The Engineer and I share a hobby: obsession with history.
In our shared daydream, we will one day take a vacation that allows us to tour every major Civil War battlefield, or follow in the steps of the Oregon Trail pioneers, or (the latest one) step on the shores of Normandy on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
We've also decided that "one day" we will tour the Castles of Britain. And when we do, we will be armed with just a little knowledge about who lived in them. To that end, we have been on a British Monarchy kick for the past year.
The War of the Roses, the Victorian Age, and current Queen Elizabeth (Netflix's The Crown, thank you very much). Since our available time to feed this hobby is pretty much restricted to after the kids go to bed, which means that we get our continuing education the cushy way: through documentaries and historical dramas. So, from Henry VII to Elizabeth I, here are a few of our favorite Tudor things:
The reign of Henry the VII brought the War of the Roses to a close. The White Queen is a historical drama series that covers the end of the Plantagenets and the ascendancy of the Tudors. The acting, the filming and the dialogue are all top-notch (the costumes and sets are are pretty but ridiculously anachronistic). After each episode, we would read the Wikipedia or Encyclopedia.com entry (super academic of us, right?) to see how well the series followed actual events. The Engineer's oft-repeated comment was: So much drama! You couldn't make this stuff up!
*Starz made it, so expect all Starz-y things like occasional nudity and sex scenes. The violence is minimal. You can watch the entire season free with Amazon Prime.
Now that you've got the War of the Roses background, just skip The White Princess, the follow-up show that tried to capitalize on the fandom surrounding the White Queen. Bad acting, bad scripting, and totally forgettable. Instead, fill in the blanks about King Henry VII with this excellent documentary: Henry VII: The Winter King
Its a tough job to unite a divided country and author Thomas Penn does a great job of presenting both the the victories and shortcomings of Henry VII.
*We watched for free on Amazon Prime, but you can also get the entire thing on YouTube.
Which leads us of course, to the infamous Henry VIII. There are probably hundreds of documentaries and dramas because, come on, a character as monumental and salacious as Hank 8 is fodder for endless retellings, and we'll probably revisit his reign at some point and I'll have to update this post. But for now, I'll keep it simple and recommend the show that gives a great overview and includes all the major characters - Cardinal Woolsey, Thomas Moore, Thomas Cromwell, Charles Branson and, of course, wives 1-6. Under Henry VIII, Britain broke with the Roman Catholic church and the far-from-noble reasons why are explored in this series.
The opinion of historians on this show are mixed, but it seems that the final word is that it's a super sexed-up show that accurately encapsulates the non-stop intrigdrama of the court of Henry VIII.
*Nudity, violence - lots of violence, like 1000-ways-to-die-a-horrible-death violence. I spent of a lot of our TV time with my hands over my eyes and I'm SO GLAD I live in a time and place where we scream at each other on twitter rather than conniving to have each other end up with their neck on a chopping block.
Edward VI and Bloody Mary (oh, and Lady Jane Grey)
Each of Henry's (legitimate) children got a turn to sit on the throne, which gives a little clue about the turbulence of the times. You've also got a 9-day reign by a cousin sandwiched between these two. This oldie, but goodie, documentary is a good introduction to what made each of these short-lived monarchs tick.
At this point in our Tudor exploration, we've only gotten one Elizabeth series in: BBC Masterpiece's Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen. It's a decent introduction to a woman who was an absolute force of nature, but I know that we have not even scratched the surface of all that is Elizabeth I's reign.
I'm on the lookout for all things Tudor, so if you've got a favorite resource, share!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. While clicking these links won't cost you any extra money, they will help us keep this site up and running! Please check out our disclosure policy for more details. Thank you for your support!