The Crown (TV series)
The Crown is a historical drama web television series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, created and principally written by Peter Morgan, and produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix. It grew out of Morgan's film The Queen and his stage play The Audience, and is credited as based on the latter. The first season covers the period from Queen Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's marriage in 1947 to the disintegration of her sister Princess Margaret's engagement to Group Captain Peter Townsend in 1955. The second season covers the period from the Suez Crisis in 1956 to the retirement of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963 and the birth of Prince Edward in 1964. The third season spans the period between 1964 and 1977, including Harold Wilson's two periods as prime minister, and introduces Camilla Shand. The fourth will include Margaret Thatcher's premiership and introduce Lady Diana Spencer. The fifth and sixth seasons, which will close the series, will cover the Queen's reign into the 21st century.
New actors are being cast every two seasons. Claire Foy portrays the Queen in the first two seasons, alongside Matt Smith as Prince Philip and Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret. For the third and fourth seasons, Olivia Colman takes over as the Queen, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville will succeed Colman and Bonham Carter, respectively, for the final two seasons. Filming for the series takes place at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, with location shooting throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The first season was released on Netflix on November 4, 2016, the second on December 8, 2017, and the third on November 17, 2019. The fourth season is scheduled to be released in late 2020 and the fifth season is scheduled to be released in 2022.
The Crown was praised for its writing, acting, directing, cinematography, production values, and relatively accurate historical account of Queen Elizabeth's reign. It received accolades at the 23rd Screen Actors Guild Awards, won Best Actress for Foy in the lead role and Best Actor for John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, and has secured a total of 39 nominations for its first three seasons at the Primetime Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Drama Series. The series was nominated for Best Drama TV Series at the 77th Golden Globe Awards.
PremiseThe Crown traces the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding in 1947, to Philip Mountbatten, until the early 21st century. Claire Foy portrays Elizabeth in seasons one and two, and Olivia Colman in seasons three and four. Foy is set for a cameo in a flashback scene in the fourth season. Imelda Staunton will portray the Queen in the fifth and sixth season.
The first season depicts events up to 1955, with Winston Churchill resigning as prime minister and the Queen's sister Princess Margaret deciding not to marry Peter Townsend. The second season covers the Suez Crisis in 1956 leading to the retirement of Prime Minister Anthony Eden, the retirement of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963 following the Profumo affair political scandal, and the birth of Prince Edward in 1964. The third season covers 1964 to 1977, beginning with Harold Wilson's election as prime minister and ending with her Silver Jubilee, also covering Edward Heath's time as prime minister. The third season also introduces Camilla Shand. The fourth season will be set during Margaret Thatcher's premiership and will feature Lady Diana Spencer, and introduce Prince William and Prince Harry. Events depicted include Michael Fagan's break-in to Buckingham Palace, Princess Diana's appearance at the Barnado's Champion Children Awards and her 1989 flight on Concorde. The fifth and sixth seasons will cover the Queen's reign into the early years of the 21st century.
Cast and characters
- Claire Foy and Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II
- Matt Smith and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
- Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
- Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary
- Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden
- Victoria Hamilton and Marion Bailey as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
- Ben Miles as Group Captain Peter Townsend
- Greg Wise and Charles Dance as Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma
- Jared Harris as King George VI
- John Lithgow as Winston Churchill
- Alex Jennings and Derek Jacobi as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor
- Lia Williams and Geraldine Chaplin as Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
- Anton Lesser as Harold Macmillan
- Matthew Goode and Ben Daniels as Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon
- Jason Watkins as Harold Wilson
- Erin Doherty as Princess Anne
