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The all-time sexiest period drama heroes

Ladies, loosen that corset lest you faint dead away! Regé-Jean Page has got us hot under the collar.... so here are 12 more historical hotties, and a sneak-peak at what's coming in 2021.

Yep, you really did click on this article. Step in, sit down, it’s a safe space – you’re among friends. We’re about to go through a list of attractive period drama men. And do you know what? We haven’t got an ounce of shame. Life’s too short! It’s flipping cold outside, the daylight is brief, and there’s very little to do but watch episode 5 of Netflix’s smash hit Bridgerton over and over. (That is… certain scenes of episode 5.) 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have weird taste in men, chances are you’ve been drooling over Regé-Jean Page as the Duke Simon Bassett in Bridgerton just as much as we have. Anyone else fantasising about the unfathomed sensual thrill of having a smartly-dressed Duke skim his hands over your waist and softly instruct you to stand closer to him? (Go on: give the first dance another watch.) 

But we’re generous people. We’ve got a lot of love to go around. And we’d hate to sweep old favourites under the rug simply because there’s someone new and shiny (reckon they oiled his muscles?) around. So, let’s put off the good stuff no longer; who exactly are the ultimate hotties? Other than (obviously!) the Duke, who has made the list of sexiest ever period drama men? Behold: the heroes who set our fans so desperately aflutter.


You’d be excused for being put-off by the sideburns, but there is something alluring about Mr. Knightley in the 2020 adaptation of Emma all the same. Maybe it’s the gratuitous scene at the start of the film of him getting dressed, bum akimbo? Probably it’s the disarmingly believable way he seems to love Emma (played by The Queen’s Gambit‘s Anya Taylor Joy, demonstrating check mate), and the surprisingly charged way he dances with her. Only period dramas can have us so worked up simply from hands touching hands. 


Lingering childhood crush, anyone? Might we suggest that the devastation that naturally comes from Jo refusing to marry Laurie can be eased by imagining that you are the one to pick up the pieces of his heart… And we have to thank Greta Gerwig for allowing her 2019 adaptation of Little Women to better explore the romance between Laurie and Amy. When he helps her out of her painting apron, purely so she can look her best for another man? Torturous. 


Justice for ITV’s Sanditon, the 2019 imagining of Austen’s unfinished novel. Free to take the reins, the writers went absolutely wild with sexual tension. We’re talking: knocking 1995 P&P out of the water by having the heroine Charlotte Heywood chance upon the brooding Sidney Parker as he swims fully naked (and very buff) in the ocean. It may not have been renewed for a second series, but those eight episodes still pack a highly sexy punch. And Sidney Parker, growing kind through his love for Charlotte? Touching her waist to check her form as he teaches her to row a boat? I’ll take seven, thanks. 


The 2015 adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd was visually stunning, seemingly filmed perpetually during golden hour. And the main man? Woof. He’s quiet but skilled. Good with his hands. He loves her faithfully and without pressure. He’s very easy on the eyes. Where can we find a Gabriel Oak? 


What did we learn from BBC’s Poldark? That scything fields is really, really sexy, and must be done shirtless. The precise angle of Aidan Turner’s strong eyebrows. Um. Other things. 


There really is something about white shirts. Add in the charming Scottish accent, the rough but tender hands, and the reliable rescuing, and you get the irresistible Jamie from Starz’s time-travel romance Outlander. Is it weird that the constant threat of danger is so undeniably sexy? Maybe a little. We don’t need to be rescued by a man, of course. But then also: maybe we would if we, too, were unexpectedly transported back to the 18th century Scottish Highlands. 


Yes, logically we wouldn’t want to get romantically involved with Henry VIII. It’s a potential nightmare. We value our necks. But no one’s told our bodies that…


The 2005 Pride and Prejudice gave us an excellent outline of the ideal man. He’s moody and aloof, but he’s drawn to you specifically. You dance with him and even though the conversation is stilted, the unspoken attraction is enough that the rest of the room seems to fade away as you stare angrily into each other’s eyes. He is so affected by touching you that he has to flex his hand after helping you into a carriage. Later, he strides towards you through dawn mist with (again!) a loose white shirt, and tells you he loves you. Heavens. 


There really is a lot of brooding in period dramas, isn’t there? We’re not mad about it. BBC’s 2004 adaptation of North and South certainly had a lot of it, with John Thornton darkly yearning for Margaret Hale through dramatic scenes of spiralling cotton particles. Not sure why that’s so sexy, but it is. Perhaps it’s the knowledge of his secret heart of gold, soon to be brought to light. Then there’s that ending scene where they meet at the train station, and entwine hands as they realise their feelings are mutual, where he gently cradles her face like he can’t believe his luck… Sorry, were we saying something? 


It has to include Colin, doesn’t it? Although the famous lake scene from BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice doesn’t quite stand up to more modern explorations of the female gaze, it was nonetheless an absolute breakthrough moment. The delicious shock of Mr. Darcy removing his tight cravat and plunging into water, clothed in a loose white shirt, was enough to single-handedly propel Colin Firth to heart-throb stardom. Combine the dripping Mr. Darcy with the flustered Elizabeth (who doesn’t quite know where to look), and the wonderful awkwardness of him inquiring after her parents, and you have a winner. 


The fun doesn’t stop here! Let us look into our crystal ball: what alluring men might we see there? 2021 is set to be a year of period dramas, so fingers crossed for good casting. There’s an adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, a new Julian Fellowes’ series called The Gilded Age, a feminist retelling of Anne Boleyn on Channel 5, David Tennant in Around the World in 80 Days, and The Dig coming out at the end of this month. We’re hoping for more swoon-worthy scenes, stat. Our money’s on the upcoming post-WWI romance Mothering Sunday. 

Well, there we have it. What a tremendous scroll that was. Did you linger over anyone in particular? Because of course the ultimate question is: who should be crowned Sexiest? But this, friends, is far too controversial a decision to make on our own. Possibly it depends on one’s mood. Is it a Jamie Fraser kind of day, or a Ross Poldark? We shall turn to you for answers. The solution is: keep staring at them. Get a really good look — all in the pursuit of science.

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