How to watch The Crown – what’s it about and who’s in the cast?

Everything you need to know about Netflix's hit royal family drama, from the cast to filming locations

Claire Foy and Matt Smith in The Crown season 1 (Netflix, JG)

Tracing the life of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family over six decades, The Crown has been a hit with viewers worldwide. It’s no wonder the show has been so popular: its star-studded cast features Oscar winners and television stalwarts, the sets are a showcase of some of the UK’s grandest buildings, and plot points are as historically informative as they are dramatic.

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Here is everything you need to know about Netflix’s widely-acclaimed drama.

Where to watch The Crown

The Crown is a Netflix Original series which means you need to sign up to the streaming service to watch it. You can also purchase series one and two on DVD.

What is The Crown about?

Based on real events, The Crown follows Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding in 1947 onwards, with each series covering about a decade in history.

Series one finds Princess Elizabeth living abroad in Malta before returning to England to be with the ailing King George VI. Following the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, Elizabeth is poised to become a reluctant queen. The remainder of the series tracks Elizabeth’s rise to power, with the queen navigating newly-complicated relationships with Prime Minister Churchill, her sister Margaret, and her own husband, Prince Philip.

In series two, the queen is also forced to intervene in the Suez Crisis and manage numerous scandals involving her husband’s private secretary, her uncle, and the government. She also finds a like mind in US First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

While few details about series three have been released, we do know that the show will cover the moon landing.

How accurate is The Crown?

The Crown - young Prince Charles with the Queen Mother and Princess Anne

According to Royal Historian Robert Lacey in his piece for RadioTimes.com, “every single scene and character in the Netflix series is based on a solidly researched item of history, and you switched on to be entertained by a history drama, not a documentary. The rules of historical drama are different. What you see is both invented and true.”

For instance, a single character like Churchill’s secretary, Venetia, might be created to represent an amalgam of many of Churchill’s secretaries, with anecdotes borrowed from all of them.

Creator Peter Morgan said: “When you’re doing a drama based on real people, real events, you constantly have to ask yourself where you stand in truth and accuracy, and what the responsibility of that is.”

“The good news about the royal family and about prime ministers is everybody knows where they were and when on each particular day. There is no mystery about it at all. But I have to join the dots. That’s where the act of imagination comes in.”

In short, the series is based on historical events, but told with a healthy dose of dramatic license.

Where was The Crown filmed?

The Crown - Claire Foy, Vanessa Kirby - Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby ready to shoot
The Crown – Claire Foy, Vanessa Kirby – Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby ready to shoot

The series is filmed in some stunning locations all across the UK—though nothing is actually shot in Buckingham Palace!

London’s 19th century Lancaster House, around the corner from Buckingham Palace, is the primary filming location for the palace’s interiors and state room scenes. Palace exterior scenes are often filmed south of the Thames at Greenwich Naval College.

Many of the country’s finest homes and estates are used throughout the series, including Wrotham Park and Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, Waddeston Manor in Buckinghamshire and Wilton House in Wiltshire.

For Balmoral, the production team headed north to Scotland, though not to Arberdeenshire, home to the real royals’ summer residence, but to Ardverikie House near Inverness.

Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire stands in for Westminster Abbey, and West Sussex’s Shoreham Airport was used in a number of episodes.

Click here to learn more about some of the locations—and whether or not you can visit them.

Is the Crown on Netflix?

Series one and two are available to stream on Netflix.

When is The Crown coming back?

The new season will drop on 17th November.

How many series of The Crown are there?

(Netflix, T)
(Netflix, T)

So far, two series of The Crown have been released. Netflix executive Ted Sarandos has said he expects the series to run for six seasons.

Series one traces the queen’s life from her 1947 wedding to Winston Churchill’s resignation in 1955.

Series two picks up in 1955 and covers events through 1963.

The third and fourth series are said to focus on the years between 1964 and 1976.

Who is in the cast of The Crown? Who plays the Queen in The Crown?

Due to the era-spanning nature of the series, The Crown’s cast will change as the characters age.

In the first two series, Queen Elizabeth II is played by Claire Foy (First Man, Upstairs Downstairs). Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite, Peep Show) will be taking over for series three and four.

Prince Philip was played by the eleventh Dr Who, Matt Smith. Outlander star Tobias Menzies is set to star as the Duke of Edinburgh for series three and four.

The Crown series 3 Netflix
Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies in The Crown

Vanessa Kirby (Great Expectations, About Time) will be handing over the role of the queen’s rebellious younger sister, Princess Margaret, to Helena Bonham-Carter.

The Durrells star Josh O’Connor has been confirmed to play Prince Charles, with Call the Midwife’s Emerald Fennell poised to play a young Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The Crown - Josh O'Connor and Prince Charles
Prince Charles (left) and Josh O’Connor (right)

During the first two series, 10 Downing Street is occupied by Winston Churchill, portrayed by award-winning actor John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun, Dexter). Jeremy Northam (Emma, The Tudors) played Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who later succeeds Churchill.

Series three will see a new PM in office, Harold Wilson, played by Line of Duty’s Jason Watkins.

The X Files’ Gillian Anderson is set to play Margaret Thatcher in series four. She will also be joined by relative newcomer Emma Corrin, who will star as a young Princess Diana.

Gillian Anderson (Getty)
Gillian Anderson (Getty)

Victoria Hamilton (Doctor Foster, Lark Rise to Candleford) plays the the Queen Mother in series one and two and will hand the reins to Marion Bailey (Him & Her) in series three.

Who wrote The Crown?

 Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter Peter Morgan, CBE is The Crown’s creator and principal writer.

The British Film Institute fellow is also known for writing the screenplays for The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, The Last King of Scotland, and the Clint Eastwood-directed Hereafter.

Morgan is also an accomplished playwright who penned the Tony-nominated Frost/Nixon.


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