Top 37 TV Shows Set in Medieval Times
During the Medieval era, tranquility was a rarity, as conflicts among lords, tournament duels, and forbidden love affairs characterized the landscape. It was a time marked by relinquished titles, fallen knights, and the slow decline of the Roman Empire in the Western world.
Within this millennium-long chapter of history, countless extraordinary tales and legends unfolded, begging to be witnessed firsthand. And so, we embarked on a quest to uncover the finest television shows set in Medieval times, illuminating these ancient days.
So put away your weapons, loosen your armor, and embark on a journey through the 5th to 15th century from the comfort of your screen.
The Legend of El Cid, Amazon Prime Video (2020 – present)
Our voyage commences in Spain with The Legend of El Cid, an action-packed historical drama. Follow the story of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, a young courtier in the service of the future King of León and Castile. His unwavering loyalty is put to the test when he unwittingly becomes entangled in a plot to overthrow the King. Caught between two worlds, Rodrigo must navigate the tangled web of deceit while staying true to his values and upbringing. Often hailed as the Spanish version of Game of Thrones, this series delivers a feudal drama devoid of fantastical elements.
Knightfall, History (2017 – 2019)
The Knights Templar, iconic figures of Medieval history, take center stage in Knightfall. This gripping series delves into the final days of this esteemed order of warriors. As a seasoned knight ascends the ranks to become the master of the Paris Temple, he unearths a startling secret. Landry de Lauzon, in his newfound role, embarks on one last crusade alongside his fellow Templars to recover the Holy Grail and uncover the truth behind his mentor's demise. Filled with revelations and hidden truths, Knightfall sheds light on the origins of the infamous Friday the 13th superstition.
Medici, Rai 1 (2016 – present)
Set in the year 1492, Medici chronicles the ascent of Cosimo de Medici as he assumes control of his family's banking empire following his father's death. As one of Europe's most affluent banks at the time, the Medici dynasty faces numerous challenges and threats as Cosimo takes the helm. Complicating matters is a dangerous secret harbored by Cosimo, capable of jeopardizing the growth of the family business. Each season of this riveting series focuses on a different member of the Medici family, intertwining drama with a touch of political intrigue.
Marco Polo, Netflix (2014 – 2016)
Concluding our expedition is Marco Polo, an enthralling Netflix production that transports viewers to the Medieval world. Set during the years 2014 to 2016, this series paints a vivid portrait of the eponymous explorer's adventures. Marco Polo's encounters in the vast territories of the East come alive, showcasing the rich tapestry of cultures, politics, and conflicts he witnesses. This remarkable show serves as a testament to the spirit of discovery and the enduring legacy of one of history's most renowned explorers.
Another famous individual who had a lasting impact was Marco Polo, an Italian merchant, explorer, and writer who gained great renown.
In this reimagining of his life, we delve into his early years when he found himself as a guest in the court of Kublai Khan, the Khagan of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.
After being abandoned by his family, particularly his father, as a young man, Marco's travels bring him to Mongolia, where Kublai recognizes his worth and grants him unprecedented access to Mongolian life, a rare privilege for that era!
Young Marco soon becomes embroiled not only in the brewing conflict with China, but also a series of family scandals and romantic entanglements, all while growing up and maturing in this foreign court.
The Foundation Of The World, Starz (2010)
Adapted from Ken Follet's novel of the same name, The Foundation of The World miniseries centers around the construction of a fictional Cathedral during The Anarchy, a tumultuous period in English history during the 12th century.
As England mourns the death of King Henry I, chaos ensues as potential heirs vie for the throne, while a Bishop schemes to utilize the new cathedral as a means to seize power for himself.
In the midst of all these events, numerous love stories unfold in the background, and the question of faith takes center stage.
These tales are intertwined with the gradual construction of the cathedral, symbolizing the rise of anarchy, corruption, and greed that surrounds it.
Era Without End, Channel 4 (2012)
Another captivating narrative from author Ken Follet, Era Without End is an 8-episode miniseries based on his novel, serving as a sequel to The Foundation of The World, set 140 years after the previous events.
