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The Queen's Latin

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"And you never have Romans who are Italians! They're always played by some English actor going 'Oh Thomas, where is my brother, Fellatio? Bring him hither.'"

This trope is used in film and television fiction set in the past (or a fantasy counterpart culture heavily based on the past) where characters speak with British accents, even though the film is not set in Britain and the characters are not British. Sometimes the actors are Fake Brits, and sometimes the cast all have British accents except for the sole American star.

Giving the characters non-British accents (American, Australian, Canadian, etc.) ought to be just as acceptable as giving them British ones, but this is usually avoided, because it makes the characters sound "inauthentic". Britain's long history causes British accents to seem somehow "older" — they are used to suggest a sense of antiquity.

In any case, using The Queen's Latin makes a series or film commercially viable in the US. It alleviates the need for subtitles, while maintaining the appearance of historical authenticity. It's just foreign and exotic enough (many British actors already Play Great Ethnics). It's also commonly used because Ancient Rome is a very influential civilization in the Western world and there is an empire in Europe that's just as famous and widespread as the Romans. The usage of British accents for Roman characters is no doubt inspired by productions of Shakespeare's plays set in Ancient Rome. Remember: Romeo might have been Italian, but he's not realistic unless he talks like a proper British toff. Which is doubly ironic, since in Shakespeare's own time, typical English accents sounded different from today's "standard British accent" (officially called "Received Pronunciation"), being some kind of cross between Irish, Mid-Atlantic American, and even stereotypical Pirate accents (the last in fact closely resembles the accent of the English city of Bristol)note .

This trope also allows for some subtle characterization for UK audiences: sometimes regional British accents are used to reflect a character's class or social status by playing up to stereotypes in the collective British psyche note . The most common convention, however, is to employ formal English parlance. Depending on the antiquity of the era portrayed, the characters may lapse into a form of Early Modern English or its contrived cousin, Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. In any case, it is perhaps British audiences who expect this trope to be ubiquitous most of all — to an American or Australian the use of their native accent for ancient characters could at least be a believable translation convention, to British ears it smacks of deliberately choosing an accent with entirely the wrong connotations — new-world modernity and the rejection of old-world traditions.

Historical linguists have attempted to reconstruct the original Latin pronunciation of the Romans, but no one knows for sure how they really sounded. Some might say that the actors are Not Even Bothering with the Accent, or trying to avoid using Just a Stupid Accent, and in many cases this is true. The rule of thumb is that if non-British actors are affecting Brit accents, or if the British accents are being used to add layers to the characterisation, they are speaking The Queen's Latin.

This trope leads many Ancient Roman (or Ancient Greek, Trojan, etc.) characters to not only sound but also physically look like Anglo-Saxons rather than Romans (or Greeks, etc.). Historians have speculated that the average Roman man had tan or olive skin, usually dark hairnote , and stood about 5-foot-6. The Roman Empire reached Northern Europe, but Romans weren't all Northern Europeans. (This particular bit of Creator Provincialism also leads, even more egregiously, to Biblical characters — ancient people from the Middle East — looking a lot like Northern Europeans in Northern European art. Admittedly the artists possibly weren't aware they might have looked rather different, and if they were, the inauthenticity probably wouldn't have troubled artistic sensibilities until fairly recently.) Probably the closest thing to Truth in Television for this trope is Gibraltar, which is a British Overseas Territory in Southern Europe near the southern tip of Spain in the Mediterranean, with a large chunk of the population actually being of Italian descent (particularly Genoese) in addition to British, as well as being descended from other Latin Southern Europeans like Spaniards (especially Andalusians), Portuguese and Maltese.

A type of Translation Convention and Coconut Effect. Compare with Accent Adaptation, or, for an actor playing an overtly British character, see I Am Very British. See also British Nazis, when a Nazi German character is played by an English actor and sometimes given an RP accent.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Manga UK dub of The Heroic Legend of Arslan has the voice actors using British accents (Most of their other dubs used fake American accents while reading their lines with British inflections and sentence structure). The Central Park Media dub of episodes 5 and 6 averts this, with the New York voice actors using their own accents.

  • Wyatt Cenac discusses this in his comedy special when talking about what the Medieval Times shows will be like in the future. In the future, they will be about American gang violence, and they will all have British accents.
  • Discussed by Eddie Izzard, with the part of Caesar played by her impression of James Mason. Which is also her favorite voice for God, incidentally.
  • Richard Jeni has a bit where, before he's willing to order lobster in a restaurant that keeps them live in a tank, he has to get drunk first, and that when he gets drunk, he acts like a Roman emperor ordering the lobsters to their deaths. Said Roman emperor's final request to his waiter is to "find out why all the Romans in the movies have English accents."
  • Craig Ferguson in his Netflix comedy special "I'm Here to Help" states that this trope is especially weird and distracting for him, as he grew up watching a lot of Monty Python and now can't watch a movie like, say 300, without thinking something weird's about to happen.
    Craig: [as Leonidas] Tonight, we dine in Hell!
    Craig: [as a soldier with a Cockney accent] What are we having?

