At the moment, there is no better way of escaping into a calmer place that being whisked away in the romance of a TV period drama. Here are the best love stories to discover (or re-discover) on screen in the coming weeks…
It is perhaps one of the most iconic love stories in British history – a love that lasted years beyond mortal souls. In Victoria, Jenna Lousie Coleman and Tom Hughes embody this legendary pair with undeniable proficiency, offering a wonderful insight into the daily lives of this royal couple. There are, nevertheless, other love stories woven into the narrative that ensure that this series is an absolute pleasure to watch. In particular, the burgeoning love between cook Charles Elmé Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) and the Queen’s Dresser Nancy Skerrett (Nell Hudson) is charming. From the immature teen to the iconic Queen, Victoria is the ideal romantic period drama.
Where you can find it: BritBox
2. Pride and Prejudice
There’s an enduring debate: Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen. Now, I have to admit that rather controversially I am on team Matthew, but I have recently been enjoying revisiting the joy of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series. After all, there is that lake scene and this is such a glorious classic that it is practically impossible not to derive great pleasure from the story. It will always be one of the greatest lessons in love.
And if you are a true Austen fan, then Lost In Austen with its unique British wit is the perfect light relief for more difficult times.
Based on the novels by Winston Graham, Poldark is not only a love story but a love letter to the stunning Cornish landscape. It is a simply breathtaking backdrop to the brooding narrative that centres around Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) who returns from the American Revolutionary War to find an unrecognisable life – his father is dead, his estate in ruins and his betrothed is engaged to another man. This series, therefore, follows Poldark as he attempts to rebuild his life – a significant part of which is his new relationship with a scullery maid Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson). It’s British period drama at its very best.
Where you can find it: Netflix
I was hesitant at first to watch Outlander but, if you can get past the idea that Claire travels through time via the medium of standing stones, then it is most certainly one of the best period dramas to delve into. Based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, this love story follows Clare. It begins on her honeymoon in the highlands of Scotland with her husband, Frank, just after the Second World War which she spent at the front as a nurse. Whilst in Scotland, however, Claire travels through time back to the 18th Century where she meets Jamie Fraser – known among the Outlander fanbase as the king of men. It is a love that transcends time and, with five series and plenty more books, offers a wealth of satisfaction.
5. Gentleman Jack
Gentleman Jack documents Anne Lister’s life in early nineteenth-century Britain simply brilliantly. It is one of Suranne Jones’ best performances and you are sure to be wrapped up in the relationship between Lister and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle). Anne Lister herself is an icon, a force of nature. A landowner, industrialist, and intellectual, she defied what was expected of her within the masculine world in which she existed. Lister is also seen as an LGBTQ+ trailblazer with details about her loves encrypted within her diaries. There is an astonishing amount of detail as, in 34 years, Anne wrote five million words in 26 volumes, with a further 14 travel diaries on top of that. About a sixth of this was written in cipher. Lister’s romantic ambitions meant that she was determined to marry a woman – Ann Walker, an heiress to a vast estate. Gentleman Jack is the perfect way to enter into this world that was hidden from so many for so long – a world as romantic as it is inspirational.
6. The White Queen
Set in the 15th Century, as war between the House of York and the House of Lancaster rages, there is one question plaguing the nation: who is the country’s true king? Young Edward IV, heir to the House of York, is king and yet, he falls in love with a middle-ranking Lancastrian Elizabeth Woodville. Not only is Woodville not of royal blood but she is also a widower with children. As the myth goes, the two met under an oak in Whittlebury Forest, where Elizabeth was hoping to plead for the inheritances of her sons. Whether fact or fiction, is it true that Edward went against expectations and prioritised a relationship with Elizabeth – a relationship which would influence the future of the monarchy. Add a significant dose of scheming and manipulation, The White Queen portrays a love story that defied all expectations.
Where you can find it: STARZPLAY
7. Peaky Blinders
Now, this might not the the obvious choice but Peaky Blinders is a love story – admittedly heavily disguised in the lives of gang culture in the depths of Birmingham. Thomas Shelby is the leader of the Peaky Blinders and the patriarch of the Shelby Family. After returning from the front after World War One, Thomas sets about building his empire. It was, however, in his local pub The Garrison that he falls for Grace, an Irish barmaid. At its core, the show is captivating from the very beginning, as is the relationship between Tommy and Grace. If you’ve never delved into the world of the Peaky Blinders, now is most certainly the time.
Where you can find it: Netflix
8. War & Peace
War & Peace is, and always will be iconic. After all, this work of Tolstoy is considered to be one of the most significant classics within the world of literature. This tome has long defined one of the most famous periods in Russian history – the pending threat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion – whilst portraying the intimate lives of the Russian elite. A central character is Natasha who has an undeniably romantic nature. At her first grand ball, she meets Prince Andrei and they embark on a complicated and gut-wrenching love story that has captured the hearts of many for so many years. Lily James (Natasha) and James Norton (Prince Andrei) tell this story with palpable authenticity. It is one of my all time favourites.
Where you can find it: iPlayer
Is there a romantic period drama that should have been included? Join the conversation over on the Past Loves Instagram page…