As Edward III takes charge of the country, the Black Death ravages Europe, and the Hundred Year's War commences, we are introduced to ordinary individuals striving to maintain a sense of community in the face of an unjust rule and an authoritarian church.
Expect a darker tone compared to its precursor as the show tackles contemporary themes of sexuality and faith, following Caris, a woman far ahead of her time, and her lover Merthin, as they attempt to forge a life away from the impending plagues and war.
Isabel, La 1 (2011 – 2014)
For those who prefer a more biographical approach to medieval TV shows, there is Isabel – a series that focuses on the ascent of Isabella, Queen of Castile, also known as Isabelle the Catholic.
Beginning with the end of her marriage and her subsequent journey to becoming the crowned ruler, the show pays homage to the Spaniards' passion for narrating their own history.
With 39 episodes spanning 3 seasons, the series is filled with breathtaking visual details and nods to prominent historical figures, including Christopher Columbus himself!
However, do not anticipate a dull history lesson, as we witness Isabel navigating the intrigues of royal court life, warfare, and her fair share of betrayals.
The Empty Crown, BBC Two (2012 – 2016)
William Shakespeare is widely celebrated as one of history's greatest authors, and although many perceive his works as more contemporary due to their continued relevance, the worlds in which his characters resided were predominantly medieval.
The Hollow Crown showcases a remarkable ensemble of actors and creators who collaborate to produce an exceptional rendition of William Shakespeare's tetralogy of historical plays: Richard II, Henry IV: Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V – a trio of kings battling for their legitimacy on the throne.
Within these captivating narratives, we are immersed in the chronicles of the British monarchy from the late 14th century to the fateful Battle of Agincourt.
This series skillfully weaves together stunning visuals and captivating sound design, serving as a beautiful tribute to Shakespeare's words. The passionate performances delivered by talented actors and directors enliven every moment.
Dark Ages, ITV (1999)
As the year 1999 drew to a close, the anticipations surrounding the millennium and apocalyptic notions gripped the world. Amidst this fervor, the comedic minds at ITV dared to explore the comedic possibilities that may have unfolded at the turn of the previous millennium.
Set in the year 999 AD, we find ourselves in Sludgwicke, a village filled with English villagers who are beset with uncertainty as the new millennium approaches.
Among the inhabitants of Sludgwicke is Gudrun, an individual burdened with an unexpected position of authority. All he desires is to savor a pint with his friends and spend precious time with his loyal companion, the beloved cow named Dolly.
Cadfael, ITV (1994 – 1998)
Drawing inspiration from Ellis Peters' Cadfael Chronicles, this adaptation takes us on the journey of Brother Cadfael, a former crusader-turned-monk who devotes his spare time to unraveling mysteries in the quaint town of Shrewsbury.
Cadfael resonates with viewers, as it skillfully incorporates the essence of traditional private detective tropes found in television shows, enchanting audiences with its delightful characters.
Despite yearning for peaceful days of reflection, tending to the garden, and crafting herbal remedies, our beloved monk is irresistibly drawn into a realm of crime and enigmas. His remarkable ability to connect the dots and solve puzzles compels him to immerse himself in perplexing cases.
Brother Cadfael embodies a modern sensibility amidst archaic conventions, ultimately earning admiration through his unwavering commitment to justice.
The White Queen, BBC One (2013)
Set against the backdrop of Phillipa Gregory's series of novels, the year is 1464, and England finds itself embroiled in tumultuous times as the young Edward IV seizes the throne through a web of manipulation, orchestrated by the renowned Lord Warwick, popularly known as The Kingmaker.
With a new monarch in power, the coveted position of queen becomes the epicenter of a fierce conflict. Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville find themselves entangled in a power struggle as they vie for the throne.
As the show proudly declares, "men go to battle and women wage war," it deftly explores profound themes of revenge, power, and the tremendous responsibilities accompanying the Crown.
The White Princess, Starz (2017)
Serving as a captivating sequel to The White Queen, The White Princess continues the adaptation of Phillipa Gregory's enthralling novel.