    Comic Books 
  • Enemy Ace: War In Heaven provides an unusual print example. Every major character in the series is German, but Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis gives them analogous "British equivalent" accents and dialects for their social class. It's striking, and a bit jarring to comics readers used to the stilted "Achtung! Gott in Himmel!" Just a Stupid Accent approach to German characters, but oddly effective.
  • In Marvel Comics, mythic figures like Thor and Hercules almost always speak in a faux-Shakespearean dialect — using stiltedly formal diction and throwing around words like "forsooth" and "verily," often in a stylized font — rather than even try to guess at how an ancient Norse god or ancient Greek god would speak. (Of course, being gods and not humans, they'd most likely talk — and look — however the Hel/Hades they wanted.) The loosely canon Thor the Mighty Avenger miniseries doesn't have it with Thor (whose tones are simply more formal), and with other Asgardians (specifically the Warriors Three), explains it as being the product of them learning via a rather old translation of (because Fandral picked it) the memoirs of the Casanova. They're aware of the dated nature of the language, but deem it serviceable.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin averts this with the titular Aladdin and his love interest Princess Jasmine, who both have American accents, but play this straight with Jasmine's father the Sultan and the Big Bad Jafar. And then there's Iago, who, being voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, has a specifically New York accent.
  • If you listen very closely, you can easily tell that the heroine of Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire actually has a British-sounding accent. Apparently, this is also one of few animations starring Cree Summer (the actress who voiced her in this film) attempting to do a British accent.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, most of the cast speaks with American accents including, interestingly enough, the Beast (the only actual royalty in the movie) and Belle (characterized as being refined). Lumiere has a very over-the-top French accent, while Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts have British accents (given that they work as domestic help, it's not impossible they moved from England. Still, it's never brought up). Chip has an American accent, despite being Mrs. Potts's son.
  • 2007's Beowulf does something like this: although the Zealanders speak in fake, but at least subtle, Danish accents — Grendel even speaks Old English — the Geats speak in the actors' natural accents, which means that the title character, since he's played by Ray Winstone, is a Cockney ("I'm 'ere to kiw your monstah."), and Wiglaf speaks in an attempt at a Welsh accent.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, adult Vikings speak in Scottish accents while the teens speak in American accents. This was by the request of Gerard Butler, who asked to use his natural voice and to have other Scottish actors brought in. As in 300 below, Butler's choice to be a Scottish Viking was subject to some bewilderment, while no one questioned the American Vikings. Indeed, characters from fairytale-style worlds speaking in American accents could be seen as the animated equivalent to this trope.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney): The film is set in Medieval France, yet Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Phoebus and the gargoyles all speak with American accents, while the villain Frollo speaks with his voice actor's natural English accent; the only characters who speak with anything resembling French accents are Clopin and the Romani.
  • Loving Vincent is set in France, with almost entirely French characters, but everyone speaks English with British accents.
  • In the animated version of the Gospels, The Miracle Maker, Peter and the other Galileans speak with a vaguely Scots accent, the lower-class Jerusalemites speak London, and the aristocrats and Romans speak RP.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, all the Egyptians have English accents (and are voiced by some very talented British actors to boot), and the Hebrews and Midianites sound American. One would think Moses might have realized something was up with his parentage long before Miriam clued him in, given that he had the only American accent in Pharaoh's palace.
  • Shrek: most of the royals have English accents, while Shrek has a Scottish accent. But Lord Farquaad speaks in an upper-class American accent, while Princess Fiona speaks standard American English, despite her occasional foray into Gratuitous Old English.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film Valkyrie, all the actors speak with their natural accents: Tom Cruise (Stauffenberg) speaks General American, Kenneth Branagh speaks RP, Matthias Freihof (Himmler), speaks with a German accent, etc. The only actor who affects a German accent is David Bamber, playing Hitler.
  • Caligula has the cast using British accents to denote social and class hierarchy.
  • Gladiator had a cast who used British accents, despite its three main stars being from Australia (Russell Crowe), Puerto Rico/America (Joaquin Phoenix) and Denmark (Connie Nielsen).
  • The Spartans in 300 speak with British accents. Leonidas has a noticeably Scottish accent. This somewhat coincidentally, falls in line with a very long-standing convention used in translating Greek Comedy (which uses accent gags extensively): Attic Greek (used by the Athenians) is represented as the Queen's English, whereas Doric Greek (used by the Spartans) is represented by Scots. This equation is so widespread that there is even a variety of Scots that is actually referred as Doric.
    • This film serves as a perfect example for how deeply-ingrained this trope is: Gerard Butler's choice to use his natural Scottish accent in the role of Leonidas was received with some confusion and amusement from audiences, and yet is it any stranger than Greeks with English accents?
  • Ben-Hur (1959) had all of its Romans played by Brits, its Hebrews played by Americans, and its one Arab guy played by... a Welshman with a generic Arabian accent.
    • Specifically, by Hugh Griffith, the John Rhys-Davies of the mid-20th century.
  • In the American-produced movie Spartacus, all the decadent Romans were played by Britons, while the slaves—a mixed bunch historically, but some of them would have been Roman/Italian by birth—were all played by Americans. Per some film critics, this represented a common trope in Hollywood filmmaking of the period, in which British accents represented decadent modern Europe, while American accents represented normalcy. Spartacus's love interest was played by English actress Jean Simmons, so to maintain continuity, it is mentioned in the film that the character was born in Britain.
