How similar do the new cast of The Crown look to their real-life characters?

Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter and Tobias Menzies are taking over for The Crown season three. Here's how they compare to the people they play...

The crown comparison

In a bold move, Netflix’s The Crown has said goodbye to its entire cast and brought in a brand-new set of actors for season three and season four – including Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II and Helena Bonham Carter as her sister Princess Margaret.

Advertisement

So who is in the cast of The Crown season three, and where have we seen them before? And how similar do they look to the real-life royals at the time the drama is set? Let’s take a closer look…


Olivia Colman plays Queen Elizabeth

The Crown: Olivia Colman and Queen Elizabeth II

The Crown’s costume designers probably modelled Olivia Colman’s debut royal outfit from this portrait of Elizabeth II in her office in 1970, titled “Royal Globetrotter”. Colman looks pretty convincing as the monarch, though her brown eyes differ from the Queen’s blue.

Who previously played Queen Elizabeth? The role was played by Claire Foy in seasons one and two.


Tobias Menzies plays Prince Philip

The Crown series three star Tobias Menzies side by side with Prince Philip (Getty/Netflix)

Netflix revealed its first look at new actor Tobias Menzies in costume as Prince Philip at the end of August 2018. The picture of the real Prince Philip on the left was taken during a formal event in Malta in 1967, which falls right in the time frame for series three. The outfit is spot-on!

Who previously played Prince Philip? The role was played by Matt Smith in seasons one and two.


Josh O’Connor plays Prince Charles

The Crown - Josh O'Connor and Prince Charles

When it was announced he was joining the Netflix biopic, O’Connor joked that he did have the “right ears” for the role. However, he has since told RadioTimes.com that this is where the similarities end. “The ears is where it stops, really,” he explained. “Hopefully I’m not too similar to him. I’m playing a character, I’m not playing real life Prince Charles and hopefully bringing something else to a role in a drama rather than replicating the real man.”

Who previously played Prince Philip? The last time we saw Prince Charles he was only a kid, played first by the child actor Billy Jenkins and then (towards the end of season two) by Julian Baring.


Emerald Fennell plays Camilla Parker Bowles

Camilla and Emerald Fennell The Crown

With completely different face shapes and lips, there aren’t many physical similarities between Call the Midwife’s Emerald Fennell and Prince Charles’s love interest (and later second wife) Camilla. But perhaps there’s something in the eyes?


Marion Bailey plays the Queen Mother

The Crown - Marion Bailey and the Queen Mother

The Queen Mother was born in 1900 when Victoria was still on the throne. Here she is at the age of 66, to Marion Bailey’s 67 – and looking at their photographs next to each other, you can see why they cast her.

Who previously played the Queen Mother? In seasons one and two, the role was played by Victoria Hamilton.


Helena Bonham Carter plays Princess Margaret

The Crown: Princess Margaret and Helena Bonham Carter

In most photographs from this era Princess Margaret can be seen smiling – but who knows what kind of haughty glares she gave behind closed doors, as we see in this first image of Helena Bonham Carter. Certainly the Queen’s sister loved her eyeliner and lipstick – and a bit of bling.

Who previously played Princess Margaret? The role was previously played by Vanessa Kirby.


Ben Daniels plays Tony Armstrong-Jones

Lord Snowdon and Ben Daniels in The Crown

Princess Margaret’s husband Tony (aka Lord Snowdon) was a society photographer – and a bit of a rogue. With his piercing blue eyes, you can see why The Crown’s casting director chose Ben Daniels.

Who previously played Princess Margaret’s husband? Matthew Goode joined the cast when Antony Armstrong-Jones made his debut in season two.


Gillian Anderson plays Margaret Thatcher

Gillian Anderson plays Margaret Thatcher in The Crown

Margaret Thatcher was elected as a Conservative MP in 1959, and in the sixties and seventies she climbed the ranks of the party, becoming Education Secretary and then Leader of the Opposition. Finally, in 1979, she achieved her ultimate ambition: she was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Thatcher remained PM until her downfall in 1990.

In September 2019, Netflix finally confirmed the open secret that Gillian Anderson would be playing Margaret Thatcher. The actress said she was “so excited” to have the opportunity to play “such a complicated and controversial woman,” adding: “Thatcher was undoubtedly formidable but I am relishing exploring beneath the surface and, dare I say, falling in love with the icon who, whether loved or despised, defined an era.”

What else has Gillian Anderson been in? The American-English actress has starred as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully in The X Files, DSU Stella Gibson in The Fall, and Jean Milburn in Netflix’s Sex Education. Some of her many, many screen credits include War & Peace, American Gods, Hannibal, Viceroy’s House, and Bleak House.


Jason Watkins plays Harold Wilson

Jason Watkins plays Harold Wilson in The Crown

Margaret Thatcher may be set to dominate The Crown season four, but before that we’ll see plenty of Labour’s Harold Wilson in season three. Wilson was Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970, and then – after losing the General Election to Edward Heath’s Conservatives – he returned as PM from 1974 to 1976.


Erin Doherty plays Princess Anne

Erin Doherty plays Princess Anne in The Crown

Also known as “Anne, Princess Royal”, Queen Elizabeth’s second child (and only daughter) was born in 1950 and left school in 1968. Five years later she married fellow horse-enthusiast Mark Phillips and had two kids, but they later separated and eventually divorced.

Who previously played Princess Anne? The role was played in season two by child actress Lyla Barrett-Rye.


Emma Corrin plays Diana Spencer

Emma Corrin plays Diana in The Crown

Prince Charles briefly met his future wife Diana until 1977. In 1980 she emerged as a marriage prospect, and they became engaged in 1981 after a brief courtship.

What else has Emma Corrin been in? Emma Corrin played Esmé in the TV series Pennyworth, and appeared in series four of Grantchester.

Advertisement

Will Princess Diana appear in season three? No – it doesn’t look like she’ll be making her debut until season four.