Who plays who in the upcoming season of The Crown? And what do they really look like? Here’s our guide to the cast of Netflix’s popular royal drama…
Olivia Colman plays Queen Elizabeth II
The actor: Olivia Colman will reprise the titular role of Elizabeth II for season four of The Crown, following on from actress Claire Foy (who played the royal in season one and two). Colman is no stranger to roles with a historical twist, having won an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Anne in director Yorgos Lanthimos’s “punk Restoration romp” The Favourite (2018).
The real royal: Elizabeth became queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 6 February 1952 followingthe death of her father, King George VI (1895–1952). She is known for her efforts to modernise the institution of monarchy; her love of corgis (of which she has owned more than 30); and for being the longest reigning monarch in British history (she has ruled for more than 68 years and celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012).
When is The Crown season 4 released on Netflix?
15 November 2020
Tobias Menzies plays Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Elizabeth II
The actor: Taking over from Matt Smith in season three of The Crown, Tobias Menzies will continue to portray the Queen’s stalwart companion. He is also known for playing the roles of Frank and Jonathan Randall in historical drama Outlander, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
The real royal: Born on 10 June 1921 in Corfu, Greece, Prince Philip has been the queen’s consort for more than seven decades. The pair married on 20 November 1947 and together have four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Did you know?
Over the years, Prince Philip has accompanied the Queen on multiple state visits while also becoming the president and patron (or otherwise connected with) around 800 organisations, including many charities. He has a particular interest in sport and the welfare of young people, founding the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in 1956. Today, more than 140 countries and territories across the world offer the award, which recognises young adults who have completed a series of self-improvement exercises.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
The actor: Helena Bonham-Carter will reprise her role as the Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret in season four.
Following her casting announcement in 2019, reports surfaced that Bonham-Carter had discussed her part in the historical drama with none other than the deceased royal herself, via a psychic.
“Apparently, she [Margaret] was glad it was me,” Bonham Carter revealed at Cheltenham Literature Festival. “My main thing when you play someone who is real, you kind of want their blessing because you have a responsibility.
“I asked her: ‘Are you OK with me playing you?’ and she said: ‘You’re better than the other actress’… that they were thinking of. They will not admit who it was. It was me and somebody else. That made me think maybe she is here, because that is a classic Margaret thing to say.”
The real royal: The original royal rebel, Princess Margaret (1930–2002) was known for her party antics and vivacious personality. According to an unofficial biography by journalist Craig Brown, an average morning for the princess in her mid-20s began with breakfast in bed and finished with a “vodka pick-me-up” and four-course lunch. She reportedly had a close relationship with her sister throughout adulthood, and died on 9 February 2002 after suffering a stroke and developing heart problems.
Did you know?
Margaret’s wedding to photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 was the first British royal wedding to be broadcast on national television, while her divorce in 1978 was the first for a senior royal since Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria Melita ended her marriage to Ernest of Hesse in 1901.
Marion Bailey plays Queen Elizabeth, wife of George VI and mother of Elizabeth II, known as ‘Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’ during her daughter’s reign
The actor: Marion Bailey is a British actor known for her work on historical films such as Vera Drake (2004), Mr. Turner (2014) and Peterloo (2018). She succeeded Victoria Hamilton as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother for season three (and now four) of The Crown.
The real royal: Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the wife of King George VI, and mother of Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. Her family is descended from the Royal House of Scotland, with Glamis Castle serving as the family seat.
Did you know?
Glamis Castle was used as a hospital during the First World War. While too young to work as a nurse, Lady Elizabeth helped with the welfare of the patients.
Erin Doherty plays Princess Anne, Philip and Elizabeth’s second child and only daughter
The actor: Actress Erin Doherty made her television debut in a 2016 episode of Call the Midwife having trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She featured in the BBC’s adaptation of Les Misérables before being cast as Princess Anne for the third season of The Crown.
The real royal: Born 15 August 1950, Anne, Princess Royal, is the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. She is known for her high-profile charity work and passion for horse-riding, being the first member of the British royal family to have competed in the Olympic Games.
Did you know?
The real-life Princess Anne has watched The Crown. She made the revelation in an ITV documentary titled Anne: The Princess Royal At 70, commenting that she found the early episodes of the show “quite interesting” – but that she was mystified by comments made by her on-screen counterpart, Doherty, about how her ‘Anne’ hairstyle would take “two hours” to get right. “How could you possibly take that long?” commented the real Princess. “It takes me 10 or 15 minutes.”
Josh O’Connor plays Prince Charles, Philip and Elizabeth’s eldest child and the heir apparent
The actor: Josh O’Connor was nominated for a Rising Star BAFTA following his portrayal of Prince Charles in season 3 of The Crown, which dramatised the prince of Wales’s 1969 investiture at Caernarfon Castle.