  • Simmons also turns up as the gentle tavern maid in The Egyptian. If you were a strong warrior type or a rough customer in that picture you were played by an American; if you were a noble, elegant or sensitive creature, you were played by a Brit. And that includes Qaptah the thief — after all, he'd tell you that he was a noble, elegant and sensitive creature.
  • Les Misérables (1998), despite the fact that the characters are French. Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes all fake English accents, although Liam Neeson retains his Hibernian intonation.
    • The same goes for the 2012 film, with a cast of Brits, Americans, and Australians speaking in British accents. (Except for the legitimately British Sacha Baron Cohen, who uses a goofy French accent)
    • Even a little Irish courtesy of Hugh Jackman.
  • In Alexander, the Macedonian characters are given Irish accents, while the Greeks are given English and Scottish accents, to represent the ethnic divide within Alexander's army. Furthermore, the Greeks are given a number of regional accents, to subtly remind the viewer that Greece was traditionally a number of independent city-states, and not a natural nation-state. "Barbarians" are all given broad regional accents.
  • Rise of Evil gives Adolf Hitler (played by Robert Carlyle) a mild British accent.
  • This is the case in the 2004 movie of Phantom of The Opera—although subverted in the case of Madame Giry, played by British actress Miranda Richardson, who is seemingly the only nineteenth-century Parisian who actually speaks with a French accent. Considering that everyone else—whether Scottish, English, or American—just speaks in their regular voices, though, you kind of wonder why she bothered.
  • In The Last Temptation of Christ, all the Romans have British accents and the Jews have American accents (including Harvey Keitel's much-mocked Brooklyn accent as Judas).
  • Averted in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006). The actors speak in their normal accents: Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette) speaks in a General American accent, Rip Torn (Louis XV) speaks in a mild Texas accent, Steve Coogan (Ambassador Mercy) speaks with a British accent, Jason Schwartzman speaks with a General American accent. (It helps that the movie is done in a tongue-in-cheek style, complete with punk and new-wave music on the soundtrack).
  • In Dangerous Liaisons the upper-class characters played by John Malkovich, Uma Thurman and Glenn Close speak plain American English, while the servants have broad Cockney accents.
  • Parodied in Dead Poets Society, when Keating does impressions of how the students might have seen Shakespeare performed. One is exactly this trope, with characters in ancient Rome speaking with refined British accents: "O Titus, bring your friend hither ..."
  • In Centurion, the Romans speak British and Irish accents. The Picts on the other hand have Scottish accents to reflect their roots as a Celtic tribe despite the fact that their language was close to Welsh than Scottish Gaelic.
  • In The Duellists all the characters are French but most of the cast except the two American leads are British.
  • Michael Apted decided that for Gorky Park, all the Russian characters would speak with British accents, rather to the annoyance of William Hurt, who had spent a lot of time before production perfecting his Russian accent.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the elves speak with English accents. Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, who is supposed to be raised by elves, speaks the human language with an affected, slightly questionable English accent, but retains his natural Danish-American accent for speaking Elvish. Éowyn is mostly English with some slipping into Australian. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd's accents remain, respectively, Northern English and Scottish. Peter Jackson has gone on record as considering the latter case, at least, justified, as Tolkien based the North-farthing on Scotland, which is the place where many Tooks live, while also noted for hills and having invented Middle-Earth's version of golf. The issue with this is that Pippin isn't a North-farthing Took (although his wife, a sufficiently distant cousin not to appear on the family tree in the Appendices, is). His father's farm was at Whitwell, near Tuckborough in the Green Hills.
    • Generally, most actors in the movies at least try for a British Isles-sounding accent, usually defaulting to English. The only exception is Mikael Persbrandt, who plays Beorn in The Hobbit in his native Swedish accent. On the DVD Commentary, the filmmakers explain that this was a deliberate choice as well: Beorn is supposed to be the last survivor of a very isolated people, and his accent needed to read as different from those of all the other characters.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, all of the characters have British accents, whether played by actual Brits or not. This is consistent with the Sands of Time game, on which the movie is based.
  • Ever After has British English spoken (including a catastrophic attempt at it by Drew Barrymore) by people supposedly living in 16th-century France, as well as Leonardo da Vinci.
  • In the Marquis de Sade biopic Quills, everyone speaks in British accents, despite being 19th century Frenchmen — even the guy played by Joaquin Phoenix.
  • The Affair of the Necklace is another film set in France. All the characters speak with British accents (even King Louis and Marie Antoinette!) save for two: Simon Baker, who couldn't seem to decide whether he wanted to be quasi-Aussie or quasi-English before giving up and just doing some odd blend of the two; and Hillary Swank, who doesn't use an accent at all and talks in full-on American that is just jarring. To add to the confusion, she intones some of her sentences like a British speaker would, turning them up at the ends.
  • Parodied in History of the World Part I with Marcus Vindictus (Shecky Greene) who speaks in a erudite British accent and pronounces "Rome" by rolling his 'R's.
  • Averted in Interview with the Vampire. Cruise, Dunst, and Pitt all speak with cultivated American diction.
  • In Troy, most of the cast seem to be using their native accents. Brad Pitt might be attempting a British accent, but it sounds rather Americanized. Sean Bean even uses his native Northern England accent instead of a more cultivated one.note  Curiously, the only performers conspicuously not using their native accents are the two Australians, Eric Bana and Rose Byrne. One has to assume that the director/producer felt that the Aussie accent was the only one that couldn't be believably set in Ancient Times. The Irish Brendan Gleeson subtly softens his regular brogue to play Menelaus.
