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The Crown is the much talked about big-budget drama focusing on the British Royal Family and the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It is a historical television drama but loosely based on fact and was principally written by Peter Morgan and produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix. Peter Morgan originally developed The Crown from his drama film The Queen which debuted in 2006 and later his stage play The Audience in 2013.
If you haven’t got round to watching The Crown just yet, here is a quick synopsis for you to get you up to speed…
The first season covers the period from Elizabeth’s marriage to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 to the proposed engagement of Princess Margaret and divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend in 1955.
The second series covers the period from the Suez crisis in 1956 toPrime Minister Harold Macmillan‘s retirement in 1963.
Series Three of The Crown spans from 1964 to 1977 and includes Harold Wilson’s two periods as Prime Minister and introduces Camilla.
Season Four is one of the most talked about and looks at the events in the Royal Family from 1979 to 1990 with Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and Prince Charles’ marriage to Lady Diana Spencer.
The fifth season spans from 1991 to 1997 and includes John Major as well as the breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage.
The sixth season will focus on Princess Diana’s tragic death and the importance of the monarchy at the end of the 20th century.
After two seasons, new actors fill the roles to reflect the new eras and ageing of the real people being portrayed. Claire Foy and Matt Smith play Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh in the first two seasons and are often remarked upon as the strongest portrayals. Later, critics favourite Olivia Colman takes over the role of Queen Elizabeth II with Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip. Gillian Anderson stars as Margaret Thatcher and Helena Bonham Carter joins the cast as Princess Margaret for the fourth season. Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce fill the roles of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in the last two seasons with Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki playing Charles and Diana.
Season One of The Crown was released on Netflix on the 4th of November 2016 and the fifth season premiered on the 9th of November 2022.
1. The Crown Is One Of The Most Expensive TV Series Ever Made
As of 2020, the estimated budget of The Crown has been reported to be US$260 million which makes it one of the most expensive TV shows to ever be produced. In comparison the Get Down released by Netflix in 2016 cost around £120 million to produce.
2. There Have Been Calls For Disclaimers To Be Displayed In Each Episode
The Crown has been a big hit with audiences and critics for its detail, accuracy and cinematography but the main praise is given to the actors portraying very well-known and demanding roles. The Crown has received some criticism for its latest seasons which depicted the tumultuous relationship between Charles and Diana as well as the inclusion of Camilla and possible overlapping of their relationships. Some critics and Hollywood veterans including Judi Dench have asked for a clear disclaimer to be shown at the start of every episode of The Crown stating that the events being shown are entirely fiction. Many have been concerned about the public understanding of The Crown in terms of what is fact and what is fiction especially after Queen Elizabeth II’s passing and the beginning of King Charles III’s reign.
3. The Crown Has Been Nominated For 63 Primetime Emmys So Far
The Crown has received so far a total of 63 Primetime Emmy award nominations for its first four seasons winning 21 of those and it has also won twice the Golden Globe award for Best Television Series - Drama at the 74th and 78th ceremonies.
4. Creator Peter Morgan Also Wrote The Queen Starring Helen Mirren
It was announced that Netflix was to adapt the stage play The Audience into a TV series in November 2014 with Peter Morgan being the main script writer for The Crown after he wrote the play and the 2006 film the Queen starring Helen Mirren. The first 10 part season was the most expensive drama to ever be produced by Netflix and Left Bank Pictures costing at least £100 million. A second season was then commissioned with the intention of having a total of 60 episodes over six seasons.
5. Peter Morgan Originally Wanted To Stop At Season 5
According to Variety, in January 2020 Peter Morgan suggested that perhaps season five was the perfect time and place to stop The Crown however in July 2020 it was announced that it would carry on for a sixth season as originally intended. Morgan said that the storyline being discussed for season five could not be contained into just one season and having a six would allow them to cover the same period in greater detail.
6. Claire Foy Won An Emmy For Her Short Appearance In Season 4
Claire Foy had entered negotiations to play Queen Elizabeth II in November 2014 when the series was announced. Later in 2015 John Lithgow was cast as Winston Churchill alongside Matt Smith as Prince Philip. Claire Foy has since reprised her role in Season Four and Season Five and for her appearance in the episode “48:1” in Season Four, she won an Emmy.
