There are many great TV shows like Reign that are rich in culture, history, and star many empowering women. Running on The CW between 2013 and 2017, the historical fiction series chronicles the life of teenage Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) as she moves to France for a politically-motivated arranged marriage to Prince Francis (Toby Regbo). Although the first couple of seasons followed her rise to power as well as her tumultuous relationship with Francis, Reign eventually depicted Mary’s downfall as she battled with Elizabeth I for the English throne.
Although Reign was heavily scrutinized by critic Roberto Bianco of USA Todayfor not being historically accurate, the show does maintain cult classic status as the writers’ artistic liberties helped to build intrigue and drama. The series was also a favorite as it opened discussions about female sexuality, misogyny, and power. However, Reign isn’t alone in tackling similar genres and themes though. In the realm of royal politics and relationships, therehave been several other historical fiction and political TV shows that did this just as well.
10 The Tudors (2007 – 2010)
In the 2000s, there were plenty of historical dramas on TV, but one that was extremely popular was The Tudors. Like Reign, The Tudors explores the life of the infamous monarch Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) as he rules the British Empire. Although everything seems well in the House of Tudor, chaos soon unfolds when Henry breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church to marry Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) and become the new leader of the Church of England.
Shows similar to Reign include intense romances, and The Tudors is no exception as all 4 seasons depict the tumultuous relationships Henry had with 6 wives. Both Reign and The Tudors also lean heavily into the melodramatic tropes, with many storylines including betrayal, suffering, murder, and redemption. It’s certainly one of the more refreshing political dramas.
Streaming: Showtime, Amazon Prime, Paramount+
Warning: This video contains flashing lights
9 Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015)
Starring Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, and Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey centers on the day-to-day lives of the noble Crawley family and their staff in their Edwardian country home. The show’s events span from 1912 to 1926, with historical events influencing the social lives of the British aristocracy. Of all the shows similar to Reign, Downton Abbey‘s tone differs the most as it is known for its feel-good nature rather than its soap-opera dramatics. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with scandals and drama. Along with several romantic relationships, surprising character deaths, and shocking twists, Downton Abbey has many engaging storylines that will entertain someone for weeks.
Streaming: Prime Video, Peacock
8 Outlander (2014 – Present)
Outlander is a fantasy historical romance series based on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels. The series revolves around a former World War II British Army nurse named Claire Randall (Caitríona Balfe), who transports back in time from 1945 Scotland to 1743. In order to survive, she quickly joins a group of Scottish rebels and marries a man named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Although it is meant to be a marriage of convenience, the two fall deeply in love and begin a passionate romance. However, the pair and their family are torn apart multiple times as they are caught up in the Jacobite Rebellion and later, the American Revolutionary War.
Despite its status as a fantasy, Outlander is more similar to Reign than it seems. In Reign and Outlander, a strong-willed woman drives the plot. Additionally, both series evolve rapidly, maintaining a speedy pace. Not all shows similar to Reign explore sexuality in the same way, but a healthy sexual relationship between Claire and Jamie occurs throughout all of Outlander. However, the scenes are often more graphic and steamy than those in Reign.
Streaming: Netflix and Starz
7 The Last Kingdom (2015-2022)
The Last Kingdom is a historical drama that follows the Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell. The plot follows the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), the son of a Saxon nobleman who is raised by Danish Vikings, who spends most of his life fighting to avenge his surrogate father and reclaim his ancestral lands after they were taken from him by his uncle. The series explores the conflict between the Saxons and Danes between the years 866 and 920+ (although the timeline is a bit convoluted for the sake of the story).
Much like Mary Queen of Scots in Reign, Uhtred is influenced by two different cultures in The Last Kingdom as both the Danes and Saxons demand his loyalties. The Last Kingdom also chronicles the reign of several different monarchs (including Alfred the Great, Edward the Elder, and Æthelstan) as they work to unite England under one ruler. While The Last Kingdom does have empowering women and a few iconic romances, its storylines mainly focus on war and politics. It’s a must-watch for those who enjoy action sequences.
Warning: This video contains violence
6 The Crown (2016- Present)
The Crown follows Queen Elizabeth II’s (Claire Foy, Olivia Coleman, and Imelda Staunton) rule over the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. While ruling, Elizabeth also mediates and dictates relationships within the Windsor family. Shows similar to Reign often fall into the category of historical period pieces, but The Crown depicts much more recent events in British history. Still, the shows center on strong women leaders who hold a large amount of power.