  • The Show Within a Show in Singin' in the Rain takes place among the French aristocracy during The Cavalier Years. This naturally requires dialect training for leading lady Lina Lamont and her very nasal Bronx accent (although the other characters already consider her voice grating anyway).
  • Life Is Beautiful, dubbed into English, keeps the Italian and German accents of the characters. Thanks to The Coconut Effect, it sounds like some sort of racist joke.
  • Averted in The Passion of the Christ with every character speaking either Aramaic, Latin, or both languages.
  • Probably parodied in Monty Python's Life of Brian. Sure, it's a British comedy production, so obviously everyone has the accents, but the Jews all have modern-day English names to go with it. While Michael Palin plays Upper-Class Twit Pontius Pilate speaking RP with highly exaggerated rhotacism.
  • The Roman soldiers in Night at the Museum, who are lead by Steve Coogan. Because they're not "real" Romans but miniatures, and since the spell bringing them to life also gives a T. rex the traits of a dog, it's possible that the spell sort of "imitates" people's expectations or something, and therefore the soldiers' accents are actually caused by this trope's prevalence.
    • Though Pharaoh Akmenrah explains his British accent as having been at Cambridge, on display.
  • In Hugo, set in a Parisian train station, the French characters are almost all played by British actors using their natural accents, apart from American Chloë Grace Moretz, who is faking a British accent (more or less to blend in with all the Brits).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • As in the comics, the Asgardians speak English with an RP accent as opposed to, say, a Scandinavian one, with Chris Hemsworth playing Thor with a rather stylized "classical" English accent. According to American Jamie Alexander (Sif), they used Tom Hiddleston (Loki), who went to Cambridge and thus speaks RP naturally, as a target reference. In The Avengers, this is Played for Laughs when Tony Stark refers to one of Thor's speeches as "Shakespeare in the Park" and proceeds to imitate him.
    "Doth mother know thou weareth her drapes?"
    • Averted with Russell Crowe as Zeus in Thor: Love and Thunder, who uses a Greek accent instead. Just to prove how ingrained this trope is, director Taika Waititi was not convinced Zeus having a Greek accent would be taken as too silly, so he directed Zeus's scenes with two takes: one with a British accent, another with a Greek accent. In the end, the Greek accent is what is used in the final film.
  • In the Star Wars films, the Coruscanti accent (both refined and coarse) is rendered as British, while the Corellian accent is American. Naboo appears to have both.
  • In The Princess Bride, almost every character in the nation of Florin not identified as being from elsewhere speaks with a British accent of some sort. The word "florin" is Italian in origin, although its best known meaning is a British coin of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • In The Mask of Zorro, both Don Diego and Don Rafael (the first Zorro and his archnemesis) speak with British accents despite being Mexican, partly because they are of the nobility, partly because they're played by British actors Anthony Hopkins and Stuart Wilson. The other Dons all have Hispanic accents, however.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Greek gods all have British accents.
  • Unusual inversion in the film version of The Eagle: the Roman characters have American accents, while the Briton (as in, ancient Celts) characters are played by British actors speaking in their native accents. For the purposes of the movie, English stands in for Latin while Scottish Gaelic stands in for Pictish (an extinct language loosely related to Welsh and Breton).
  • In Pompeii, Kiefer Sutherland, a Canadian who works in California, affects a ridiculous lisping British accent that makes him sound more like Truman Capote.
  • In The Brothers Grimm, Australian Heath Ledger and American Matt Damon both adopt English accents to play the German Grimm Brothers.
  • Averted in the film version of Amadeus. The setting being 18th-century Austria, most of the characters (who are primarily Austrian German,note  but at least one is Italian and presumably a few others are from elsewhere in the Habsburg Empire) and are supposed to be speaking German (by a Translation Convention, English stands in for German—even in the libretti of the operas; Italian, by contrast, remains Italian) but of course the film is in English. The actors virtually all appear to use their native accents, and as most of the cast of the film was American, this leaves most everyone with American accents. (One courtier attempts a German accent, but everyone else is natural.) This gives Tom Hulce's portrayal of Mozart as a Manchild added sharpness, and improves the Emperor as a comic figure.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, a lot of the Soviet characters speak in British accents. This is most jarring in the case of Sean Connery as a Lithuanian "shubmarine" captain.
  • Tony Curtis has a persistent quote following him for decades - a 1950s gossip columnist mocked him, claiming that in one of his Sword and Sandal films he pronounced "Yonder lies the castle of my father" with a distinct Bronx accent, as "Yondah lies the castle of my foddah". The line itself is fairly mangled, but Tony was still "baffled" as to why a Jewish New York accent is considered more inappropriate for a fantasy character than Sir Laurence Oliver's dulcet British tones.
  • In Enemy at the Gates, a lot of the Soviet characters speak in British accents.
  • The Death of Stalin zigzags this by having its cast use their own native accents, from Steve Buscemi's Nikita Khrushchev speaking in Brooklynese, to Michael Palin's General Molotov having a Northern English accent, to a Cockney Stalin. The one exception is Jason Isaacs, who puts on a Yorkshire accent for Georgy Zhukov (Isaacs is English, but not from Yorkshire). Armando Iannucci said that it was partly because he felt having the cast use either this trope or Fake Russian accents would make everything feel more artificial (and therefore not as funny), and partly because he felt that having the characters use a variety of different English and American accents made for an effective Cultural Translation given that the USSR was an empire with many different accents and languages within its borders.
  • Notably and intentionally averted in Derek Jarman's Sebastiane which uses actual Latin.
  • Defied by the Amazons in the DC Extended Universe, all of whom speak with either African or European accents, presumably to adjust for the fact that the most famous DC Amazon, Wonder Woman herself, is voiced by Israeli actress Gal Gadot with her natural accent.

  • In The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis, we meet Merlin, who as a 5th century Briton (he put himself in a trance for when he would be needed in modern times) speaks a form of Celticized Latin. It apparently sounds something like modern-day Spanish.
  • Mostly subverted in A Song of Ice and Fire. In dialogue, the characters use British terms and turns of phrase. At the same time, it uses American spellings, and the narrative voice is entirely American.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Attila: Aside from Flavius Aetius (Powers Boothe), a fair number of the Roman characters are played by Brits.
  • The BBC/HBO drama Rome, in which all of the characters speak in various English accents according to their backgrounds and roles. For example, Julius Caesar speaks with an upper-class accent, befitting his position as one of Rome's upper classes, while soldier Titus Pullo speaks with a faint Geordie accent, implying working-class origins. Several actors cover over their Irish accents to play Romans as British.
  • I, Claudius uses regionalised British accents to fit the characters' personalities and class. Of course, I, Claudius was a British production.
  • In Masada, the Roman characters are all played by British actors. The Jewish characters are all played by American actors.
  • Subverted in the Roman section of Blackadder Back and Forth. The Roman characters start off speaking in The Queen's Latin until an officer arrives who congratulates them on practicing the local (British) language and then continues in actual Latin. Rule of Funny applies, as the actual local language at this time would be Brythonic, an ancestor of Welsh.
  • Doctor Who has a long, long habit of giving characters from every single historical period and place theatrical English accents. Part of it is due to the show being made in Britain, where theater work forms a big part of the acting industry. Another part of it is due to it being produced by The BBC, which historically encouraged Received Pronunciation so heavily that "BBC English" is a common alternate name for the dialect.
    • Lampshaded hilariously in the novelisation of Doctor Who and the Invasion of the Dinosaurs which describes a pre-Medieval Saxon as speaking in "a strong Midlands accent".
    • One official Doctor Who short story — "The Man Who Wouldn't Give Up" in Short Trips: Past Tense — suggests the TARDIS Translation Circuits have an odd sense of humour, and give people BBC accents because they think it's funny.
    • This is brought up in "Rose", in which the titular Rose Tyler questions why the Ninth Doctor has a Northern accent despite being an alien. His answer: "Lots of planets have a North!"
    • Also played with in "The Fires of Pompeii": on the streets of Pompeii, Donna asks the Doctor what would happen if she said to one of the locals 'Veni, vidi, vici', given that the TARDIS translates everything you say and everything anyone else says of its own accord. The Doctor suggests she try it out; she does so, and a stall-keeper replies (in the style of an English shopkeeper) "Me no speak Celtic! No can do, missy!" The TARDIS translates Latin into Ancient Britonic, i.e. Welsh.
  • There's a theory that Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation is actually speaking French the whole time and the Universal Translator renders his voice into English as a classy British accent as either a dynamic equivalent of the dialect of French he speaks — presumably a posh, educated form of Standard/Metropolitan French — or simply because it suits his personality. (The other theory is that by the 24th century, the English and French have been fighting and screwing for so long that they've exchanged accents.) Word of God is that Picard was originally supposed to have a French accent, but, when Patrick Stewart tried it, the creators decided no one would take him seriously. Stewart later demonstrated "Picard as a Frenchman" at a talk show with predictable results. Also see L.A. Story for more of Stewart's French accent.
  • Referenced in Slings & Arrows. The character who plays Hamlet tries to find English accent tapes until another character points out that Hamlet is actually Danish, so he gives up.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand has the Roman characters mostly speaking in approximations of an upper-class English accent. John Hannah as Batiatus uses his natural Scottish accent, perhaps to accentuate his early Bait the Dog. Notably, Viva Bianca as Ilithyia has a particularly exaggerated public school accent, to go with her Alpha Bitch persona. The gladiators have an array of accents, given their varied origins.
  • Game of Thrones, despite being an American HBO adaptation of novels by an American author, stars mainly British and Irish actors speaking with English accents. The relatively few non-Brits required to speak English (rather than Dothraki) do pretty good English accents. The types of accent tend to vary quite widely even among families, but the Starks and other northern families do generally have variations on various northern English accents and fit the 'blunt, tough, uncomplicated' stereotypes (they also tend to be physically buffer than their southern counterparts), while the richest, most powerful southern families like the Lannisters have much posher, highly affected accents more associated with villainy. Justified—the story is largely based on the Wars of the Roses, a power-struggle fought in England between the houses of York and Lancaster (AKA Stark and Lannister), so Westeros is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the British Isles, with accents (and locations — King's Landing = London, etc) that approximate the geography of the country. Only Dorne differs with their generally Latin accents, as a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Spain. In Season Two, the show has started to assign specific non-English accents to people from outside Westeros. Shae and Jaqen H'ghar, both from Lorath, are played by German actors, who speak in their native accents. Carice van Houten speaks in her native Dutch accent, although Asshai is on the opposite end of the known world from Lorath. Some characters from outside Westeros do have a British accent however, apparently because they speak the Common Tongue of the Seven Kingdoms without a foreign accent.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Elves and Men speak with a variety of English accents, the Dwarfs speak with a Scottish accent, while the Harfoots use an Irish one. According to Sophia Nomvete, who plays Princess Disa, this is a deliberate choice on the part of the showrunners. It also fits with conventions established by the cinematic trilogies, and in many fantasy works in general.
  • The Borgias is full of British accents, though the French characters actually do have French accents. It's just all the Italians that are British.
  • The 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth was dubbed "Jesus of Cambridge."
  • The Sam Raimi shows Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess mostly avert this, giving characters from Ancient Greek history and myth American accents. This can actually lead to some weird areas, since the shows are filmed in New Zealand, where accents naturally fall somewhere between British and Australian.
  • Because all of the actors, who play a variety of characters, in Horrible Histories are British, the Romans tend to be The Queen's Latin. There's also The Queen's Greek, Egyptian, and Aztec, although for more modern cultures like France or Germany they sometimes use a fake accent.
  • A Young Doctor's Notebook, based on the semi-autobiographical works of Mikhail Bulgakov, is of course set in Russia (partly in 1917 and partly in 1934). The series being a British production, everyone has a British accent—including Jon Hamm. (Or at least, Jon Hamm attempts a British accent). In fairness, Hamm does play an older version of Daniel Radcliffe, so they must have figured that although the space of 17 years could plausibly give the young doctor an extra six inches in height, a wider frame, and different facial features, him having a different accent would be a bridge too far.
  • Pompeii: The Last Day predictably has many of the characters speak like this, it being a BBC production with British actors.
  • Very downplayed in Kaamelott (a French series), where the only noticeable accent-representing-class is on one of the peasants (thanks to the actor's usual roles being salt-of-the-earth types which his native accent is associated with). Of course, the fact that very few people in the series have anything remotely resembling class (including the actual Romans) might have something to do with it...
  • Voyagers!: In "Created Equal", Cicero and the slave-master Bitiatus both have upper class English accents.
  • In the 1977 BBC adaptation of The Eagle of the Ninth, all of the Romans have upper class English accents. Conversely, Esca, played by Christian Rodska, has a Northern English accent as his tribe, the Brigantes, were from what is now Northern England and the Epidii tribesmen of Caledonia (the Roman name for Scotland) all have Scottish accents.
  • In Reign, much of the series is set in France, so, naturally, almost everyone speaks with a British accent, regardless of nationality (e.g. French, Spanish, Italian, most Scots). The few noticeable exceptions are Scottish lords, such as those played by [DEADNAME] Airlie or John Barrowman (both being Scottish-born actors, who have moved to Canada and US, respectively).
  • The Netflix series Barbarians fully averts this trope by having the Roman characters speak actual Latin with a period-appropriate accent.
  • Chernobyl, despite being set in Soviet-era Ukraine very few of the cast actually have accents for the region as most are from the UK and Ireland with a handful of Swedish actors. Word of God is that the cast did attempt fake accents but the creators quickly realized the effort required was distracting them from properly portraying the characters so they decided to use this trope instead.
  • War and Peace (2016) is an adaptation of a Russian novel by The BBC, so the largely American and British cast speaks with British accents.
  • The Musketeers is set in 17th century Paris, and the vast majority of the characters are French, but they all speak in British accents reflecting their social status (aristocrats speak RP, lower-class characters speak in various regional working class British accents). Non-French characters (Spanish, German etc) speak English in Spanish/German accents, reflecting that they are meant to be speaking to the main characters in non-French accents.
  • The Great: Although set in 18th century Russia, most of the characters speak in an English accent.
  • Les Misérables (2018): The majority-British cast affect The Queen's French.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Both Booker T and his wife Sharmell attempted British accents (Sharmell semi-successfully, Booker less so) when Booker became "King of the Ring" in 2006, even though they continued to be billed as residents of Houston, Texas.