7. Claire Foy Was Paid Less For The Crown Than Matt Smith
Left Bank Pictures stated that Matt Smith was paid more for his appearance on the first two seasons of The Crown than Claire Foy despite her role being the lead. According to Variety, this was because he was more well known for playing Doctor Who. Variety later reported that this led to a gender pay gap controversy including the creation of a petition which asked Matt Smith to donate the difference between his and Foy’s salary to the Times Up Legal Defence Fund. Left Bank Producers apologised to both Claire Foy and Matt Smith for putting them through a media storm through no fault of their own and that going forward no actor would be paid more than the actor portraying Queen Elizabeth II.
Despite rumours, Harpers Bazaar have since reported that Claire Foy has not received back pay to bring her salary up to the same as Matt Smith’s.
8. Filming For The Crown Has Taken Place Across The UK
Filming for The Crown mainly takes place at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire but has been supported by location shoots all over the United Kingdom and the World. It is said that about 25% of the first season was filmed at Elstree and the full season took 152 days to shoot. Sets were built for the interior of a private jet, private quarters, the cabinet room and the exterior of 10 Downing Street at Elstree Studios.
Other historic locations across the UK have been used including Lancaster House, Wrotham Park, and Wilton House as doubles for Buckingham Palace. Ely Cathedral in Cambridge and Winchester Cathedral have acted as standings for Westminster Abbey.
Other locations used have been the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Southwark Cathedral, Balmoral Castle, Lyceum Theatre, Allesley Park and The Great Central Railway.
9. Each Episode Took 22 Days To Film And Cost Around £5 Million
Filming for the second season began in October 2016 and each episode of the first two seasons will take around 22 days to shoot each costing about £5 million. The third season began filming in July 2018 concluding in February 2019. The fourth season began filming in August 2019 and finished in March 2020. The fifth season began filming in July 2021.
10. Props Used On The Crown Were Stolen In 2022
On the 16th February 2022, some items that had been previously used in the series production were stolen from three vehicles. They have been described as not valuable in terms of resale but they are valuable pieces to the UK film industry.
11. Production Of The Crown Shut Down Out Of Respect For Queen Elizabeth II
Peter Morgan did briefly shut down the production of season 6 of The Crown following the death of Queen Elizabeth II out of respect.
Later in October 2022, it was reported that the events just before and right after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales would be filmed for Season Six.
12. George VI’s Surgical Model Is Now Used For Training Purposes
Viewers may remember the surgical scene where King George VI had a lung removed. This was originally performed by Sir Clement Price Thomas but was researched and planned for The Crown by Pankaj Chandak who is a specialist in transplant surgery at Guy's Hospital in London. Chandak and his team actually starred in the surgical scene in The Crown and the model used for King George VI was donated to the Gordon Museum of Pathology in King's College London to help train future surgeons.
13. There May Be A Prequel To The Crown
It was reported in April 2020 that Netflix and Left Bank Pictures were in conversation about a prequel to The Crown. This prequel is believed to start with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and end around the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II in 1947. The series will also reportedly cover the future Kings that ruled during that period being Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI.
14. The Door Of Number 10 Had To Be Made Larger For John Lithgow
During Season One and Two of The Crown, the black door of 10 Downing Street had to be made larger in scale so that John Lithgow who is 6ft 4'' in height would not look significantly taller than the real Winston Churchill who was around 5 ft 6’’ at the time.
15. Helena Bonham Carter’s Uncle Dated Princess Margaret
Helena Bonham Carter plays Princess Margaret in Season Three and Four of The Crown. Coincidentally her uncle Mark Bonham Carter briefly dated the real Princess Margaret.
16. Cast Members Worked With A Dialect Coach To Achieve Correct Pronunciation
For the role of Winston Churchill, John Lithgow worked with a dialect coach who also had to coach the British cast members due to subtle changes in the English accent over the decades. Lithgow reportedly stuffed cotton wool into his nose to capture the nasal tone of Churchill!
William Conacher, the dialect coach, also tutored Dame Helen Mirren for her appearance in the 2013 play The Audience where she also played Queen Elizabeth II. It was reported that both Claire Foy and Matt Smith struggled with some words in this older English pronunciation. Claire Foy particularly struggled with the word “thank you” and Matt Smith had difficulty with the word “was”.
17. The Crew Tried Blue Contact Lenses For Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II had blue eyes and so did Claire Foy. Olivia Colman however does not and she tested with blue contact lenses but it was decided that it negatively affected her performance and took away from what was being shown on screen. The producers decided to accept the continuity error and keep Queen Elizabeth II with brown eyes.
