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by Ed West
Thursday, 7
November 2019

The five historical dramas Netflix should make next

I find historical inaccuracy deeply annoying — it makes me unbearable to watch TV with
by Ed West

The head of the Agincourt museum is upset at the Netflix film The King, apparently.

Christophe Gilliot said “I’m outraged. The image of the French is really sullied.  The film has Francophobe tendencies,” and added that “The British far-Right are going to lap this up, it will flatter nationalist egos over there.”

Which I doubt, pretty much.

I’m one of those people who finds historical inaccuracy deeply annoying — it makes me unbearable to watch TV with — so the various historical divergences in The King rather grated. It takes far more liberties than Shakespeare in regards Henry V’s life before he became king, let alone with his later record, where he was indeed a monster.

Still, I hope the public’s desire for medieval gore is not exhausted after eight seasons of Game of Thrones and various other shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom. These are five historical dramas I’d like to see from Netflix or HBO.


1. The Accursed Kings

Druon’s 14th century poison-fest has twice been turned into TV in French, and is due a big-budget American production.

The plotline of three brothers and a sister fighting over a succession is obviously a classic one, the basis for both the Godfather and Succession, and that Philip IV’s daughter Isabella was the cleverest and most devious of them all — outwitting her husband King Edward of England and his (possible) lover — makes for an ideal storyline (she was also supposed to be unusually beautiful). George RR Martin cited it as a big influence on his creation.


2. Byzantium

The perfect setting for an epic drama, with grandiose buildings, court intrigue, eunuchs and Greek Fire, it’s been overlooked for various reasons to do with western Europe’s general amnesia about the place.

Each dynasty could provide the setting for a different series, although the Macedonian would be especially fun, featuring the Scandinavian Varangian Guard and the homicidal Norwegian maniac Harald Hardrada, obviously played by Kristofer Hivju.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb should also be given a cameo as a figure in the Byzantine court, whose only line is “idiot!”, which he repeatedly shouts at various pseudo-intellectuals.


3. The Vendée

The first modern mass murder and arguably the first war of ideology, this conflict would be the perfect vehicle for Timothée Chalamet or Robert Pattison to play doomed romantic aristo types like Henri de la Rochejaquelein (I can’t imagine this being made, as it would be too overtly reactionary, which is why I like it.)


4. The Sengoku period in Japan

I don’t know a huge amount about Japanese history, except that this was a time of feuding between warlords, just as the War of the Roses was in England, and has featured heavily in Japanese popular culture but not so much in the west.


5. The Godwins

The later Anglo-Saxon period was dominated by Earl Godwin, a sort-of pirate who rose to power under the Danish king Canute, whom he had served after the Vikings had conquered England. After Canute’s death in 1035 Godwin remained a leading figure in the kingdom for twenty years, along with his six sons and daughters, one of whom married King Edward the Confessor.

Godwin’s second son Harold — who like Michael Corleone or Bashar Assad became heir after a psychotic elder brother died — would later take the throne before his climatic end at Hastings. The Norman conquerors rather made court politics boring afterwards with their system of chivalry, which prohibited the murder of aristocrat rivals, whereas in Anglo-Saxon England if you lost, you had your eyes gouged out if you were lucky. Which makes for better drama.

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