We love it when we receive photographs and instagram tags of our gorgeous customers wearing and styling their antique jewellery, especially how they have blended their beautiful pieces into their personal style.
Yet, what truly brings jewellery to life is period dramas. From Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, period dramas take us from our sofas to a world we can only dream of. Mansions, landscaped gardens, debutanté balls, castles and horse-drawn carriages set the scene, infiltrated by glorious costumes and, of course, sparkling authentic jewellery.
Right now, this is the perfect time to get stuck into period dramas, analyse their costumes and marvel at their jewellery. Period drama costume is not just a sartorial marker of that character’s wealth, but it brings the past to fruition, right before our very eyes.
Illustration of Drury Lane Costume Design, Atillio Comelli, early 20th century, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
In this blog, we have collated together our favourite period dramas from past and present that you can watch on Netflix or stream on your televisions, the perfect afternoon (or full day) activity for any antique jewellery obsessive!.
Our 17 Period Drama Series and Films
We wish we could add every period drama ever created onto this list, although it would be exhaustive! Yet, these picks below suit a variety of occasions, from family-friendly costume dramas to watch on weeknights to risqué historical fiction to watch with your girlfriends.
Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
One of the most popular British dramas to date, Downton Abbey has captivated viewers globally for five years. So much so, that the Downton Abbey film was put into works, and finally premiered in 2019 to an impatient audience.
Set between 1912 and 1926, Downton Abbey gives the viewer an amazing insight into the lives of the upper aristocratic family of the Crawleys and their domestic servants. Filmed at the dramatic, austere and gorgeous Highclere castle, Downton Abbey has become the most successful British costume drama series, winning both Golden Globes and primetime Emmy awards. So, if you are looking for a period drama to get stuck into, this could be the one!
The series explores momentous real-time events. These included the sinking of the Titanic, the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, the Marconi scandal, the Irish war of Independence, the Teapot Dome scandal, the British general election of 1923, the Beer Hall Putsch, and the rise of the working class and decline of the British aristocracy.
From the glamour and sophistication of the post-Edwardian era to the roaring twenties, this series is a microcosm of the world that today we can only read about.
The Crown (2016 - present day)
One of the most talked about period dramas of our generation, the Crown continues to enthrall and fascinate viewers around the world, bringing the life of Queen Elizabeth I to fruition. The series, still being created today, follows the real-time events of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, from her marriage to Philip in 1947 in the first season to her reign in the 21st century in the final seasons.
What is loved and revered about the Crown is the ingenious plan to change characters throughout each series, to show the Queen gracefully ageing through her life. Emmy award winning actress Claire Foy and Oscar winning actress Olivia Coleman take up the reigns (pardon the pun!), to portray one of the 20th and 21st centuries most recognised and notable persons.
Each scene is meticulously and intricately staged; we get a sense that no detail was left behind. With this in mind, although the costumes and staging are fabulous, the Crown escapes stereotypical costume drama's ‘plush’ and ‘frippery’ connotations. The series has a ‘heavy’ feel to it, rich in grit, as well as the glamour. This means that you can’t simply watch this series and mentally switch off or scroll through social media on your phone, it requires the utmost attention, which actually really isn’t that difficult to do as it is so fantastic!
The Tudors (2007-2010)
Unlike the Crown, the Tudors could be classified as an ‘easy’ watch. Simply because of its focus on the romantic, and at times raunchy, portrayal of Henry VIII and his six wives. This period in history has had multiple adaptations, from Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), to Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall (2015).
Yet, what sets the Tudors apart? Well, it’s showtime, soap opera feel. Many of the historical costumes, relationships and character names deviated from the original, which may have offended many historians, but captivated the public.
The Tudors provides the perfect distraction after a long day of work, rich in both indulgence and excess.
The White Queen (2013)
The British media giant BBC knows a thing or two about period dramas, so its certainly worth watching this 2013 miniseries, based upon Philippa Gregory’s historical novel series on the Wars of the Roses. Starting in 1464, the series places itself in the midst of the battle between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The story follows the three women who shaped England during this tumultuous and bloodthirsty time, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville.
The White Queen was shown on the BBC in the UK, and Starz in the US. Starz then decided to create a second season based on Gregory’s novel the White Princess, following Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter and Henry VIII’s mother. However, this then evolved into the Spanish Princess series, following Catherine of Aragon.
The White Queen perfectly balances the grittiness and romanticism of this early Renaissance period, and this clearly paid off, as the series was nominated for three Golden Globe awards, four Primetime Emmy awards and a People’s Choice award!