“Fresh traditions were created for the ceremony including the creation of a new coronet (Edward VIII had taken his coronet with him to France after he abdicated in 1936 to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson) and a simplified costume considered to be more in keeping with the times,” wrote Dr Carolyn Harris in an article for HistoryExtra about the real history behind the plotline.
Season four of The Crown will see Elizabeth and her family focused on securing an appropriate bride for an unmarried 30-year-old Charles.
The real royal: Prince Charles was born on 14 November 1948, three years before his mother ascended the throne. He has two children – Prince William of Wales and Prince Henry Charles Albert David (known as Harry) – through his first marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Did you know?
Prince Charles is the longest serving heir apparent. The previous record – 59 years – was held by King Edward VII
Emerald Fennell plays Camilla Parker Bowles
The actor: Emerald Fennell will resume her role as Camilla Shand in the new season of Netflix’s sumptuous royal drama. Her early relationship with Prince Charles was a key plot line in season three of The Crown, which followed their meeting in the summer of 1970 (when the prince was 21). “It was reportedly an ‘instant attraction’ between Charles and Camilla. During an 18-month period their friendship blossomed into a love affair,” writes royal expert Marlene Koening for HistoryExtra.
The real royal: Camilla Rosemary Shand was born on 17 July 1947, the eldest child of Major Bruce Shand and his wife Rosalind Cubitt. Her family were no strangers to British royalty; her maternal great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was a mistress to King Edward VII between 1898 and 1910. Camilla married British army officer Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973 and they had two children. The pair divorced in 1995.
More than three decades after their first meeting, Camilla and Charles married on 9 April 2005. At their wedding reception at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II drew on racing references to describe their relationship: “They have overcome Becher’s Brook and The Chair [fences at the Aintree Racecourse, where the Grand National takes place] and all kinds of other terrible obstacles. They have come through and I’m very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves.”
Charles Dance as Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Philip’s ambitious uncle and great-grandson of Queen Victoria
The actor: English actor Charles Dance has starred in a variety of high-profile roles during his acting careers, including Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis in The Witcher 3: Wildhunt (video game), and most recently Lord Mountbatten in the third season of The Crown.
The real royal: Lord Louis ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten (1900–79) was the uncle of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. He is known for his close relationship with both the Duke of Edinburgh and with his great-nephew, Charles, counselling the latter on many matters. In August 1979, he was assassinated by a bomb stashed on board his fishing boat by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army – an event that may well be covered in season four of The Crown.
Listen on the podcast: Andrew Lownie discusses the colourful and controversial lives of Louis and Edwina Mountbatten. It’s a story that incorporates Indian independence, royal connections and scandalous love affairs
Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer
The actor: Ever since it was revealed that The Crown will follow the royal family all the way up to 21st century, fans have speculated on who will play Princess Diana, perhaps the most famous member of the royal family, after Queen Elizabeth. The announcement came earlier this summer: newcomer Emma Corrin will play the royal famously dubbed the ‘people’s princess’.
Commenting on her appointment in an Instagram post, Corrin said: “I have been glued to the show and to think I’m now joining this incredibly talented acting family is surreal. Princess Diana was an icon and her effect on the world remains profound and inspiring. To explore her through Peter Morgan’s writing is the most exceptional opportunity and I will strive to do her justice.”
The real royal: Diana (1961–97) was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. Her penchant for both activism and fashion made her an international icon following her marriage into the royal family – although it came at a cost. “From the moment that she became engaged to and married Charles in 1981, the princess’s every move and every action was closely scrutinised,” wrote Matt Elton in a 2020 article.
The royal couple divorced in 1995 amidst rumours of considerable tension and infidelity. On 31 August 1997, Diana died following a car crash in Paris, prompting – as Dominic Sandbrook wrote in an article for BBC History Magazine – “an extraordinary outpouring of public grief” and commensurate hostility towards the royal family (who were accused of not caring enough).
Gillian Anderson plays Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
The actor: In season three of The Crown, viewers bade farewell to John Lithgow’s Sir Winston Churchill and were introduced to another prime minister, the Labour Party’s Harold Wilson (played by Jason Watkins). Season four brings a new politician into the fold: Britain’s first woman prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who will be played by American actress Gillian Anderson. Her relationship with Elizabeth II – which will become increasingly fraught with tension as Thatcher leads the country into the Falklands War – will be a key plot point of season four.
The real Thatcher: Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013) served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and is the first woman to hold that position. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’ for her strong will and uncompromising leadership style (she famously announced “the lady’s not for turning” in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference in 1980), she remains a controversial figure in British politics. Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 after suffering a stroke.
Rachel Dinning is the digital editorial assistant at HistoryExtra
Season 4 of The Crown will be available on Netflix from 15 November 2020. Seasons 1–3 are available to watch now. Watch the mini trailer for The Crown season 4 here: