Three casts of actors have played Queen Elizabeth II and her family since the show debuted in 2016, covering some of the most significant moments in recent history through the lens of the British monarchy.
As the Emmy-winning show returns to screens for the final time, we’ve looked back at The Crown’s seven year legacy to bring you the behind-the-scenes facts you never knew about the show…
1. It costs a lot to make
In January this year, Forbes reported that season five of The Crown became the most expensive instalment in the history of the show, with production costs reaching $143.3 million (£115.7 million) according to financial statements.
That brought Sony’s Left Bank Pictures (LBP) division, which makes The Crown, to a total of $504 million (£407.1 million) spent on royal drama since it premiered in 2016.
2. Olivia Colman really struggled with one detail when it came to playing The Queen
Queen Elizabeth II was famously stoic. Olivia Colman, on the other hand, is not. That meant she struggled to maintain a stiff upper lip in the more emotional scenes.
“My problem is, I emote,” Olivia told Variety. “The Queen is not meant to do it. She’s got to be a rock for everyone, and [has] been trained not to. We’ve discovered that I can’t do it. But I’ve come up with a little trick. It’s sort of shameful.”
But the team found a way around this so that, whenever Olivia had to react to a sad scene, they would give her an earpiece and play the shipping forecast – a BBC Radio broadcast of the weather and seas around the British Isles.
“I’m sort of not listening to what [the other actors are] saying. I’m trying so hard to tune into the shipping forecast and not cry,” she said.
3. Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin had very simple tactics to get into character
The two actors portrayed younger versions of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, respectively, in season four of the crown. They revealed some effective strategies to snap into character while on The Graham Norton Show. Josh noted that he would replicate a body language sequence that he claimed the now King still did as of three years ago. He noticed when emerging from a car, Charles would touch both cufflinks of his sleeves, check his pocket square, then wave.
Emma’s trick to get into Diana’s voice was to speak with a certain rhythm where the tone always went down at the end. The specific word to help them get into the character was “alright”.
4. Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby sometimes stayed in the accents on set
They may all have British accents, but speaking in the Queen’s English was a much more challenging task for Claire Foy, Matt Smith (Prince Philip) and Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret). To help ensure their voices remained accurate and convincing, the cast sometimes chose to just speak in the dialect on the set, as revealed by Vanessa in an interview with MTV.
5. Actors would watch silent clips of the royals to capture their mannerisms
As part of their preparations to step into their roles, the cast were instructed by supervising dialect coach William Conacher to watch video clips with no volume, in order to focus on their body language. “First thing I say is nobody needs to do an impression and I don’t believe anybody ever has on this show,” he told Reuters.
“It’s more about analysing what the face does, what the mouth does, what the head does, and then letting your voice come through that shape.”
6. Claire Foy was able to get into character with a single word
When Claire Foy needed to nail the cut glass English accent of a young Queen Elizabeth II, she would simply utter “one” with her lips turned down, she shared to MTV. It clearly worked, as the actor went on to win two Emmys and Golden Globe for her performance.
7. But she initially feared she’d made a terrible mistake joining the show
It’s no secret that The Crown features a huge variety of filming locations, including the royals’ Balmoral home in the Scottish highlands. It turns out this was a huge undertaking for new mum Claire Foy, who was still breastfeeding during filming.
“On the first day of filming, I found myself halfway up a Scottish mountain with engorged boobs and no way of getting down to feed my baby,” she told British Vogue. “I had to ring my husband and tell him to give her formula... as I sat in a Land Rover trying to get my broken breast pump to work, I felt I’d made the worst mistake of my life.”
The actor said it felt like someone had “stamped on my heart” when she realised she couldn’t properly feed her child. She also shared on the The Graham Norton Show that she felt she was “such a huge idiot” and a “lunatic” for going back to work four months after giving birth.
8. She was almost overlooked for the role altogether
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the first Queen Elizabeth, but Claire Foy apparently didn’t make too much of an impression early on in the cast process.
Writer Peter Morgan told Variety that it was only after four read-throughs – during which he’d only attended to watch “actress A or B” – that he noticed Claire. “This one is sensational, who’s this?” he asked, before being told, “Pete, she’s been in four times. And you’ve gone for a better-known actress.”
9. Felicity Jones reportedly auditioned to play The Queen
Back in 2014 (The Crown came out in 2016), the Mirror reported that Rogue One star Felicity Jones portrayed a young Queen Elizabeth in a special reading of early scripts for the show.
Apparently actors were hand picked to read for executives from Netflix. An executive told The Mirror at the time that they were “just beginning the process”.
10. Elizabeth Debicki auditioned for much smaller role in season two before landing Princess Diana
While Elizabeth Debicki’s casting as the people’s princess in season five and six of The Crown feels spot on, but Elizabeth Debicki originally had her sights set on a much smaller role.
The actor didn’t reveal what role it was she auditioned for, but told Glamour that “it was not anything you would imagine. When my agent said, “Go and audition for this,” I was like, “Really? Okay.”
She explained: “I auditioned for a small role in season two. I went in for the part, and the people in the room saw something in that audition that was wrong for the role I was auditioning for and right for Diana. So it was very unexpected for me. And then over the few years that followed that, I had hoped that it would come around, but I didn’t know for sure. And then it did.”
11. Some of the cast have already played royals
The royal family are some of the most challenging roles any actor could play. But some in The Crown cast had already played royals. Claire Foy, for example, played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall.
Olivia Colman, who took over as an older Queen Elizabeth in season three, played the 18th century Queen Anne in The Favourite 2018, which won her an Oscar. She also played the Queen Mother in Hyde Park on Hudson.