  • It was once humorously noted in TIME Magazine that there is a radio dramatization of the Koran that is read by a British person. So even Allah has a British accent!
  • This is universal in BBC adaptations of religious works; adaptations of The Bible tend to make the God of Israel and the God of the Christians, as well as His eldest son, impeccably British. Having Anglicised the respective Gods of the Big Three, the BBC didn't stop there: Gautama Buddha got a British accent in one radio drama.
    • Of course: he was an aristocrat.

  • Many productions of William Shakespeare's plays will feature actors attempting an English accent to say their lines, even though the settings of his plays varied widely. This is obviously because Shakespeare wrote the dialogue in Elizabethan English and his plays are always heavily associated with English culture. Elizabethan accents hardly sound anything like modern English accents.
    • This trope should (theoretically) be averted in Macbeth because the Scottish accents for the Scottish characters are written into the script. Still, many productions still give Macbeth an upper-class English accent.
    • Amusingly inverted in an episode of Boy Meets World in which Stewart Minkis is cast as Hamlet. Having read that Elizabethan-era English sounded quite similar to Appalachian dialects in America, he attempts to play Hamlet with a 19th-century frontier inflection and ends up sounding like Gomer Pyle.
  • An interesting variation on this trope comes from translations of Ancient Greek plays, most noticeably in ancient Greek comedies. Nearly every extant play contains at least one joke based on ancient Greek accents. This means that a translator or director needs to delineate some of the dialog with a different accent. British accents are often used, partially because many of the translators are British themselves and those are they accents their most familiar with. Other times the trope is averted, such as when an American gives Spartans a Texas accent to play up the "militant hick" perception.
  • In many productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the actors will put on British accents, even when the operetta in question doesn't take place in England (e.g. The Mikado, in Japan).
    • This is often to get Gilbert's rhyming and/or puns to work (consider the "Orphan/Often" joke in The Pirates of Penzance) and because a British accent makes it far easier to navigate a Patter Song understandably, given the (modern, upper-class) British accent's consonant clarity.
      • That joke requires some creative work with pronunciation to make it work even for an English audience (or at least for the couple of people who haven't seen the play before...) The accent which pronounces "often" as "orf'n" is not only posh, but also a sufficiently old-fashioned version of "posh" that it doesn't correspond with what most people nowadays think of as "the posh accent". So the actors have to perform tricks like exaggerating the "old-fashioned-posh" accent for their preceding half-dozen or so lines in order to make sure the audience are thinking in terms of the right sort of accent when the joke comes along.
  • The 2009 revival of A Little Night Music, a musical set in Sweden, was/is performed with British accents by the cast, most of them fake Brits, with the notable exception of Angela Lansbury. This is exacerbated by the fact that they all speak with different flavors of British accent, with no logic given or implied as to the variance.
  • The 2008 concert version of Chess has an odd inversion, with the British Kerry Ellis affecting an American accent to play a Russian character (the other major Russian characters were played by Americans, one affecting a Russian accent and one not bothering).
  • In the original production of The Phantom of the Opera, American Steve Barton (who played Raoul) faked a British accent, despite his character being French. The cast as a whole speaks with a British accent even in American productions of the musical. It is debatable whether this is because of this trope, or because they attempt to sound like the original British cast.
    • Since Phantom is nearly sung through, it could have something to do with the fact that pronunciation and diphthongs when singing in English tend to take on a more British pronunciation (for example, singing "The phantom of the opera is here!" with an American twang is frowned upon)