18. Claire Foy’s Coronation Dress Was Commissioned By Harrods For Their Window
The coronation dress worn by Claire Foy in The Crown is a replica that was originally commissioned by Harrods for a celebratory window display in 2012 for the Queen's Jubilee. It was made and is owned by Angel Costumes and the producers hired many costumes from the company during the series. Despite this dress being made to the size of a mannequin, Claire Foy seemed to fit it perfectly and was the first person ever to wear it.
19. Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby Have The Correct Age Gap
In real life Claire Foy is four years older than Vanessa Kirby, who played her on-screen sister Princess Margaret. This is the same age difference as the real Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.
20. Tabloids Reported Queen Elizabeth II Watched The Crown But We’re Unconvinced
British tabloid newspapers reported in 2017 that Queen Elizabeth II had watched the series after her son Prince Edward recommended it. Reportedly she really enjoyed what she saw despite the obvious deviations from the truth but the production team and Claire Foy have remained sceptical of these rumours.
21. Claire Foy Was Breastfeeding When She Played Queen Elizabeth II In Season One
Before starting in The Crown, Claire Foy was five months pregnant and never thought she had a chance of securing the role of Queen Elizabeth II. She was still breastfeeding her baby when production of the first season went ahead.
22. Alex Jennings Previously Played Prince Charles
Alex Jennings plays the Duke of Windsor who abdicated the throne but he has also previously starred as King Charles III, the then Prince of Wales, in The Queen in 2006. Both of these were projects written by Peter Morgan.
23. The Crown Could Not Use Anthony Armstrong Jones’ Real Photographs
Due to intellectual property rights, The Crown could not use the real photographs taken by Anthony Armstrong Jones Snowden so photographer Julian Broad was asked to create images in the spirit of his work to be shown in some scenes such as at the exhibition opening. Broad had previously worked as an assistant to the real Armstrong Jones for two years during the 1980s.
24. Fans Wanted To See Princess Anne’s Kidnap Attempt
There has been disappointment and confusion as to why the now iconic kidnapping attempt on Princess Anne and her husband Captain Mark Phillips was omitted from The Crown. Princess Anne is documented in saying to the kidnappers “not bloody likely!“ And many fans of the Royals wanted to see this moment recreated on screen.
25. Paul Bettany Was In The Running To Play Prince Philip
Before Tobias Menzies starred as Prince Philip in Season Three and Four of The Crown, Paul Bettany was in talks to play the role however he withdrew due to problems with scheduling.
26. The First Episodes Of The Crown Were Released In Cinemas
On the 1st November 2016, the first two episodes of The Crown were released in cinemas in the UK.
27. Colman And Bonham Carter Have Both Played Queen Elizabeth The Mother
Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Elizabeth II in Season Three and Four, and Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret in the same seasons have both previously played the Queen Mother. Olivia Colman played the Queen Mother in Hyde Park on Hudson in 2012 and Helena Bonham Carter played her in the King's Speech in 2010.
28. The Crown Has A Connection To Albus Dumbledore
In The Crown, King George VI is played by Jared Harris. King George V was played by Michael Gambon in the King's Speech in 2010. Jared Harris’ father is Richard Harris who played Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone before he passed away. The character of Dumbledore was taken over by Michael Gambon after Richard Harris died.
29. Charlie Chaplin’s Daughter Plays Wallis Simpson
Wallis Simpson is played by Geraldine Chaplin in The Crown who is the daughter of acting great Charlie Chaplin. Her daughter is Oona Chaplin and she starred in Game of Thrones as Talisa Maegyr alongside Toby Menzies who is Prince Philip in The Crown.
30. Two Out Of Three Queens Have Starred Alongside Matt Smith In Dr Who
Claire Foy is the only actor to play Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown to not appear in Doctor Who with Matt Smith. Olivia Colman appeared in Matt Smith’s first full episode as the doctor The 11th Hour and Imelda Staunton appeared in an episode of season six called The Woman Who Waited.
31. Queen Elizabeth II Found A Way For Margaret To Marry Peter
In The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II is portrayed as opposing Princess Margaret‘s marriage to Group Captain Peter Townsend as he was a divorcee. Papers in the National Archives, which were made public in 2004, actually show Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden had an agreement to allow the marriage to go ahead as long as Princess Margaret renounced her right and that of her children to the throne. Margaret announced three days after the agreement had been finalised that she would not marry Peter Townsend after all.
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