- Jane Lapotaire as Princess Alice of Battenberg
- Josh O'Connor as Charles, Prince of Wales
- Michael Maloney as Edward Heath
- Emerald Fennell as Camilla Shand
- Andrew Buchan as Andrew Parker Bowles
- Stephen Dillane as Graham Sutherland, a noted artist who paints a portrait of the ageing Churchill
- Gemma Whelan as Patricia Campbell, a secretary who works with Lord Altrincham and types up his editorial
- John Heffernan as Lord Altrincham, a writer who penned a scathing criticism of the Queen
- Paul Sparks as Billy Graham, a prominent American preacher with whom Elizabeth consults
- Michael C. Hall as John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States who visits the Queen
- Jodi Balfour as Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady of the United States
- Burghart Klaußner as Dr. Kurt Hahn, the founder of Gordonstoun, where Philip and Charles went to school
- Finn Elliot as school-aged Prince Philip
- Julian Baring as school-aged Prince Charles
- Clancy Brown as Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States
- Mark Lewis Jones as Edward Millward
- Tim McMullan as Robin Woods
- Harry Treadaway as Roddy Llewellyn
- Billy Jenkins as young Prince Charles
- Grace and Amelia Gilmour as young Princess Anne
- Clive Francis as Lord Salisbury
- Pip Torrens as Tommy Lascelles
- Harry Hadden-Paton and Charles Edwards as Martin Charteris
- Daniel Ings as Mike Parker
- Lizzy McInnerny as Margaret "Bobo" MacDonald
- Michael Bertenshaw as the Master of the Household
- Patrick Ryecart as the Duke of Norfolk
- Will Keen and David Rintoul as Michael Adeane
- James Laurenson as Doctor Weir
- Mark Tandy as Cecil Beaton
- Rosalind Knight and Sophie Leigh Stone as Princess Alice of Battenberg, Philip's mother
- Andy Sanderson and Michael Thomas as Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, Elizabeth's uncle
- Michael Culkin as Rab Butler
- George Asprey as Walter Monckton
- Verity Russell as young Princess Elizabeth
- Beau Gadsdon as young Princess Margaret
- James Hillier and Sam Phillips as the Queen's equerry
- Anna Madeley as Clarissa Eden
- Nick Hendrix and Tom Durant-Pritchard as Billy Wallace
- Josh Taylor as Johnny Dalkeith
- David Shields, Pip Carter and Richard Teverson as Colin Tennant
- Julius D'Silva as Baron Nahum
- Jo Herbert as Mary Charteris
- Richard Clifford as Norman Hartnell
- Joseph Kloska and John Hollingworth as Porchey
- Amir Boutrous as Gamal Abdel Nasser
- Abigail Parmenter as Judy Montagu
- Leonie Benesch as Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark
- Harriet Walter as Clementine Churchill
- Nicholas Rowe as Jock Colville
- Simon Chandler as Clement Attlee
- Kate Phillips as Venetia Scott
- Ronald Pickup as the Archbishop of Canterbury
- Nigel Cooke as Harry Crookshank
- Patrick Drury as the Lord Chamberlain
- John Woodvine as the Archbishop of York
- Jo Stone-Fewings as Collins
- Tony Guilfoyle as the Bishop of Durham
- Paul Thornley as Bill Mattheson
- Chloe Pirrie as Eileen Parker
- Nicholas Burns as Anthony Nutting
- Lucy Russell as Lady Mountbatten
- Richard Elfyn as Selwyn Lloyd
- Adrian Lukis as Vice-Admiral Sir Conolly Abel Smith
- Guy Williams as Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
- Simon Paisley Day as Meryn Lewis
- Sylvestra Le Touzel as Dorothy Macmillan
- Catherine Bailey as Elizabeth Cavendish
- Paul Clayton as Bob Boothby
- Yolanda Kettle as Camilla Fry
- Ed Cooper Clarke as Jeremy Fry
- Ryan Sampson as Dudley Moore
- Tim Steed as John Profumo
- Lyla Barrett-Rye as school-aged Princess Anne
- Robert Irons as Freddie Bishop
- Patrick Warner as Peter Cook
- Oliver Maltman as Jim Orr
- David Annen as Alec Douglas-Home
- Richard Lintern as Stephen Ward
- Penny Downie as Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
- Mark Dexter as Tony Benn, Labour politician
- Lorraine Ashbourne as Barbara Castle, Labour politician
- Aden Gillett as Richard Crossman
- Sinéad Matthews as Marcia Williams, Labour politician who served as Harold Wilson's private secretary
- David Charles as George Thomas
- Stuart McQuarrie as George Thomson, Baron Thomson of Monifieth
- Connie M'Gadzah as Sydney Johnson
Season 1 (2016)
Season 2 (2017)
Season 3 (2019)
DevelopmentIn November 2014, it was announced that Netflix was to adapt the 2013 stage play The Audience into a television series. Peter Morgan, who wrote the 2006 film The Queen and the play, is the main scriptwriter for The Crown. The directors of the television series who were also involved in the stage production are Stephen Daldry, Philip Martin, Julian Jarrold, and Benjamin Caron. The first 10-part season was the most expensive drama produced by Netflix and Left Bank Pictures to date, costing at least £100 million. A second season was commissioned, with the series intended to span 60 episodes over six seasons. By October 2017, "early production" had begun on an anticipated third and fourth season, and by the following January, Netflix confirmed the series had been renewed for a third and fourth season.