Reign and The Crown both highlight that relationships and sexuality often affect political leaders. The Crown‘s Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby, Helena Bonham Carter, and Lesley Manville) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty and Claudia Harrison) both embrace sexual pleasure, a theme also explored in Reign. More than anything else, these series both embrace messiness as a fact of life. The hints of a flash-forward to King Charles’ coronation shows just how willing The Crown is to embrace the more dramatic aspects of history. The Crown offers a different tone than Reign as it provides a more serious and urgent atmosphere that raises the stakes.
5 The Spanish Princess (2019-2020)
The Spanish Queen tells the story of a teenage Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) as she travels to England to marry her betrothed Prince Arthur (Angus Imrie). However, after Arthur unexpectedly dies, Catherine sets her sights on the next in line for the throne, Prince Harry Tudor (Ruairi O’Connor)—who is later coronated as King Henry VIII. Catherine and Harry develop a romance right before they’re pushed to wed others.
Reign and The Spanish Queen attempt to reclaim the narrative of famous women monarchs. Both Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine of Aragon move to foreign lands as teenagers to get married to men they barely know. The series both emphasize the power they hold. Additionally, as in other shows like Reign, the theme of sexuality plays a role in the events of The Spanish Queen.
Streaming: Starz and the Roku Channel
4 Bridgerton (2020 – Present)
Bridgerton is a historical romance set in England’s Regency era, which follows the lives of the noble Bridgerton family as they attempt to find love in high society (a group filled with drama, betrayals, and lust). The debutantes, like Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), and their suitors regularly attempt to undermine one another’s relationships.
Although they are set in different time periods, Reign and Bridgerton both carry the same melodramatic tone as every plot is filled with tension and passion. The women in Bridgerton also carry a lot of power in society, modeled by Queen Charlotte (Golda Rousheuvel). It’s another must-watch for those looking to see empowering women.
3 Leonardo (2021- Present)
Leonardo explores the rise of an art apprentice named Leonardo DaVinci (Aiden Turner). As he grows in notoriety, Leonardo becomes involved in a love triangle between his muse Caterina da Cremona (Matilda De Angelis) and Salai (Carlos Cuevas). When Caterina turns up dead, Leonardo’s accused of her murder.
Reign and Leonardo include similar protagonists as both Mary Queen of Scots and Leonardo feel a conflict between their responsibilities and their heart. Also, they both work to maintain a facade of perfection. However, unlike other shows similar to Reign, Leonardo doesn’t center on the nobility as this historical drama looks at the lives of artists in the late 1400s.
2 The Serpent Queen (2022 – Present)
The Serpent Queen tells the story of Catherine de’ Medici (Samantha Morton) as she marries into and rises through the ranks of the French monarchy. Although Catherine uses her intelligence and toughness to help run the kingdom, unfortunately, she’s constantly targeted and villainized for her immense power.
Although The Serpent Queen and Reign focus on two different monarchs, they do share several similarities. For example, both shows have the same historical lore since Queen Catherine de’ Medici is the mother of Francis II (George Jaques), who is the husband of Mary Queen of Scots (Antonia Clarke). Moreover, Reign and The Serpent Queen alsofocus on women’s empowerment in a man-ruled system. The Serpent Queen is certainly one to watch if viewers are looking for something more somber and serious.
Streaming: Starz and the Roku Channel
1 Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (2023)
Queen Charlotte acts as a prequel to the events of Bridgerton. While the limited series does show the love story between a young Charlotte (India Amarteifo) and King George III (Corey Mylchreest), it also chronicles how Charlotte came to power in 18th-century England. Sadly, she must also face scrutiny as the first woman of color in the British Royal family. Through all the adversity, Charlotte and George’s relationship prevails though.
Reign and Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story both prioritize entertainment and drama over historical accuracy. Like Mary Queen of Scots in Reign, Charlotte marries as a teenager in Queen Charlotte. The series also highlight the shifts in political ideologies and power. Ultimately, Queen Charlotte might not be the most similar in drama to Reign, but it stays true to the idea of women’s empowerment.
Source: USA Today