    Video Games 
  • All of the characters in the fantasy RPG Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura seem to have British accents, with the exception of Virgil, who is voiced by an American who sounds like he's trying to sound vaguely English. Certainly, his dialogue (replete with words like "bloody" and "bugger") is written to sound like it's come from a Brit.
  • Baldur's Gate III: Combined with Animal Stereotypes for the "Speak with Animals" spell. A Great Eagle has a pompous upper-class English accent, while a loyal working dog like Scratch has a more lower-class accent. An owlbear cub speaks like an English schoolboy (with You No Take Candle cadence), and quite disturbingly one conversation with a Giant Spider has the hideous and chittering creature speaking in the almost sultry accent of a Scottish woman.
  • Chrono Cross translates different Japanese dialects into differently accented versions of English. One major character, Kid, speaks with an Australian accent. And it's all done through text - the game has no voice acting.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The English translation of Final Fantasy XII used this to replace the different Japanese ways of talking: dashing sky-pirate Balthier was given an English accent, whereas Princess Ashe was given a soft high-class American accent. (Fran speaks with a Welshy...Indo...Iri...Scot...Russi...Armenian - okay, no one knows, but it's an accent.) Al-Cid speaks in an accent that has been called an odd hybrid of Spanish and Russian. The grunts of the Archadian Empire tend to have particularly thuggish London accents. The people of Bhujerba speak with Indian accents.
      • In fact, Balthier's accent actually gives away his heritage, since each region seems to speak its own dialect, with the Archadians speaking with the British accents, citizen of Dalmasca to speaking with American accents, the one Rozzarian we hear speak has a Spanish accent, and so on.
    • Ondore's accent is vaguely...Scottish or something. Or Gaelic/Irish/Celtic. He's the narrator, by the way.
    • The English dubs of the Final Fantasy XIII Series has the majority of the cast speaking with American accents, though Vanille and Fang speak with...Australian accents for some reason. Most likely to represent them as being from a different place and time, though Fang speaks with a more general Australian accent while Vanille's accent is roughly the same as her voice actresses'. This is a translation equivalent of how they're voiced in Japanese, which has them have Okinawan accents.
    • Final Fantasy XIV gives everyone in the game British accents in the English dub. This is jarring in certain places, such as when the extremely French-named elezen in Heavensward all sound like BBC newscasters. Stormblood adds more nuance by giving Ala Mhigan characters Oop North accents, which helps them sound like they're from somewhere foreign to Eorzea and also gives them the tough and scrappy feel often associated with the accent. (The Fantasy Counterpart Culture versions of Japan and China still use Received Pronunciation for most characters, though.) Y'shtola and Zenos, the representatives of FFXIV in Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015), sounds distinct from the other characters with their accents as a result.
    • Final Fantasy XV has King Regis, Lunafreya, Ardyn, and Ignis speak in RP British accents while the rest of the cast is largely American. Noctis is Regis' son, so him having a completely different accent isn't explained.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest VIII gives most important character British accents for regional accent conversion. Pickham residents, for example, all speak cockney, Princess Minnie speaks with the Royal We, and the owner of the Sabrecat Trust speaks with an upper class RP so ludicrously pompous that it's played for laughs. His assistant Tom speaks...something. Exceptions include Morrie, the eccentric owner of the Monster Arena, who is voiced with an Italian accent and Italian words peppered through his dialogue, the entire city of Baccarat (which is centered around an enormous casino and hotel) is apparently American, and the snowy northern region of Orkutsk is very obviously Russian.
    • Dragon Quest XI takes a similar approach. Cobblestonians have Bristol accents, lower class Heliodorians have Cockney accents, Arborians and upper class Heliodorians have RP accents, and Dundrasilians have Scottish accents. But there are also various non-British accents, such as American for Octagonians, Italian for Gondolians, Spanish for Valorians, Vietnamese for Phnom Nohnians, and Scandinavian for Sniflheimians.
  • Downplayed in Fire Emblem: Awakening. Characters will often drop British words such as "arse" and "mummy" into their sentences, but the vast majority of the cast possesses American accents so the trope is only reflected in their choice of vocabulary.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time gives His Highness the Title Character a British accent. Farah, an Indian princess, speaks with the hybrid accent of an Indian person educated by British English speakers, which is actually a common enough accent in the modern world. The Prince later acquires an American accent when he goes all "Badass" in Prince of Persia: Warrior Withinnote , and when Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones rolls around, Farah's been developed genericised into an Action Girl with a gruff American accent. Luckily, the original voice actor for the Prince returns for The Two Thrones. However, the American accent stays. The trailer for the upcoming Sands Of Time remake plays this straight again with the Prince, but subverts it with Farah, whose accent is pure Indian.
  • In the Myst games, Philadelphia-born Rand Miller for some reason gives Atrus a fluctuating mid-Atlantic accent (it should be noted that in "real life" Atrus would have spoken the English of Samuel Pepys).
    • Confusingly, in the current Myst canon we are meant to understand that the original Myst game really was just a game "based on" the "real" events of Myst, with only the events of the game Uru and onward to be taken as "accurate" depictions of what "really happened". All anachronisms can be retconned this way.
    • Not to mention how much his D'ni accent sucks. Of course, everyone's D'ni sucks... and Yeesha, the only character to use it in Uru, gets it even worse.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has several British-accented characters in both games; Bastila, being portrayed by a Canadian, is the only non-native accent. An honorable mention goes to Louis Mellis, playing Darth Sion - using his native accent, he is aScottish Zombie Sith. Although it seems to be Jennifer Hale's (she who voiced Bastila) hat to speak with a faux British accent.
    • Funnily enough, the same company's Star Wars: The Old Republic uses British accents to denote the Empire (especially Imperial Intelligence and the Imperial Military).
      • This, of course, is a direct reference to the film, which had most of the Imperial higher-ups speak with RP (Admiral Motti being the exception). In-universe, they're presumably well-connected and from Coruscant (see above); out-of-universe, it's partially explained by British labor laws requiring that any film even partially produced in the UK have a certain number of British actors.
  • In Rome: Total War, a slight variation of the tropes is presented: the Romans all speak with throaty American accents, while everyone else, the Gauls, Carthaginians, Egyptians, Spaniards, Greeks, etc. speak in a sort of generic "foreign" accent, with much rolling of R's and slurring of syllables. And to make it all more confusing: the game's British.
    • Averted with its sequel Total War: Rome II where the Romans and the Greeks do speak with British accents.