In January 2020, it was announced that the series had been renewed for a fifth and final season. Speaking to ending the series with five seasons, after it had been intended to last six, Morgan said while crafting the stories for season five, "it has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop"; Netflix and Sony supported Morgan's decision. However, in July 2020, Netflix announced that the series would receive a sixth season as originally intended. Morgan said that when the storylines were being discussed for season five, "it soon became clear that in order to do justice to the richness and complexity of the story we should go back to the original plan and do six seasons." He added that the final two seasons would still cover up to the early 21st century, enabling them "to cover the same period in greater detail."
CastingBy November 2014, Claire Foy had entered negotiations to portray Queen Elizabeth II in the series. By May 2015, Vanessa Kirby was in negotiations to portray Princess Margaret. In June 2015, John Lithgow was cast as Winston Churchill, and Matt Smith was cast as Prince Philip; Foy was confirmed as Queen Elizabeth II. Also starring in the first season were Victoria Hamilton, Jared Harris, and Eileen Atkins.
The Left Bank producers noted that Smith was paid more than Foy in the first two seasons, partially because of his Doctor Who fame. This information brought up discussion on the gender pay gap, including the creation of a petition asking Smith to donate the difference between his and Foy's salary to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. Left Bank later issued an apology to Foy and Smith for putting them "at the center of a media storm... through no fault of their own." Left Bank also clarified that they "are responsible for budgets and salaries; the actors are not aware of who gets what, and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues." They added that they support "the drive for gender equality in film and TV and eager to talk to the British Time’s Up campaign and already speaking to Era 50:50, a group campaigning for gender equality on screen and stage." Suzanne Mackie, Left Bank's creative director, did note that moving forward, no other actor would be paid more than the actress portraying the Queen. Regarding the controversy, Foy was "not in the sense that it was a female-led drama. I'm not surprised that people saw and went, 'Oh, that's a bit odd.' But I know that Matt feels the same that I do, that it's odd to find yourself at the center that you didn't particularly ask for." Smith noted that he supported Foy and was "pleased that it was resolved and made amends for it because that's what needed to happen." The Hollywood Reporter noted it was unclear what Smith was referring to as resolved, since Netflix and Left Bank had not commented on the matter further. Foy later described reports that she had received backpay to bring her salary up to parity as "not quite correct".
The producers recast the continuing roles with older actors every two seasons, as the timeline moves forward and the characters age. In October 2017, Olivia Colman was cast as Queen Elizabeth II for the third and fourth seasons. By January 2018, Helena Bonham Carter and Paul Bettany were in negotiations to portray Princess Margaret and Prince Philip, respectively, for these seasons. However, by the end of the month Bettany was forced to drop out due to the time commitment required. By the end of March 2018, Tobias Menzies was cast as Prince Philip for the third and fourth seasons. In early May 2018, Bonham Carter was confirmed to have been cast, alongside Jason Watkins as Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The next month, Ben Daniels was cast as Antony Armstrong-Jones for the third season, along with Erin Doherty joining the series as Princess Anne. A month later, Josh O'Connor and Marion Bailey were cast as Prince Charles and the Queen Mother, respectively, for the third and fourth seasons. In October 2018, Emerald Fennell was cast as Camilla Shand. In December 2018, Charles Dance was cast as Louis Mountbatten. In April 2019, Emma Corrin was cast as Lady Diana Spencer for the fourth season. Gillian Anderson, who had been rumoured since January 2019 to be in talks to portray Margaret Thatcher in the fourth season, was officially confirmed for the role in September 2019.
In January 2020, Imelda Staunton was announced as succeeding Colman as the Queen for the fifth and sixth seasons. In July 2020, Lesley Manville was announced as portraying Princess Margaret in the final two seasons.
