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The Best and Worst Onscreen Versions of the Royal Family

Mar 2 2017 - 3:05am

The private life of the British royal family has been the subject of public interest for centuries [1], so it's only natural that Hollywood would try to capture some of the family's magic for both the big and small screens. Over the years, we've seen dozens of films and TV projects come out about the modern royal family (from King Edward VIII to the current young royals), but unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of them tend to be not so good. With the announcement that Ryan Murphy is dramatizing the tumultuous marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana [2] for season two of Feud (titled Feud: Charles and Diana), it's time to document the best — and worst — of Hollywood's versions of the royal family. Read on to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: The Queen

This 2006 award-winning film followed Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren [4]) as she dealt with the aftermath and negative reaction to the royal family following Princess Diana's death in 1997. The movie was a hit with critics, thanks in part to its top-of-the-line acting and production (it even earned Mirren the Oscar for best actress) and its accurate behind-the-scenes look at a massive historical event. The fact that the royal family themselves were fans of the project also helped.

The Good: The King's Speech

This 2010 film about King George VI (Colin Firth [5]) and his struggles with his speech impediment was a major hit and took home a slew of Oscars, including the award for best picture, best director, and best actor for Firth. While the project was criticized for not being as historically accurate as royal Oscar favorite The Queen, it still won praise for bringing to light a royal story that the modern public was mostly ignorant about.

The Good: The Crown

Netflix's 2016 series The Crown [7], which follows the forbidden romances and bouts of political intrigue that went down behind the scenes of Queen Elizabeth II's rise to power, has received plenty of warranted buzz. Despite a few factual errors [8], Claire Foy embodies the Queen perfectly, as does John Lithgow in the role of Winston Churchill (both of whom won awards for their portrayals).

The Bad: Diana

Despite having an A-list cast, this 2013 film tanked with both audiences and critics. Naomi Watts [9], fresh off her Oscar nomination, starred as Princess Diana in a project that followed her little-known romance with Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). Unfortunately, not even Watts could save the project, which was panned for being sloppily sentimental.

The Bad: W.E.

There were high expectations for Madonna [10]'s 2011 film about the romance between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy), but unfortunately the project didn't live up to the hype, turning into a box office bomb. The movie had an interesting premise: Wallis and Edward's relationship was told through another character, Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish [11]), as she discovers that the pair's relationship wasn't as romantic as she had previously thought. However, critics panned the production for being all style and no substance.

The Bad: The Windsors

The Windsors is part comedy, part soap opera, part parody, all of which aims to mock the lives of the UK's modern-day royals. BBC's Channel 4 show offers up campy, cartoonish stories for everyone from Prince Harry to Pippa. If you can get past all that, though, you'll definitely be entertained.

The Bad: Charles & Camilla: Whatever Love Means

This 2005 made-for-TV movie took a slightly different approach to the usual modern royal family fare by focusing on the relationship between Camilla Parker-Bowles (Olivia Poulet) and Prince Charles (Laurence Fox). Unsurprisingly, considering the subject matter, the film is much more sympathetic to Camilla and Charles, a fact that didn't sit well with viewers who were Di supporters. Royal allegiances aside, the film misses the mark in several ways, mostly due to its drippingly cheesy storyline, historical inaccuracies, and obvious attempts at painting Charles and Camilla as the "good guys." Still, if you have a soft spot for cheesy made-for-TV movies about royals (and who doesn't?) then this is a nice alternative to the usual Diana-themed flicks.

The Ugly: I Wanna Marry "Harry"

Fox may have thought that it could cash in on America's love for both the young royals and dating reality shows in 2014, but its fake Prince Harry project turned out to be offensive to not only the royal family but Americans as a whole. Surely not even the most oblivious American would believe that the fourth in line for the throne would seek his future wife on a Bachelor-style TV show? Sadly, the show's so-ridiculous-it's-hilarious plotline didn't even woo viewers in a guilty pleasure kind of way, and the project was cancelled after only a few episodes.

The Ugly: William & Kate

Lifetime capitalized on royal wedding [12] fever in 2011 when it released a movie depicting the romance between Kate Middleton (Camilla Luddington) and Prince William (Nico Evers-Swindell). It was rightly criticized [13] for turning the pair's long courtship into the Prince-Charming-falls-for-the-shy-regular-girl kind of storyline that you normally find on the Disney Channel.


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