Picking up seamlessly from its predecessor, this show delves into the conclusion of the Wars of The Roses. As Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, daughter of the White Queen, unite in matrimony, the era of conflict draws to a close.
This serves as a momentous occasion for the Tudors, signifying a historic milestone.
Nevertheless, with a plethora of personal conflicts and devious plots lurking in the background, their unity stands under threat, along with the stability of the Kingdom.
Can these two individuals set aside their differences and will their respective families be able to let go of their animosity for the sake of the nation?
The Spanish Princess, Starz (2019 – 2020)
Continuing the series of literary adaptations by Phillipa Gregor, The Spanish Princess introduces us to Princess Catherine of Aragon as she embarks on her journey to England to meet her long-promised husband, Arthur, the Prince of Wales.
Her arrival causes quite a stir, as some circles find her presence and her diverse entourage unwelcome due to their inability to seamlessly assimilate into English customs.
A twist ensues when young Catherine discovers that her romantic correspondence was not with her intended husband, but instead with his brother!
Given that this union holds great importance for maintaining peace between England and Spain, what is a young princess to do when her betrothed suddenly passes away?
The Letter for the King, Netflix (2020)
Adapted from Tonke Dragt's 1962 novel "De brief voor de Koning," this fantastical adventure follows the journey of young knight-in-training Tiuri, who is entrusted with a mission to deliver a mysterious letter to the King.
This quest takes him on an epic odyssey across the vast expanse of the Great Mountains, spanning three Kingdoms.
Along the way, our protagonist forms alliances with a diverse and vibrant group of companions and becomes entangled in a prophecy that foretells the rise of a hero destined to vanquish a merciless prince.
Could Tiuri be this hero? Can he save the realm of Dagonaut and successfully deliver The Letter for the King?
The Last Kingdom, Netflix (2015 – present)
Brought to life from the brilliant mind of author Bernard Cornwell, emerges the exquisitely adapted series, The Last Kingdom.
We meet young Uthred, who is left orphaned and subsequently adopted into enemy territory following a fierce battle between the Saxons and a Danish army.
Content in his newfound home, tragedy strikes again when another attack obliterates his family life, spurring him on a quest for vengeance.
Yet, Uthred finds himself torn between loyalty to his bloodline and his adopted culture, becoming entangled in the war between the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons, and ultimately being forced to align with one side.
This deeply evocative show delves into profound questions of identity, set amidst an unforgiving medieval world on the brink of turmoil.
Merlin, BBC One (2008 – 2012)
None have inspired more imaginative tales set in the medieval era than the famed sorcerer of Arthurian legend, Merlin.
Renowned as one of literature's most iconic wizards, Merlin usually assumes the role of a wise old sage.
However, in this particular rendition, we encounter a young Merlin during his early days in Camelot, as he harnesses his magical abilities and fulfills his destiny, amidst the harsh rule of King Uther Pendragon, who has outlawed magic during an event known as The Great Purge.
However, when Merlin receives the call of a captive dragon, his destiny begins to unfold.
Camelot, Starz (2011)
In a fresh interpretation of the Arthurian legends from the medieval era, the renowned sorcerer Merlin steps forward and presents Arthur as the new ruler after the death of King Uther.
Although Arthur possesses a legitimate claim to the throne by birthright, having been unknown until this point, his more ruthless and ambitious half-sister, Morgan, challenges him – potentially even being responsible for their father's demise.
As Merlin, Arthur, his birth mother, and faithful companions settle into Castle Camelot, they embark on a journey to rebuild Britain into a fairer and more peaceful realm.
However, Morgan conspires to steal the crown and establishes her base at Castle Pendragon, launching her assault and scheming against Arthur.
Kaamelott, M6 (2005 – 2009)
While the legends of King Arthur carry an air of seriousness, it is sometimes wise to inject a bit of humor and have a good laugh.
In the French comedy series Kaamelott, we are treated to a lighthearted perspective on the days of King Arthur and his assembly of noble knights – or so it seems.
The show's unique charm lies in its unconventional nature and anachronistic language, setting it apart from the multitude of Camelot-themed shows.