FilmingAn estimated 25% of the first season was filmed at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, with the remainder filmed on location, altogether taking 152 days. Sets for private quarters, the interior of a private jet, the cabinet room, and the exterior of 10 Downing Street, were built at Elstree Studios, while Lancaster House, Wrotham Park and Wilton House were used to double as Buckingham Palace. Ely Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral stood in for Westminster Abbey, while locations in South Africa doubled as Kenya. Additional locations in the UK included Waddesdon Manor, Eltham Palace, the Royal Naval College, Goldsmiths' Hall, Shoreham Airport, New Slains Castle, Balmoral Castle, Cruden Bay, Lyceum Theatre, Loseley Park, Hatfield House, The Historic Dockyard Chatham, Southwark Cathedral, Ardverikie House, Englefield House, Wellington College, the Great Central Railway and the Glenfeshie Estate. Filming on the second season began in early October 2016. Each episode of the first two seasons would shoot for about 22 days, with each costing about to produce. The third season began filming in July 2018, and concluded in February 2019. The fourth season began filming in August 2019 and wrapped in March 2020. The fifth season is set to begin filming in June 2021, with season six filming in 2022. The year break in filming between the end of season four and the start of season five was built into the series's production schedule and was not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The re-enactment of the removal of the King's cancerous lung, originally performed by Sir Clement Price Thomas, was researched and planned by Pankaj Chandak, specialist in transplant surgery at Guy's Hospital, London. Chandak and his surgical team then became part of the actual scene filmed for the show. The surgical model of King George VI was donated to the Gordon Museum of Pathology for use as a teaching aid.
Historical accuracyThe show has been commended for its depiction of events, although it has occasionally faced criticism for excessive dramatisation and for some events that bear no relation to the historical evidence. Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal commented on the historical inaccuracy of the series, and argued for "more truth in art and entertainment".
The series has portrayed characters who had died prior to the events depicted, notably Baron Nahum who continued to be featured in the second season, but in reality had died by then. Prince William of Gloucester is logically present in the first season, but by the third season's depiction of the Queen's Silver Jubilee he had died five years earlier.
Season 1In reality there was no dispute over Michael Adeane being the natural successor to Tommy Lascelles as Private Secretary. Martin Charteris accordingly took the role in 1972.
Churchill's wife Clementine is depicted overseeing the burning of his portrait by Graham Sutherland shortly after his retirement. In reality it was destroyed by their private secretary Grace Hamblin's brother without her involvement.
Royal historian Hugo Vickers denied that Princess Margaret had acted as monarch whilst Queen Elizabeth was away on tour, and claimed that her speech at the ambassador's reception never happened. Martin Charteris was on tour with Queen Elizabeth and not in London during these events. The Queen Mother bought the Castle of Mey a year earlier than shown and often looked after Charles and Anne whilst Queen Elizabeth was away.
The show has been interpreted as perpetuating the idea that the Queen and Churchill forced Princess Margaret to give up her plan to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. In the series, the Queen tells her sister that, if she marries Townsend, she would no longer be a member of the family because of the Royal Marriages Act 1772. However, there is clear evidence that, in reality, efforts had been made to prevent any further delay of the marriage, which would have allowed Princess Margaret to keep her royal title and her civil list allowance, stay in the country, and continue with her public duties.
Season 2There is no evidence to suggest that Queen Elizabeth gave a speech at the Jaguar Cars factory, nor would she have met Lord Altrincham to discuss his article.
Vickers wrote that Queen Elizabeth did condemn the Duke of Windsor after she read the Marburg Files, but claimed that the series gave a false implication that the Duke was banished from the royal family upon publication. He remained in contact with his family, and his public appearances continued.
The depiction of the relationship with Jackie Kennedy has drawn criticism. Reports indicate that she had described Prince Philip as "nice but nervous" and overall there was no bond between them. The implication that Queen Elizabeth visited Ghana to compete with Jackie Kennedy's popularity was ridiculed by critics. Reviews of the episode noted that it ignored more significant events of the visit, such as Kennedy's sister Lee and her husband Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł's initial exclusion from the banquet invitation list given both were divorcees. Both were eventually invited, though Princess Margaret and Princess Marina did not attend, despite the Kennedys apparently wanting to meet them.
Gordonstoun School responded to its negative portrayal, claiming that Prince Charles's personal feedback to the school had been overwhelmingly positive. Royal historian Hugo Vickers said that the same episode inaccurately depicted Philip's sister's death in a plane crash as having arisen from his own misbehaviour at Gordonstoun: "It is beyond me how serious film-makers would wish to turn such a dreadful tragedy into a series of invented scenes bearing no relation to the truth."
