Precedence, passion and pageantry, keeping calm and carrying on, the history of the Royal British Family goes back more than a thousand years and has fascinated people with its ceremonies, opulence and most importantly, the flesh and blood people at its center, since it gained ruling status of England.
While these days, the British Royal Family reign by name alone, since the UK became a constitutional monarchy at the turn of the 18th Century, with only a handful of monarchies left, the idea of a modern-day king and queen has become as enchanting as any fairytale. Case in point: the hysteria surrounding the marriages of both Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and decades later, the marriage of their son William to Kate Middleton.
If you happened to have been born after either of these events, let us tell you – the world practically stopped to tune in to see these two couples exchange vows, announce their love for one another, and finally – kiss. As such, it was no surprise that in 2016, fans of the Royal Family were overjoyed when Netflix released a new show called The Crown, chronicling the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II, starting shortly before King George’s death.
The historical-drama series is meant to be biographical but the writers have also taken some artistic liberty and imagined conversations that are rumored to have taken place behind the heavy palace gates.
Some of the most memorable moments in British history are depicted on the show, including Elizabeth’s coronation, her wedding to roguish royal Philip, and the Great Smog of London, which occurred in 1952.
One of the most notable facts of the show is that the producers have tried their best to hire actors who resemble the real life historical figures they are portraying. They are so adamant about being historically accurate that for the third season, (which is still in production) they have hired new actors to play the characters as they age and enter a new period in history.
The diligent and in-depth way that the show has been built really captivated our hearts, and has also made us wonder exactly how similar the enormously talented cast is to the original characters they portray. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the actors on The Crown together with the real historical characters they embody on the show. Take a look at them side by side – many times, the resemblance is uncanny.
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth
Upon her father’s untimely death, a 25 year-old Queen Elizabeth was thrust into the royal of monarch. The show depicts the turmoil Elizabeth faces between her duty as Queen and her feelings towards her husband and family as well as her unwillingness to adjust her reign into the modern world. In addition to dressing the part, Claire Foy had to speak the part. Although she is British, the Queen has such a distinct “aristocratic” accent that the actress had to do voice training in order to get it perfect.
Jared Harris as King George
Upon the abdication of his older brother, Prince Albert was crowned King George and was thrust into public life along with his young wife and daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. The Crown depicts King George’s battle with lung cancer and the surgical removal of his left lung, which took place in Buckingham Palace. It was widely known that the King suffered from a stutter, which Harris portrays with great accuracy in his appearance on the show.
Victoria Hamilton as The Queen Mother
The Queen Mother was the mother of Elizabeth and Margaret and the wife of the late King George. Hamilton portrays her devotion to duty and tradition as well as the charm that made her one of the most popular royal family members. She holds a grudge against her brother-in-law, Prince Edward, whose decision to abdicate the throne forced Prince Albert to take his place. She believes Edward is the reason her husband died young, due to the stress of being king.
Matt Smith as Prince Philip
Matt Smith portrays the bold and witty Prince Philip who struggles with his wife’s newfound position as Queen. Philip is resentful of the fact he has to abandon his career in the Royal Navy for Elizabeth and he puts up an argument when he has to bow to her at her coronation. The Crown frequently flashes back to Philip’s traumatic family life including his absent father, his mother who was institutionalized and how he dealt with the sudden death of his older sister who was like a mother to him.
Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary
Queen Mary was the wife of King George V and the mother of Edward, Albert and four other children. On The Crown we see her disdain for her son Edward whom she has never forgiven for marrying Wallis Simpson and abdicating. Much like the Queen Mother, Mary believes Edward is responsible for the death of Albert. In addition to her regal appearance, Atkins captured the Queen’s straight forward attitude and sense of duty to her people.
John Lithgow as Winston Churchill
John Lithgow plays the legendary Winston Churchill who led England through World War II. Although Lithgow his American, he perfected Churchill’s accent as well as his great skills as an orator. His wife and many others in the public believe that he should retire from political life due to his age and his physical health as he suffers a serious stroke. We also see his love of painting and how it helps him cope with the memories of his daughter, Marigold who died as a young child.
Harriet Walter as Clementine Churchill
Clementine was the ever devoted wife of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the mother of their five children, one of whom died as a child. Besides the striking physical similarity, Walter portrays Clementine’s soft demeanor as well as her ability to be bold when she chooses. For example, when Winston hires an artist to paint his official portrait and is unhappy with the results, Clementine gives secret instructions to have it destroyed.
Julian Baring as Prince Charles
Prince Charles is the first child of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and the heir to the throne. In the second season we see Charles struggle with his education as his father sends him to attend Gordonstoun, a school for boys in Scotland. A shy Charles is relentlessly bullied there but Philip believes the school will help him become a man and build character. In a biography he is described as, “easily cowed by the forceful personality of his father.” Baring definitely captures his timid demeanor on the show.
Greg Wise as Lord Mountbatten
Lord Mountbatten was the Uncle of Prince Philip, second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II and a naval officer. Wise accurately depicts Mountbatten’s (who was better known as Uncle Dickie to the royal family) encouraging attitude toward Charles in addition to physical appearances. He takes Charles shopping for uniforms to attend Eton College (which he never gets to wear) and when Charles complains about his treatment at his school in Scotland, Mountbatten tries but fails to convince Prince Philip to let him switch schools.
