'The Crown': 12 of the Show's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations

10:11 AM 8/28/2017

by Sydney Odman

The Emmy-nominated series tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II's ascent to the throne and the romance, political rivalries and historical events of her early days as a British monarch.

From left: Queen Elizabeth II, Claire Foy, Prince Philip and Matt Smith
From left: Queen Elizabeth II, Claire Foy, Prince Philip and Matt Smith
Courtesy of Netflix (Stills); Getty Images (Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip)

Netflix achieved yet another critical success with period drama The Crown, a biographical story of Queen Elizabeth II as she abruptly ascends to the throne, following the death of her father King George VI. Inspired by the 2013 West End play The Audience, the show depicts the romance, political rivalries and historical events of Elizabeth's early days as a British monarch. 

Created by Peter Morgan, the show received two Golden Globe Awards in 2016, for best drama series and best actress in a drama series (Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II). With 13 nominations at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards in September, The Crown continues its reign of critical success, as audiences await the show's second season, set to be released Dec. 8.

In the upcoming season, the royals are to be joined by President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy, played by Michael C. Hall and Jodi Balfour, respectively. Season 2 will kick off with soldiers in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces fighting an illegal war in Egypt, and will end with the downfall of her third prime minister, Harold Macmillan.

Read on to learn more about the cast of The Crown and the influential figures they portray. 

  • Queen Elizabeth II, portrayed by Claire Foy

    Queen Elizabeth II and Claire Foy
    Queen Elizabeth II and Claire Foy
    Left, Anward Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    The Crown traces the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) as she grapples with her newfound royal responsibilities. The series begins in 1947 at the wedding of then-Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Matt Smith). As a result of her father's death, Elizabeth soon ascends the throne at just 25 years old.

    Today, Queen Elizabeth II is currently the longest-lived monarch in the history of Great Britain, at 91 years old. 

    In 2016, Claire Foy won the Golden Globe for best actress in a television series drama for her performance on the show. The actress is also currently nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama series at this year's Emmy Awards.

    After The Crown's second season, Foy will not be returning to reprise her role as the Queen. "It’s in the nature of the role that it will keep reincarnating and that that story will keep being told," Foy told The Hollywood Reporter. "I can’t wait to watch it, and I just think whoever they get to play that part, they’ll be extraordinary because they’re an extraordinary team."

     

     

  • Prince Philip, portrayed by Matt Smith

    Prince Philip and Matt Smith
    Prince Philip and Matt Smith
    Left, Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Born of Greek and Danish royal descent, Philip Mountbatten joined the British Royal Navy in 1939. That same year, the young Mountbatten met Elizabeth, the young daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The two fell in love and wrote letters to each other over the years. At their wedding in 1947, Philip Mountbatten officially became Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

    Played by Doctor Who's Matt Smith, Philip is ultimately the one who breaks the news of King George VI's death to Elizabeth in the second episode of the show's first season. 

    Together, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth share four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. 

  • Princess Margaret, portrayed by Vanessa Kirby

    Princess Margaret and Vanessa Kirby
    Princess Margaret and Vanessa Kirby
    Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Vanessa Kirby plays the vivacious Princess Margaret, the younger sister to Queen Elizabeth II. Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowden, is a somewhat controversial character in her family's history, with a proclivity for parties, dancing and entertainment.

    Throughout her young life, she was reportedly involved in a variety of extramarital affairs, including one with Peter Townsend (Greg Wise), with whom she is later expected to marry. However, Margaret ultimately declines Townsend's proposal, as the Church of England refused to countenance a royal marriage to a divorced man. 

    In the upcoming season, Princess Margaret is set to encounter her future husband Antony Armstrong Jones, to be portrayed by Matthew Goode. 

  • Queen Mary, portrayed by Eileen Atkins

    Queen Mary and Eileen Atkins
    Queen Mary and Eileen Atkins
    Left, A.P. Photo; Right, Getty Images

    Eileen Atkins plays Queen Mary, the mother of the late King George VI and grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II. 

    In the debate of whether the royal house was to remain as House of Windsor or take on Prince Philip's surname Mountbatten, Queen Mary was an advocate of sticking with Windsor.

    Queen Mary died in 1953, not long after her granddaughter had taken the throne. 

  • Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, portrayed by Victoria Hamilton

    The Queen Mother and Victoria Hamilton
    The Queen Mother and Victoria Hamilton
    Left, Getty Images; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to avoid being confused with her daughter, The Queen Mother is the wife of King George VI. Throughout her husband's reluctant but devoted reign as the British monarch, The Queen Mother is fiercely supportive of King George VI leading all the way up to his last days. 