12. Claire Foy was originally paid less than Matt Smith
The gender pay gap was very present in the first season of The Crown. During the INTV Conference in Jerusalem in 2018, producers Suzanne Mackie and Andy Harries were asked if Claire Foy was paid more than Matt Smith. They acknowledged that he did make more due to his Doctor Who fame, according to Variety, but said they would rectify that in the future. “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” said Mackie.
13. Dominic West almost quit a charity role over his casting as Prince Charles
It’s no easy feat to portray such an important and recognisable public figure – one who would go on to become the king, no less. In a bid to keep things professional, Dominic West offered to quit his position as an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust in case there was a conflict of interest. But his request was turned down by Charles’ private secretary. The letter essentially said, per Radio Times: “You do what you like, you’re an actor. It’s nothing to do with us.”
West added: “I think that’s probably how [Charles] regards it. I’ve been in a line to shake his hand a few times and it’s fascinating. It’s very useful to meet the character you’re playing, obviously.”
14. Elizabeth Debicki found the fake paparazzi “incredibly invasive”
Princess Diana was infamously hounded by paparazzi after her divorce from Prince Charles, and it turns out even Elizabeth Debicki struggled with reenacting that.
“It was difficult to recreate,” she told Netflix (via Variety). “It was heavy and very manic, and incredibly invasive. And it had a kind of pressure to it,” she added, describing it as a “really unpleasant experience”
15. The portrayal of Diana’s death was approached very carefully
There are many shocking moments throughout The Crown, but Diana’s death was the episode that creators faced the most pressure with when it came to striking the right tone.
Season six depicts her 1997 trip to Paris with boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed, which ended in tragedy when they were involved in a fatal car crash after being chased by paparazzi.
This part of the series was approached “delicately” and “thoughtfully”, according to executive producer Suzanne Mackie. Creator Peter Morgan also insisted they were “never” going to show the crash itself.
16. Production paused after the Queen’s death
When Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022, filming on the show was temporarily paused. “As a mark of respect, filming on The Crown was suspended today. Filming will also be suspended on the day of Her Majesty The Queen’s funeral,” Netflix said in a statement.
17. Imelda Staunton struggled to return to work after the Queen’s death
“We carried on with as much dignity and grace as they have always had on The Crown, but obviously there was a very different temperature in the world, in England and even more so on set.”
She added: “We couldn’t do anything differently; I had to carry on. But we were all a wee bit sad.”
18. There was one character the show’s costume designer really wanted to get right
The Crown’s fourth season may have got through 400 different costumes, but the one designer that Amy Roberts struggled with most didn’t belong to a royal. Rather, it was palace intruder Michael Fagan, who makes his way into the Queen’s bedroom and laments about his economic and social hopelessness.
“I so wanted to get the character of him right,” Amy told Glamour. “I didn’t want to fail what he was about and what a broken Britain was about.”
19. A heist on the set in 2022 saw over 350 props stolen from the show
It turns out that even the props used on The Crown are worth a lot. Back in February 2022, over $200,000 worth of props from the set were stolen while the production was shooting nearby. Among the 350 items stolen were a replica Fabergé egg, a grandfather clock clockface and crystal glassware. It occurred when three vehicles were broken into in a lorry park in Mexborough in Yorkshire, according to Variety.
20. Prince Harry actually fact checks the show
It’s the question everyone wants to know the answer to. Do the real royal family watch The Crown? It turns out that not only has Prince Harry watched the show, but he even fact checks it. “Yes, I have actually watched The Crown,” he told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, clarifying, “the older stuff and the more recent stuff.”
When asked if he does any “fact-checking” while watching the series, he replied, “Yes, I do, actually. Which, by the way, is another reason why it’s so important that history has it right.”
Prince Harry even addressed Matt Smith as “grandad” once, according to the actor, who plays a young Prince Philip. “He’d watched the show,” Matt said on The Today Show.
Harry also admitted to James Corden that he watched the series. “I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself... They don’t pretend to be news, it’s fictional,” he said.
“But it’s loosely based on the truth. Of course it’s not strictly accurate, but… it gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that.”
21. The Queen watched it too, apparently
While Buckingham Palace has never officially confirmed it, the late Queen Elizabeth II also reportedly enjoyed watching the series. “I heard the Queen had watched it,” Matt Smith told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on the Today Show. “And she used to watch it on a projector on Sunday night, apparently.”
However the actor said he knew that “Philip definitely didn’t” after a friend asked the late royal during a dinner party if he had watched the show. “Don’t be ridiculous,” the Duke Of Edinburgh apparently replied.
Royal commentator George Jobson made the same claim during the ABC broadcast of the Queen’s Elizabeth’s funeral coverage.
22. Camilla joked about The Crown when she met Dominic West
Prince Harry isn’t the only one to have addressed an actor from the crown with their on screen names. Dominic West told Radio Times that when the now Queen Consort met him at a party in 2021, she jokingly called him “Your Majesty”, seemingly in a nod of approval at the casting.
23. Paul Bettany was almost cast as Prince Philip for Seasons 3 and 4
The Avengers star was reportedly nearing a deal to replace Matt Smith as Prince Philip back in 2018. However, just days after the news emerged, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that sources said the actor had a scheduling conflict and was no longer able to take over the role.
24. The first language of the new Prince Harry actor is Welsh
14-year-old Fflyn Edwards, who plays a young Prince Harry in the final season of The Crown, experienced a bigger learning curve on set than most – having to speak English all day. The young actor is from Carmarthenshire and his first language is Welsh.
“Talking in English for a long time does make me miss the language, and speaking to someone [in Welsh] does feel like home,” he told the BBC.
The Crown season six part one is streaming on Netflix now, with part two dropping on 14 December.