Drawing inspiration from the traditional adventures of Arthurian legends, such as the famous quest for the Holy Grail, Kaamelott humorously subverts expectations, as things rarely go according to plan.
The knights often fall victim to their own hubris, cowardice, or even greed, veering off-course on their supposedly "noble quests."
Imagine a blend of Black Adder and Monty Python, infused with the presence of King Arthur himself.
Arthur of the Britons, ITV (1972 – 1973)
Returning to a more serious tone, we delve into Arthur of the Britons, a historically grounded portrayal of King Arthur.
Instead of the glamorous and chivalrous monarch surrounded by a court of nobles, we encounter a typical Celtic leader tasked with forging a Celtic alliance against the encroaching Saxon invaders.
Here, the show eschews the fantastical elements of round tables and wise wizardly advisors, opting to delve into the political consequences of Arthur's actions and his prowess as a mediator and warrior.
Arthur of the Britons has garnered praise for its realistic approach, offering a fresh perspective on the time period rather than relying heavily on the familiar legends of our upbringing.
It is undoubtedly worth watching for those seeking a deeper understanding of the medieval era.
The Winter King, ITV (2023)
In yet another adaptation of a Bernard Cornwell novel, The Warlord Chronicles, we are transported once again to the legendary realm of King Arthur in The Winter King.
Set in a Dark Age Britain, where Arthur is a renegade warlord and Merlin is nowhere to be found, the Saxons seize the opportunity presented by this power vacuum to attack the young king.
Noble intentions have no place at this unforgiving table, as Lancelot and Guinevere prove to be less than virtuous, and Merlin reveals himself to be more of a swindler than a mystical figure.
The purpose of this particular show is to narrate a darker version of the story, similar to a tale told by a former warrior turned monk. In this retelling, we delve into the legend of King Arthur and his illegitimate reign.
Robin Hood, BBC One (2006 – 2009)
Returning home after five years fighting in the Crusades, we encounter Robin of Locksley as he strives to make his way back home accompanied by his faithful servant Much.
However, he quickly discovers that his town has been taken over by the Sherrif of Nottingham, a rather unscrupulous individual despite his official title.
To restore equilibrium to his homeland before his departure, Robin assumes the role of leader of a band of outlaws known as The Merrymen, who dwell within The Sherwood Forest.
Earning the esteemed title of the prince of thieves, Robin and his gang engage in thievery from the affluent, redistributing their wealth among the impoverished while skillfully evading the Sherrif and his minions.
Robin Of Sherwood, ITV (1984 – 1986)
Offering an alternative perspective on the tale of Robin Hood, Robin of Sherwood takes place on the brink of the 13th century, during the reign of King Richard I and subsequently King John.
The show adopts a more fantastical premise, as Robin of Loxley is handpicked by a mystical presence within the forest to serve as the champion for the oppressed and downtrodden.
To fulfill his destined role, he assembles a devoted group of companions and embarks on a crusade against the ruling dictators of that era, particularly the nefarious Sherrif of Nottingham and his deputy.
What sets this show apart is its fusion of magical and religious aspects, weaving them into a legend that typically centers around the endeavors of underdogs striving against the odds.
Vikings, History (2013 – 2020)
When it initially aired, Vikings took audiences by surprise and swiftly became an iconic saga of familial affection, warfare, and ambition.
It swiftly garnered critical acclaim, and now viewers have become well acquainted with the tale of Ragnar Lothbrok.
Over the course of six seasons, we witness his journey alongside his kin, observing his ascent from a humble farm laborer to a formidable Viking leader.
Young Ragnar yearns to explore lands beyond his village, but his plans are constantly thwarted by the choices made by his Chief, Earl Hadalson, who dismisses his suggestions of venturing westward in search of opportunities.
Consequently, Ragnar takes matters into his own hands, constructing his own vessel and amassing a devoted following by proclaiming to be a descendant of the great deity Odin. An absolutely captivating portrayal of medieval splendor.
Vikings: Valhalla, Netflix (2022 – present)
A century later, we are once again introduced to the Vikings on the small screen.