Matthew Goode as Anthony Armstrong-Jones
Shortly after Princess Margaret’s ex-lover Peter Townsend announces his engagement to another woman, she feels pressure to get married and announces that she is engaged to filmmaker and photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. Goode shares Jones’ mysterious good looks and he also mastered the cruel attitude Tony was rumored to have. The show also depicts various affairs Jones allegedly had affairs with numerous women and the show even hints at an alleged illegitimate child he had with Camilla Fry, the wife of his best friend.
Daniel Ings as Mike Parker
Mike Parker was Prince Philip’s best friend and Navy buddy who took on the role as his private secretary and then equerry (assistant). Ings captured Parker’s alluring personality and playboy lifestyle on the show. When Parker and Philip embark on a five month royal tour, Parker sends letters detailing his extramarital affairs back to the gentleman’s lunch club he and the Prince are members of. The letters are read aloud to members and when his already unhappy wife Eileen gets wind of this, she files for divorce.
Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden replaced Churchill as Prime Minister in 1955. In addition to his iconic mustache, Northam captured Eden’s confidence although he is now widely seen as one of the worst British Prime Ministers. Eden found himself in the midst of a major controversy, the Suez Crisis, which plays out on the Crown. After Israel invades Egypt, the U.K. and France also invade with the aims of regaining control over the canal. This controversy along with severe health issues prompts the forcible resignation of Eden only two years into his term.
Pip Torrens as Tommy Lascelles
Alan “Tommy” Lascelles was the private secretary to four consecutive monarchs starting with George V and ending with Elizabeth in 1953. Torrens perfectly captures Tommy’s serious demeanor and severe looking facial features. On the show he harshly confronts a still married Peter Townsend when his relationship with Margaret is in its infancy. Lascells retires but returns in the second season after the Queen becomes curious about the former King Edward’s clandestine relations with Nazi High Command, which prompts her to exile her uncle from England.
Joseph Kloska as Henry ‘Porchey’ Herbert
Porchey was Queen Elizabeth’s horse racing manager and close friend. Kloska does a great job showing Porchey’s boyish good looks and upbeat attitude. His closeness with Elizabeth is depicted in one episode where we see the tension between Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth rising. As Elizabeth spends more time with Porchey at her horse stables the situation ultimately ends in a heated confrontation between the two royals when Philip insinuates that Porchey is more than a friend to her although Elizabeth vehemently denies it.
Will Keen as Michael Adeane
In 1953, Michael Adeane became the Queen’s private secretary and remained at the post for twenty years. The Crown depicts Adeane as a dull and traditional secretary who devotes his entire life to the Royal Family and Keen seems to have the identical hairline and mustache to Adeane. After Prince Philip reveals his resentment that his son outranks him and his demand for respect from the “mustaches” in the palace, Adeane is asked to shave off his mustache, which he does without question.
Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth who also shared a life in the spotlight. The show portrays Margret’s struggles as she is forbidden to announce her engagement to her father’s former equerry, Peter Townsend, who was sixteen years her senior. Elizabeth who is also the head of the Church of England, delays her approval of the marriage, which leads to the demise of the relationship. As we see from this picture, Kirby shares Margarets soft features and she perfectly portrays her rebellious personality.
Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy
First Lady Jackie Kennedy appears in one episode of The Crown after Queen Elizabeth invites her and the President to Buckingham Palace for dinner. Jackie was a style icon which Balfour captures in addition to the her enchanting personality and New York accent. Two years after their meeting in which Jackie is rumored to have insulted the Queen, we see the Queen writing a personal letter to Jackie and arranging a week of mourning in England after the assassination of President Kennedy.
Ben Miles as Peter Townsend
Miles is a dead ringer for the ruggedly handsome and rather serious Peter Townsend. He was married with two children when he began assisting the royals but after his wife had an affair, they divorced. At the time, in the Church of England a divorcee could not remarry if their first spouse was alive. Due to the scandal, Queen Elizabeth advised he and Margaret postpone the marriage and sent Townsend to a post in Belgium. He then fell in love with and married a 20 year-old, which crushed Margaret.
Alex Jennings as the Duke of Windsor (King Edward)
Here we see Alex Jennings is almost a carbon copy of the late Duke of Windsor. The Duke only reigned as King for 326 days before abdicating and giving his title to Prince Albert in order to marry the twice divorced socialite, Wallis Simpson. The Crown depicts Edward’s attempt to find employment in England after moving to France (in an attempt to avoid negative press attention), the discovery by Queen Elizabeth of his ties to the Nazi government and the meeting he and Wallis had with Hitler.
Lia Williams as Wallis Simpson
Wallis Simpson was an American socialite whom Edward VII fell in love with. As she had two living ex-husbands, the Church and the Royal Family did not accept the relationship and the monarch was sent into constitutional crisis. In order to marry Simpson, Edward chose to abdicate from the throne. In addition to her dark features Williams perfects Simpson’s seemingly sinister disposition. The show depicts the couple’s life of luxury in France, the Royal Family’s hatred for Wallis and her ties to the Nazi government during World War II.