king moved his court and his government to a village just outside of Paris, and built a resplendent palace there to accommodate him. Full of lavish costumes, stunning sets, and erotic drama, this series reflects the dark heart of Louis’ court, which became a battleground for illicit romance, murder, and declarations of war. Starring: George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, Anna Brewster. Where to watch: Prime Video
The White Queen, The White Princess, and The Spanish Princess
BBC One/Starz/Company Pictures Playground
These three inter-connected series chart the lives of Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, and Catherine of Aragon respectively, as well as countless other woman who supported and bolstered the careers of several English kings during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Based on works by historical novelist Philippa Gregory, each series is packed full of British royal court drama at its very best!
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Jodie Comer, Charlotte Hope. Where to watch: StarzPlay
Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features/Universal Pictures
Of course we all know
Downton Abbey – the acclaimed British period drama to end all period dramas, which follows the lives of a wealthy aristocratic family and their domestic servants as they move through the rapidly changing twentieth century. The show was created and co-written by Julian Fellowes, whose 2001 film Gosford Park provides a blueprint for much of the first series. All six seasons feature standout comedic and dramatic performances from an ensemble cast. Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery. Where to watch: Prime Video
Bonus: Gossip Girl
Okay, this isn’t a period drama in any way shape or form, but there are definite parallels between
Bridgerton and this iconic mid-naughts teen drama! The gorgeous “it-girl”, the hunky love interests, the omniscient narrator who seems to know everyone’s business and has no problem publishing all of it! Come on, you can see it! If you’re here for the scandalous vibe of Bridgerton, you will definitely love Gossip Girl. Starring: Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley. Where to watch: Netflix
Are there any other period dramas you believe deserve a shout-out? Share your suggestions in the comments below!