In Vikings: Valhalla, a fresh group of Norsemen emerges, finding themselves at odds with the English as their Pagan beliefs clash with the newly embraced Christian sensibilities.
As tensions rise and reach their climax in the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 – a day that is famously marked as a turning point in the decline of the Vikings – the show becomes a fascinating and bittersweet spectacle to behold, as we are aware of the ultimate fate that awaits these men and women, yet we still find ourselves hoping for their triumph.
Maximilian, ZDF (2017)
Look no further than Maximilian if you have an interest in opulent costumes and the political intrigue of 15th-century Rome, all while exploring the volatile lives of knights.
This captivating medieval drama chronicles the quest for power, love, and legacy of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.
Prepare to be captivated by this medieval masterpiece as you witness Maximilian's ascent to greatness amidst power struggles and the magnificence of the medieval era.
The Rose's Name, Rai1 (2019)
Not all medieval TV shows revolve around epic battles and struggles for the throne.
Enter The Rose's Name, a thrilling medieval murder mystery that follows the journey of William of Baskerville, a Franciscan Friar, and his apprentice Adso as they unravel a series of enigmatic deaths in a secluded monastery.
This series skillfully combines the medieval backdrop with a gripping detective story.
Quentin Durward, ORTF (1971)
Inspired by Sir Walter Scott's 1823 novel, this daring and swashbuckling adventure takes you on a grand French-German escapade.
Meet young Quentin Durward, a Scottish soldier whose path leads him to serve the French King Louis XI.
However, Quentin's story goes beyond being a loyal soldier; he carries a past burden. Before fleeing to France, he was destined for a life of monkhood and celibacy.
His pursuit of peace quickly comes to a halt when the violence that robbed him of his family as a child resurfaces.
Will Quentin find contentment in France? Will he discover love? What thrilling escapades await him now that he is free from his solemn vow?
Resurrection: Ertugrul, TRT 1 (2014 – 2019)
Shifting our focus from England, we embark on a brief journey to Turkey to delve into the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
Set in the 13th century, Resurrection: Ertugrul (Dirilis: Ertugrul in Turkish) chronicles the tale of this Turkish Muslim and his tribe as they strive to establish a homeland.
However, with the constant westward push of the Mongols, Ertuğrul faces mounting pressure to secure a land agreement.
In exchange for a settlement for his tribe, he makes a pact to defend a wealthy Sultan with his mighty warriors.
Amidst the weight of fulfilling his destiny, Ertuğrul must also navigate the complexities of his family and the price they pay for their love.
Heirs to the Land, TVN (2020)
Transported to 14th-century Spain, we encounter Hugo Llor, a determined young man with aspirations to leave his mark on the world.
Days spent toiling in the shipyards have honed his skills as a shipbuilder, fueling his ambitions for renown.
His life has been shaped by tragedy, raised and assisted by Arnau and Mar Estanyol after his father's death.
As time marches on, old adversaries resurface, thrusting Hugo into a war between loyalty towards his saviors and his thirst for success.
Even as his accomplishments multiply, he remains true to his promise to the Estanyol family - seeking vengeance by ending the Puig family's reign.
Cathedral of the Sea, Antena 3 (2018)
Let's turn our attention to 14th-century Barcelona in Spain as we delve into the life of Arnua Estanyol (from Heirs to the Land) – a young serf who escaped the harshness of feudal life thanks to his father Bernat's efforts.
As Arnua and his father settle down as free men in the capital of the county, their lives take a sinister turn, leaving Arnua to fend for himself.
In later years, Arnua finds himself working as a laborer on the construction of the Santa Maria del Mar cathedral. His swift rise through the ranks and blossoming love life arouse suspicion among the noble individuals who surround him.
The Black Arrow, La Freccia Nera (1972 – 1975)
Amidst the renowned War of The Roses, a tale of vengeance unfolds in The Black Arrow, which is based on Robert Louis Stevenson's famous 1888 novel.
Enter Richard Shelton, a knight on a quest to avenge the death of his father while navigating the treacherous waters of unknown enemies lurking within his group of friends and allies.