    Although she initially turned down Prince Albert's (later to become King George VI) proposal, Elizabeth eventually accepted, thus becoming the Duchess of York.

    The Queen Mother, portrayed by Victoria Hamilton, lived to be an impressive 101 years old and is regarded as one of the most popular members of the royal family. 

    In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Hamilton spoke of The Crown's second season, claiming "it will be as wonderful as the first, if not more wonderful."

  • Winston Churchill, portrayed by John Lithgow

    Winston Churchill and John Lithgow
    Winston Churchill and John Lithgow
    Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Award-winning actor John Lithgow plays Prime Minister Wintson Churchill. Nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series at this year's Emmy Awards, Lithgow has been praised for his portrayal of the British politician. The American actor fully devoted himself to the character, donning a fat suit and a gruff English accent. Lithgow even went as far as to stuff cotton balls into his nostrils in order to achieve Churchill's distinct voice. 

    Churchill served as the Prime Minister under King George VI, and again under Queen Elizabeth II. The Crown explores Churchill's relationship with the young queen, both on a political and personal level.  

    "Churchill’s relationship with the queen follows a beautiful trajectory all tracked in these wonderful audience scenes," Lithgow told to The Telegraph. "She’s this completely untutored queen who, arguably because of his instructions, gradually realizes her role and sense of her own power, eventually coming to overrule and discipline him."

  • Edward, Duke of Windsor, portrayed by Alex Jennings

    Edward VIII and Alex Jennings
    Edward VIII and Alex Jennings
    Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Upon the death of his father, the heir apparent Prince Edward (Alex Jennings) succeeded the throne in what would become one of the shortest reigns of a British monarch in royal history. Only months into his kingship, Edward fell in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée whom he wished to marry despite the disapproval of the Church of England. As a result, Edward elected to abdicate the throne to his younger brother, Prince Albert (later King George VI), thereby altering the order of succession.

    The Duke of Windsor's abdication is briefly explored in The Crown through a series of flashbacks. 

    Alex Jennings previously portrayed another member of the royal family, Prince Charles, in Stephen Frears' The Queen, as well as King Leopold in television series Victoria. 

  • Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, portrayed by Lia Williams

    Wallis Simpson and Lia Williams
    Wallis Simpson and Lia Williams
    Left, A.P. Photo; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    After two divorces, American socialite Wallis Simpson married Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor. Played by Lia Williams, Simpson's relationship with Edward ultimately results in his abdication of the throne.

    The English actress bears a striking resemblance to her real-life counterpart on the show. 

  • King George VI, portrayed by Jared Harris

    King George VI and Jared Harris
    King George VI and Jared Harris
    Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Despite the fact that he was never intended to wear the crown, Elizabeth II's father, King George VI (Jared Harris), succeeded the British throne following the abdication of his older brother. Previously known as Prince Albert, or Bertie, King George VI was initially quite reluctant to take on a role he never expected. 

    Although his character dies in the second episode of the first season, Harris appears as King George VI in a variety of flashbacks later on in the show.

    In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, the actor claimed that "most of what I knew of George VI was from watching The King's Speech," in reference to Colin Firth's Academy Award-winning portrayal of the king. 

  • Anthony Eden, portrayed by Jeremy Northam

    Anthony Eden and Jeremy Northam
    Anthony Eden and Jeremy Northam
    Left, Putnam/A.P. Photo; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Jeremy Northam plays Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary and successor to Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. As foreign secretary, Eden was heavily involved in negotiations of the Suez Crisis. 

    On the show, the politician is also portrayed as being vehemently against Princess Margaret's proposed marriage to Group Captain Peter Townsend. 

  • Peter Townsend, portrayed by Ben Miles

    Peter Townsend and Ben Miles
    Peter Townsend and Ben Miles
    Left, Getty Images; Right, Photofest

    Group Captain Peter Townsend, played by Ben Miles, was a Royal Air Force officer who also served as Equerry to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. Townsend is known for his romantic relationship with Princess Margaret. The two wished to marry, but as Townsend was previously divorced, the Church of England severely disapproved and the engagement was called off. 

    The Crown depicts the heartbreaking split between the two characters, as Margaret is forced to choose between her royal duty and love. 

  • Louis Mountbatten, portrayed by Greg Wise

    Lord Mountbatten and Greg Wise
    Lord Mountbatten and Greg Wise
    Left, Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images; Right, courtesy of Netflix

    Known for playing John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, Greg Wise portrays Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip's uncle. The ambitious British naval officer was the last Viceroy of India under the reign of King Edward VI. 

    When Prince Philip marries Queen Elizabeth II, Mountbatten pushes for the royal house to be changed from Windsor to Mountbatten in order to improve the status of his family name. 

comments powered by Disqus