Phil Owen of The Wrap saw dry comedy in Northam's portrayal of Prime Minister Anthony Eden, stating: "I'm assuming that creator Peter Morgan meant for it to be comedy. There's really no other explanation for why Jeremy Northam played Prime Minister Anthony Eden like he's having a nervous breakdown in every scene."
Season 3Queen Elizabeth did not visit Winston Churchill following his final stroke. Vickers claims that by then Churchill was senile and incapable of holding a conversation.
Sir Anthony Blunt's exposure as a Soviet spy has drawn criticism. Vickers noted that the episode did not mention that he was publicly exposed in 1979 and stripped of his knighthood, whilst also noting that he never resided at Buckingham Palace and ridiculing a scene in which he discusses his exposure with Prince Philip in an attempt to blackmail the royal family.
The depiction of the relationship with President Johnson has been criticised. It has been suggested that he did not refuse to attend Churchill's funeral, in response to Harold Wilson's refusal to support the Vietnam War, and that the president was genuinely unable to attend due to poor health. His disappointment with Wilson's views on Vietnam had developed much later. Historians also denied the episode's implication that no US president had ever been to Balmoral. Dwight D. Eisenhower had visited Balmoral whilst president in 1959. Critics noted that the episode did not mention that Johnson is the only president since Harry S. Truman never to have met the monarch. The implication that Johnson did not know who Princess Margaret was before her November 1965 visit to America was also criticised. Princess Margaret was at a White House dinner during that visit, but the details are mostly fictional.
The relationship with Princess Alice has also drawn criticism for Philip's depiction as being estranged from his mother and objecting to her visiting London. In fact he visited her regularly and often transported her by plane, and her depicted interview with a journalist from The Guardian never happened. Vickers also stated that the same episode ignored that Philip encouraged her to move to London permanently.
Prince Charles did visit the Duke of Windsor in Paris in 1972, however the depiction of letters concerning his affections for Camilla Shand was criticised; Charles and Camilla had met but were not intimately close during the Duke's lifetime. Queen Elizabeth did visit the Duke ten days before his death, but this had been long-planned and not requested at short notice. Wallis Simpson was not by the Duke's side at the time of his death.
The timeframe of Robin Woods's posting as Dean of Windsor around the time of the Apollo 11 spaceflight and lunar landing in July 1969 is inaccurate. He took the role in 1962.
It has been suggested that there wasn't any plot by the palace to prevent Charles and Camilla's marriage, with Camilla's love for Andrew Parker Bowles being genuine and Charles unable to decide. It has also been suggested that Princess Anne's relations with Andrew Parker Bowles did not overlap with Charles and Camilla's introduction. Reviews of the episode noted that it ignored more significant events, citing Anne's 1973 wedding to Captain Mark Phillips and her attempted kidnapping in 1974.
ReleaseThe series's first two episodes were released theatrically in the United Kingdom on November 1, 2016. The first season was released worldwide in its entirety on November 4, 2016. The second season was released on December 8, 2017. The third season was released on November 17, 2019. The fourth season will be released in late 2020. The fifth season is set be released in 2022.
Season 1 was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on October 16, 2017 and released worldwide on November 7, 2017. Season 2 was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on October 22, 2018 and was released worldwide on November 13, 2018.
Critical responseThe Crown has been praised as a drama by the press, being described by The Telegraph as "TV's best soap opera" and given a 5/5 rating, although some reviewers, such as in The Times, raised concerns that some of the episodes are based on false premises.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported 89% approval for the first season, based on 71 reviews with an average rating of 8.77/10. Its critical consensus reads, "Powerful performances and lavish cinematography make The Crown a top-notch production worthy of its grand subject." On Metacritic, the series holds a score of 81 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Rotten Tomatoes reported a 89% approval rating for the second season based on 83 reviews, with an average rating of 8.35/10. The website's critical consensus reads "The Crown continues its reign with a self-assured sophomore season that indulges in high drama and sumptuous costumes." On Metacritic, the second season holds a score of 87 out of 100, based on 27 critics, retaining the first season's indication of "universal acclaim".
Rotten Tomatoes reported a 90% approval rating for the third season based on 100 reviews, with an average rating of 8.54/10. Its critical consensus reads: "Olivia Colman shines, but as The Crown marches on in reliably luxurious fashion through time it finds space for the characters around her, providing ample opportunity for the appealing ensemble to gleam, too." On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 84 out of 100 based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".