Adorned in his black hood and mounted on his steed, Richard utilizes his distinctive black arrows to convey his message as he seeks retribution for the disadvantaged and confronts outlaw gangs and wicked landowners. Think of him as a gritty incarnation of Robin Hood.
Interestingly enough, this is not the first adaptation of the novel. It briefly appeared as a two-part mini-series in 1951 and even had an Italian version consisting of seven parts in 1968. However, the adaptation we speak of has endured the test of time, garnering a devoted following that appreciates its CGI-free production and genuine stunts.
Da Vinci’s Demons, Starz and Fox (2013 – 2015)
Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the most talented artists and minds of the medieval era, naturally draws the interest of writers, even if it means creating a fictionalized version of the man.
Da Vinci’s Demons takes us on an imaginative journey through Leonardo's early life during the Italian Renaissance.
As is often the case with brilliant individuals, Leonardo grapples with inner demons, struggling with the consequences of his overactive imagination.
While trying to reconcile his relationships, he becomes entangled in a conspiracy involving two families, a scandal within the Catholic Church, and a search for a mystical book possibly associated with a secretive cult.
These intrigues present a formidable challenge for one man to tackle!
Rise of Empires: Ottoman, Netflix (2020)
Embarking on a more historically accurate path, this docudrama combines reenactments and documentary footage to unveil the reign of Sultan Mehmed II and the ascent of the Ottoman Empire following the fall of Constantinople.
Discover the political and military strategies that propelled this empire to great heights, as well as the prominent individuals who stealthily shaped these events from behind the scenes.
The Shadow of the Tower, BBC 2 (1972)
The Shadow of The Tower is a series of dramas that bring to light pivotal moments during Henry Tudor's rule, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Tudor Dynasty.
History remembers Henry Tudor as a cunning and ruthless leader, and James Maxwell's portrayal reflects a touch of humanity within this performance.
Serving as a prequel to The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R, this enthralling series showcases historic events like The Battle of Bosworth and the imminent invasion by an Irish-German army.
The Bastard Executioner, FX (2015)
Allow us to introduce Wilkin Brattle, a Knight who grows weary of the thrill of bloodshed, violence, and warfare.
This prompts him to assume a new identity as a traveling executioner, known as The Bastard Executioner.
On this transformative journey, he yearns for a more peaceful existence but repeatedly finds himself drawn back into the world of violence from which he wishes to escape.
Moreover, the anonymity provided by the executioner's hood thrusts him into political situations that an ordinary citizen would not encounter.
As he continues down this path, he becomes torn between fulfilling his duties and upholding his own sense of justice as a knight.
Labyrinth, Channel 4 (2012)
Enter Alice Tanner, a young archaeology student who uncovers a hidden labyrinth within a secret cave nestled in the French Pyrenees. Her curiosity drives her to unravel its mysteries and establish herself in the academic world.
Subsequently, she becomes entwined in a centuries-old enigma involving none other than the Holy Grail, a staple of medieval legends.
Parallel to Alice's journey, a storyline unfolds in the 13th century, introducing us to Alais Pelletier du Mas. She finds herself in possession of a secret that could unveil the location of the Holy Grail.
Both women encounter cryptic symbols, perilous adversaries, and long-forgotten secrets.
This show immerses viewers in breathtaking landscapes, captivating them not only with its visually stunning depiction of the era but also with a thrilling narrative that keeps them on the edge of their seats.
Disenchantment, Netflix (2018 – present)
Shifting gears to something more lighthearted, Disenchantment can be likened to Futurama but set in the medieval fantasy realm of Dreamland.
Created by Matt Groening, the mastermind behind Futurama and The Simpsons, this animated series introduces Princess Tiabeanie. She is a rebellious young royal with a fondness for alcohol and finds herself disillusioned by the mundane life of royalty.
To counter this, she embarks on various adventures alongside her friends Elfo and Luci. Together, they challenge the conventional tropes of fairy tales and the realm of fantasy.
Viewers are treated to an animated escapade through the Middle Ages, infused with wit and offbeat humor.
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