    • Spartan: Total Warrior is also guilty. Every single Roman uses some form of British accent from the vaguely cockney legionnaires to the cut-glass accent of Sejanus.
    • Averted with extreme prejudice in the Europa Barbaroum mod for the game which solely uses authentic Greek, Latin and Celtic voiceovers for the respective factions.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, nearly every human is British (Claudia Black, although Australian, has always done a great British accent), except for the occasional character from the Empire of Orlais, who are depicted as essentially being French. Elves and Dwarves are almost universally American (except for Zevran, who has an outrageous Spanish 'Antivan' accent). This is fair enough for the humans at least, as Ferelden is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for England (just as Orlais is fantasy-France), justifying the accents.
    • Dragon Age II somewhat muddies the waters. Almost every human has a British accent of some kind, regardless of whether they're from Ferelden (England) or the Free Marches (the petty states that would one day become Germany). Some of the Elves now speak with Welsh accents, which is reasonable given the elves' position as an older culture (Britons) that was marginalized by a newly organized invader one (Anglo-Saxons/Fereldans).
    • This also applies to characters from the Tevinter Imperium, which is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Roman [IE, Byzantine] Empire (if it were a Magocracy).
    • Averted with the Qunari, who may or may not be the equivalent to Muslims (a technologically-advanced culture with rigid social rules, utterly foreign to the others).
  • The Fable series is bad for it, too; everyone comes from somewhere in the British Isles.
    • It should be noted that it is set in Albion, the oldest known name for Great Britain. Not to mention the Union Jack underwear...
    • Well, seeing as the game is created by a British company, it'd be more of a surprise if the voice actors didn't use their native accents.
  • The Roman-themed city building game Caesar III has generally British sounding voices, as does the Praetorians RTS.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Sokolov, a Russian, appears to speak with a British accent. All of the other Russians are played with American accents, with the exception of Sokolov's rival, Granin...who speaks with a Russian accent. Then again, he's drunk, and may actually be speaking English in that scene.
  • Ryse: Son of Rome plays this very, very straight as well. At least it's justified for the Britannians you're fighting...
  • Operation Flashpoint: Red Hammer, the Soviets speak with British accents.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed: Unity does this with revolutionary France. The accents range from posh RP style English to Cockney depending on the character. The only times their accents come close to the appropriate French is when they're actually speaking the language. According to the developers, the Animus is translating (most) plot-relevant dialogue into the Initiate's native language; French-accented English would imply that the historical Frenchmen were actually speaking English to each other, which wouldn't make much sense. The more meta-justification is that the (notably French) company felt like players wouldn't be able to take French-accented English dialogue seriously even though prior AC games have French characters that speak with period appropriate accents instead of inexplicably sounding like they're from Britain.
    • This is largely averted for Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey with almost all of the Egyptian and Greek characters having accents that match up with what they would have sounded like when they spoke their native languages. Played straight with the Roman characters such as Julius Caesar as well as Cleopatra and the entire Ptolemy dynasty who speak with British accents despite the fact that the latter two should have had the same accent as Bayek and Aya.
  • Imperials in The Elder Scrolls are based on Romans/Italians, though most of them speak with British accents, despite an actual British (and French) based race existing in the Bretons. Subverted with the Scandinavian-based Nords, which tend to have more accurate Scandinavian accents, though you do get the occasional Scottish accent.
  • In The Witcher games, most characters speak with various British accents, ranging from RP style with nobles to Cockney and such for peasants and other low-borns. Dwarves speak with a Scottish accent. In the second and third games, different regional dialects of English are even used to differentiate the regional dialects in-game. The most notable exception is the main character, Geralt of Rivia, who uses American through-and-through. This is explained in-universe as Geralt having adopted the accent of his pretend-hometown Rivia, which is supposed to be distinct enough that almost everyone can immediately place it.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles was localized in Britain, so that means the English voice cast of the games are British, leading to this trope.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 primarily uses Southern English accents, though the accents are mostly haphazard and don't have that much thematic origin. The High Entia are the only ones who exclusively speak with Upper RP accents, while the Nopon exclusively speak in their own unique dialect.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 maps every nation in the game with a specific accent. Leftherians have Northern English accents, Ardainians have Scottish accents, Gormotti have Welsh accents, Urayans have Australian accents, Tantalese and Tornans have Southern English accents (with the royalty using RP), the Indoline have Mid-Atlantic accents, and Blades all have American accents, as do some of the Crossover characters such as KOS-MOS and Elma.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is set in the futures of the first two games. The Kevesi, descended from the first game's worlds of Bionis and Mechonis, retain the Southern English accents of the first game. The Agnians, descended from the second game's world of Alrest, run the second game's gamut of accents.
  • Hades focuses on Greek mythology, so several characters (including Zagreus, the Player Character) have British accents despite being Greek mythological figures. This was intentional on the creators' part, since it's meant to be a nod to older films set in ancient Greece and Rome where everyone speaks with British accents. The accent also serves to distinguish the Olympian gods (along with Hades and Zagreus) from the chthonic gods, who speak with American accents.
  • Zeus: Master of Olympus:
    • Inverted, as many walkers speak with American (read: New York) accents, particularly Hades.
    • Demeter sounds like a matronly upper-class British woman... unless you piss her off.


    Web Original 
  • This trope's lampshaded in The Cinema Snob's review of Caligula, which featured cameos from That Guy with the Glasses contributors impersonating Caligula. Then Film Brain pops in pissed off that he didn't get to impersonate Caligula, particularly since he actually was British (and therefore had the British accent) unlike the others (who didn't even bother faking one).
  • Called out by name in the "The Queen's Latin" essays on A Collection Of Unmitigated Pedantry, which discuss the complexities of historical ancient Roman identity - i.e., if the Romans weren't actually a bunch of Northern Europeans with posh accents, what were they really like?
  • In the lonelygirl15 episode "Zodiac of Denderah", a British upper-class accent is used to imitate the French aristocracy.

    Western Animation 
  • Castlevania (2017) takes place in 15th century Wallachia, but nearly all of its inhabitants have English accents.