The Paradise (2012-2013)
Although only running for two series, the Paradise was an immensely enjoyable and entertaining drama. The adaption of Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames (1883), the series is set within North East England although the original novel is set in Belle Epoque Paris.Yet, both the series and the novel explores the pivotal development of department stores, and how they dramatically changed shopping into a pleasure activity for young women.
A charming series, the reason why the Paradise ended was due to the popularity of the competitive show, Mr Selfridge.
Mr Selfridge (2013-2016)
Selfridges is one of the UK’s most revered department stores, with its bright daffodil-yellow branding and ostentatious presence on Oxford Street, London’s most popular retail thoroughfare. So, this glorious enterprise must have a fascinating history, and this television series, set between 1908-1928, takes a closer look behind its closed doors.
Following the life of American Harry Gordon Selfridge, known as the “Earl of Oxford Street”, the series documents the rise and beginnings of Selfridges, from its creation in 1908, through the sinking of the Titanic, the first World War, women’s suffrage, the roaring twenties and the eclipse of the Great Depression.
Inspired by the ingenuity of the great department stores of Paris, Mr Selfridge saw a gap in the market in London’s retail scene. The series explores and shows just how revolutionary the department store was with elegant restaurants, a library, a reading and writing room, a silence room, and structured open plan shop floors, making shopping a pleasure rather than a necessity.
The television series also dramatises the illicit affairs of Harry Selfridge, his romantic affairs from his wife, his excessive gambling, spendthrift nature, and love for showgirls and actresses. If you have a place in your heart for retail therapy (because why wouldn’t you?), this show is perfect to get stuck into!
The Borgia's (2011-2013)
Set in Renaissance era Italy, and perhaps one of the more risqué suggestions in this list, the Borgia's follows the scandalous Borgia family, and their ascension to the papacy. In a time where power-hungry persons were the norm, where narcissism and nepotism was rife, this series sensationalises this to the max. The Borgia’s were known for using bribery, murder, intimidation, simony and their bodies to bolster their status and propel themselves to power.
The Borgia's were one of many noble Italian families that dominated Renaissance Italy, including the Medici’s and the Sforza. Their influence and wealth contributed to the rise and dominance of Renaissance art and architecture. Yet, this does not detract from this family being famous for their most cardinal of sins.
Portrait of a Women (believed to be Lucrezia Borgia), Bartolomelo Veneto, c.1520, Source - Wikimedia Commons
If you have already seen the Tudors, then the Borgia's should certainly be your next choice. Perfect for watching with a glass of wine and with your girlfriends!
Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last century, this series certainly needs no introduction. Unlike the other series in this list that is based on historic events, Game of Thrones is the ultimate fantasy period drama. Loosely based on the realtime events of the Wars of the Roses, Game of Thrones is the dragon-breathing, white walkering, magical masterpiece that is one of the highest grossing and most streamed television series of all time.
Based on the acclaimed books by George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones is a series that constantly has your heart within your mouth. You watch, on the edge of your seat, the passive and aggressive power play between the Stark's and Lancaster's, as they fight for the Iron throne.
Peaky Blinders (2013-present)
A gangster crime period drama, Peaky Blinders follows the exploits of the Shelby family, just after World War I. Combining the feverish glamour of the Great Gatsby era and the anxieties over urban youth, money, and masculinity, this period drama is perfect for couples as it pleases all parties!
The series follows the Peaky Blinders gang, a working class group characterised by their signature overcoat and peaked flat cap. Unlike other period dramas that typically portray the aristocracy, this historical drama uniquely follows those who were affected by harsh economic deprivations. So, arguably, this show doesn’t have the same level of fantasy and 'ornateness' that other period dramas have.
However, this plays to its strengths, as its fast-paced, holding you tight to the sofa. Based on an original gang of the same name, this gang sought social power in the late 19th and early 20th century using robbery, violence and gambling.
Five series in, this is a fantastic series to get stuck into, and with a promised sixth and seventh season in the works, it will feed and nourish a long-lasting addiction to this program!
A highly fictionalised period drama, Reign follows the young Mary Queen of Scots at the French court and her first marriage, long before her tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth I! Although rich in historical inaccuracies, the glittering Tudor costume and dramatic story certainly will captivate your attention, yet rich in romance and juicy details, it will also is the perfect program to switch off too.
Pride and Prejudice (2005 and 1995)
Whether you want to indulge in the Keira Knightley 2005 film or watch a brooding young Colin Firth in the 1995 mini series, both portrayals of this Jane Austen classic are a fantastic way to spend an afternoon on the sofa.
Following the witticisms and day to day life of the Bennett sisters, you can instantly resonate with their not exactly ‘foolproof’ ways of navigating romance. Both the film and the series give us a glimpse into the palladian past and a taste for regency life.
In fact, we recommend adorning yourself with your finest Georgian paste jewels for the occasion, as dressing up to stay in is the new going out!
