What Did Medieval European Royals Really Look Like?

What European Royals Really Looked Like

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I watch tons of shows based on the history of Europe. Heck, who doesn’t? Shows ranging from Da Vinci’s Demons to Tudors have become so popular that they are popping them out left and right! Even the CW, has created their own historical fiction with Reign. But have you ever wondered what these European royals really looked like?

What Did European Royals Really Look Like?

What I wanted to do was create a side by side comparison of these TV characters with their real life counterparts. Some were pretty close, others not so much. Is this what you thought European royals really looked like? Let me know in the comments below.

the tudors

1. Anne Boleyn

Over the centuries, Anne has inspired and been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. The Tudors did a fairly good job in casting here, and with wardrobe. They even included Anne’s ‘B’ necklace which she often wore. In my humble opinion, Natalie Dormer did a fabulous job creating a fascinating character for The Tudors. She was critically praised for her performance, and won two Gemini Awards.

Elizabeth the 1st

2. Elizabeth the 1st

Anne’s daughter Elizabeth is very well-known for her look, so I don’t think they could have steered too far with it without some repercussions. She’s another European royal who has remained in the public consciousness for centuries. The 1998 film, The Virgin Queen, starring Cate Blanchett is pictured above. It was also written by Michael Hirst who wrote The Tudors.

Leonardo Da Vinci

3. Leonardo Da Vinci

Okay, Da Vinci’s not royalty, but he might as well be. His work is more well-known than most of the history of Europe itself. I couldn’t find a young picture of Da Vinci, but I think they got the facial features right. Course, Da Vinci in the TV show has to be handsome. Guess we’ll never know if real Da Vinci looked like that at 20 something since the show was basically guessing on what he did during those years as there is no historical records of his time.

Georgiana Cavendish Duchess of Devonshire

4. Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

The wardrobe department was spot on with this! So it’s no surprise the film received the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 2009. The 2008 film, The Duchess, was a film based on Amanda Foreman’s biography of the late 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Georgiana was known as an English socialite, political organizer, style icon, author, and activist.

Marie Antoinette

5. Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst just doesn’t have a timeless look in my opinion. I think that’s why this doesn’t work for me. Keira Knightley can pull that off. Kirsten just can’t, I see it as her playing dress up, not being Marie Antoinette. However, once again the costumes are the winner in this film. It won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

King George VI

6. King George VI

Colin Firth did a splendid job of playing King George, so with that, I don’t care if he doesn’t totally look like him, he embodied him. The King’s Speech received widespread critical acclaim, with Firth’s performance receiving universal praise. Bonham Carter and Rush were also widely praised with both going on to win BAFTA’s and receiving Academy Award nominations.

the tudors

7. Henry the 8th

Previously, I thought they had just made Henry more handsome than he really was. However, the portrait we all know is from his later years. He was actually mentioned as being handsome in historical records.  So, this Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrayal from The Tudors maybe more correct than I formerly thought.

William Shakespeare

8. William Shakespeare

This movie was so far off that I can’t even call it historical fiction. The movie Shakespeare in Love was entertaining, but I don’t think it reflected anything true about Shakespeare. The film is “not constrained by worries about literary or historical accuracy” and includes inaccuracies such as a reference to Virginia tobacco plantations, at a time before the Colony of Virginia existed. I do believe Joseph Fiennes did the best he could with the role however.

cw reign

9. Francis II of France

I couldn’t find a teenage picture of Francis, so this will have to do. CW Reign’s Francis is more handsome, and has longer hair from what I can tell. TV Francis never looks like real Francis on the show. The reviewer of The A.V. Club described the show as more “an alternate-universe fan fiction than anything pretending to approach history”, calling the show camp and fun.

cw reign

10. Mary Queen of Scots

Another one way off, though Mary is pretty in the real picture as well as the CW Reign TV show. She appears to have reddish hair and is a lot more conservative than the CW incarnation. I do have to say Adelaide Kane does a good job of playing her. She added a lot of depth to an otherwise light show.

White Queen TV show

11. Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville

Honestly I didn’t know much about their story until the White Queen TV show. The show was pretty good, but the similarities fall short. Neither one really looks anything like their real life counterpart. Historical inaccuracies within the series received attention, especially in the costumes and locations used. In response to criticisms, Philippa Gregory whose historical novel the series was based on said “What [BBC One and Starz] wanted was not a historical series based on the documents from the War of the Roses. They wanted my take on it, so that’s what they got.” So I’m willing to give this one a break.

Pope Alexander VI

12. Pope Alexander VI

Another far out representation. Jeremy Irons, father of Max Irons (pictured above) is a handsome guy. The Pope however, is older, heavy-set, and can’t do Jeremy’s scowl nearly as well…LOL. Robert Bianco of USA Today said, “…captured by a sterling cast led in marvelous high style by Jeremy Irons, and presented with all the brio, flair and sumptuous design TV can muster, the infamous family is almost addictively entertaining.” And I have to agree, 2011 The Borgias series was phenomenal.

I watch tons of shows based on the history of Europe. Heck, who doesn\'t? Shows ranging from Da Vinci\'s Demons to Tudors have become so popular that they are popping them out left and right! Even the CW, has created their own historical fiction with Reign. But have you ever wondered what these European royals really looked like? What I wanted to do was create a side by side comparison of these TV characters with their real life counterparts. Some were pretty close, others not so much.
Tags: england, france, italy, scotland

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