We are very lucky that the Lillicoco office is just a quick 15 minute train or 30 minute drive away from Bath, the fashionable setting for many of Jane Austen’s novels.
North and South (Mini series 2004)
A period drama wouldn’t be a period drama without a dashing young gentleman in it, especially if they are played by an equally handsome actor. If you have a thing or two for a man in a top hat, coat and tails (and also a Northern UK accent), then North and South is right up your street.
Similarly to Peaky Blinders, North and South portrays characters that have been through harsh economic deprivations. Yet it follows the blossoming love story between Margaret Hale, a middle-class southerner and John Thornton, a Northern cotton-mill owner.
An adaption of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1854 novel of the same name, the series shows the complete contrast between the bucolic South and the harsh industrious North, as well as showing the tensions and complexities surrounding worker’s strikes as well as showing the unsanitary conditions that lower class Victorian persons work in, as a result of the mass industrialisation.
Although romance is at the heart of this film, there is still a pertinent focus on the broader social and political issues that were sweeping through England at this time.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Only released recently, this French historical drama is on the tip of tongues of every film aficionado at the moment. Originally shown at the Cannes Film Festival, the Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows the forbidden affair between an aristocrat and the painter who was commissioned to paint her portrait.
If you loved the plot of D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, then Portrait of a Lady on Fire is perfect for you.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
This controversial Queen in history and the rococo period in which she lived is the subject of much fascination. So, it won’t come as no surprise that this historical drama film won the academy award for best costume design!
Directed by Sofia Coppola, the film follows the trajectory of Marie Antoinette’s early life, marriage to Louis XVI of France and her sharp and dramatic fall from grace. The film not only beautifully portrays Marie Antoinette’s iconic sybaritic life in a rosy pastel-hued haze, but it also shows the tempestuous atmosphere of pre-revolution France.
The film is artistic in its portrayal of Marie’s life, taking no liberty to show the excess and opulence of the French court. Whilst this is met with appreciation by many of its critics, it was believed that the film also offended some viewers at its original screening at the Cannes’s Film Festival because it was not sufficient in it’s criticisms of the regime’s decadence. Of course, we are biased towards costume, and this film certainly does not disappoint! However, in terms of it addressing historic French politics - you can be the judge.
It won’t come as a surprise that we are fascinated by the Victorian era, especially as we have such a large treasure-trove of Victorian jewellery listed on our website. And, of course, how could we resist a series dramatising the private lives of the two original Victorian influencer's Victoria and Albert?
The leading lady is immortalised through Jenna Coleman, following her accession to the throne at just 18 years of age. The series is largely based on Victoria and Albert’s infatuation with one another, and follows major events in Victorian life including the Anglo-Afghan war, the Irish famine during the 1840s and also the Great Exhibition of 1851. For many of our customers overseas, this series will take you to the epicentre of British Victorian life.
The Favourite (2018)
Do you remember Olivia Coleman’s heart warming speech at the 2019 Academy Awards, scooping up the best actress prize for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite? If you haven’t seen the video, we highly recommend that you do. But first, you should watch the film that made it all happen - The Favourite.
Receiving widespread critical acclaim, the Favourite documents the illicit ‘friendships’ and power play between Queen Anne, the Duchess of Marlborough and Abigail Masham. A dark comedy lit up by the sparkling costumes and stunning pearl jewellery, this film deviates from the early 18th century bashfulness that was commonplace in society. In fact, the film shows the romp, pomp and circumstance that was prevalent at Queen Anne’s court.
Yet, many of the events that took place within the film are largely speculative or fictional - only adding to its undeniable allure.
Elizabeth I (1998 and 2007)
Arguably the most powerful austere monarch in British history, Cate Blanchett’s depiction of Elizabeth I in both the 1998 and 2007 films are a cinematic favourite. From the illustrious glistening costumes and fiery jewels on display to the rich biographical drama, watch these two films back to back for a period drama marathon.
The first film follows Elizabeth’s accession to the throne at 1558 and her constant rebuttal of her advisor’s plans for her to marry. The second film explores the exacerbating tensions between England and Spain, resulting in the bloody battle with the Spanish Armada.
Like most period dramas, the events detailed within the film are prone to intense scrutiny by historians, and whilst there are some inaccuracies, this is only to create full dramatic effect. Of course, this period drama does what period dramas do best - create incredible set scene and transport us to a world which we can only dream of.
We hope you have enjoyed reading, and consequently enjoy watching, these glittering period dramas. The perfect distraction from life, costume dramas and historical fiction take us to another realm, all from the comfort of your own sofa or bed.
If you have any more suggestions, let us know in the comments below!
Love, Lillicoco xo