The Crown: Who’s played Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and key cast through the years?

Ahead of Netflix's The Crown season 5, we reveal who’s played Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and the show’s key cast through the years, including Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Matt Smith.

By Sophia Moir Published: 29 September 2022 - 2.16pm
Netflix / Getty The Crown Netflix cast through the years

Oscar-winners, acting legends and a very famous Doctor have all portrayed members of the British royal family in Peter Morgan’s lavish Netflix drama, The Crown

The show’s main cast change every two seasons to reflect the aging process of their characters over the course of the years portrayed on screen, with roles including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret all being re-cast in this way.

The actors - including Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, Matt Smith, Tobias Menzies, Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter - have all earned critical acclaim for their performances over the years, with BAFTA, Golden Globe and Emmy Awards under their belts.

Here, we reveal who’s played the main roles in The Crown through the years, and who's playing them in the soon-to-be-released The Crown season 5.

Top 10 The Crown episodes to stream now

Who plays Queen Elizabeth II? Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton

The Crown Netflix cast through the years Queen Elizabeth II Netflix

Claire Foy - The Crown Seasons 1 & 2

Claire Foy (Wolf Hall, First Man) portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of The Crown, covering her marriage to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, to the birth of Prince Edward in 1964. In season 1, Foy portrayed a young Princess Elizabeth who ascended the throne suddenly aged 25 when her father, King George VI (Jared Harris), had died. The Netflix drama later covered the Queen's coronation in 1953 at the tender age of 27. 

From a political perspective, the time period covered in seasons 1-2 includes Winston Churchill resigning as Prime Minister in 1955, 1956's Suez Crisis, which lead to the retirement of PM Anthony Eden in 1957, as well as the retirement of PM Harold Macmillan in 1963 following the Profumo affair. 

 

Claire Foy The Crown awards and achievements:

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, 2018 - Winner

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, 2021 - Winner

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Actress, 2017 - Nominee

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Actress, 2018 - Nominee

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama, 2017 - Winner

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama, 2018 - Nominee

Olivia Colman - The Crown Seasons 3 & 4

Olivia Colman (Fleabag, The Favourite) took over the role of Queen Elizabeth II for The Crown season 3, which spanned 1964 to 1977, and then in The Crown season 4, covering 1979 to the early 1990s.

Politically, this covered Harold Wilson's two periods as Prime Minister, Edward Heath's time as Prime Minister, and the introduction of Margaret Thatcher's period as PM from 1979 to 1990, which was introduced in season 4.

From a personal perspective, season 3 ended with the celebrations of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977. The Queen's daughter-in-law Lady Diana Spencer was introduced in season 4, which also featured her 1981 marriage to Prince Charles.

Olivia Colman's best movie and TV roles

 

Olivia Colman The Crown awards and achievements:

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, 2020 - Nominee

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, 2021 - Winner

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama, 2020 - Winner

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama, 2021 - Nominee

Imelda Staunton - The Crown Seasons 5 & 6

Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter, Pride) succeeds Olivia Colman to play Queen Elizabeth II in the fifth and sixth seasons of The Crown. These final two seasons will cover the Queen's reign from the 1990s into the 21st century.

Who plays Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh?Matt Smith, Tobias Menzies and Jonathan Pryce

The Crown Netflix cast through the years Prince Philip Netflix / Getty

Matt Smith - The Crown Seasons 1 & 2

Matt Smith (Doctor Who, House of the Dragon) portrayed Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh alongside Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of The Crown.

This time period shows the Duke rising through the ranks of the Royal Navy, before Elizabeth puts Philip in charge of preparations for her Coronation in 1953, which Philip pushed to be televised.

In season 2, Philip was made a Prince of the United Kingdom, with the style His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

We also see Philip take charge of his son Charles’ education by overruling the Queen’s preference for Eton and sending the heir to his own alma mater Gordonstoun, as well as controversy around his visits to osteopath Stephen Ward.

Matt Smith The Crown awards and achievements:

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, 2018 - Nominee

Tobias Menzies - The Crown Seasons 3 & 4

Tobias Menzies (Outlander, Game of Thrones) took on the role of Prince Philip for the third and fourth seasons of The Crown. Paul Bettany was initially in talks for the role, but dropped out due to the time commitment required.

This time period covered by Menzies in the role included the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster, for which Prince Philip attended the funeral of the children who died, as well as his complex relationship with his mother Princess Alice, who briefly came to stay at Buckingham Palace.

In 1969, we also saw keen technophile Philip’s fascination with the first Moon landing.

Awards and achievements:

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, 2021 - Winner

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Supporting Actor, 2021 - Nominee

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, 2020 - Nominee

Jonathan Pryce - The Crown Seasons 5 & 6

Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes, Wolf Hall) will portray Prince Philip in the final two seasons of The Crown, which will cover Queen Elizabeth II's reign from the 1990s into the 21st century.

Who plays Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon? Vanessa Kirby, Helena Bonham Carter and Lesley Manville

The Crown Netflix cast through the years Princess Margaret Netflix / Getty

Vanessa Kirby - The Crown Seasons 1 & 2

Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman, Mission: Impossible - Fallout) portrayed the Queen's younger sister, Princess Margaret, in the first two seasons of The Crown.

The Princess's complicated love life was often the focus of her appearances: the first season covered the princess’ engagement - and subsequent disintegration of her relationship - to Group Captain Peter Townsend in 1955; while the second series covered her courtship to photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones and their subsequent wedding in 1960.

Vanessa Kirby The Crown awards and achievements:

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, 2018 - Nominee

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Supporting Actress, 2017 - Nominee

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Supporting Actress, 2018 - Winner

Helena Bonham Carter - The Crown Seasons 3 & 4

Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter, The King’s Speech) took on the role of Princess Margaret for the third and fourth seasons of The Crown. This time period covered Margaret and Tony's tour of the United States in 1965, followed by her affair with Roddy Llewellyn that led to her divorce from Tony in 1976.

In season 4, Margaret is seen facing a reduced public role and grappling with mental health issues. She seeks help but uncovers an appalling secret about estranged relatives of the Royal Family.

Helena Bonham Carter The Crown awards and achievements:

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, 2020 - Nominee

  • Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, 2021 - Nominee

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Supporting Actress, 2020 - Nominee

  • BAFTA TV Awards, Best Supporting Actress, 2021 - Nominee

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Television Series, 2020 - Nominee

  • Golden Globe Awards, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Television Series, 2021 - Nominee

Lesley Manville - The Crown Seasons 5 & 6

Lesley Manville (Mum, Phantom Thread) will portray Princess Margaret in seasons five and six of The Crown, covering the 1990s to the early 2000s. This is thought to cover the death of Princess Margaret in 2002.

'Tis the season to watch telly...

You can enjoy a feast of fabulous festive films and shows on Netflix when you take one of our TV Entertainment packs. 

Princess Diana to Margaret Thatcher - other key cast and characters in The Crown:

  • Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary (season 1)

  • Victoria Hamilton (seasons 1–2) and Marion Bailey (seasons 3–4) as Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

  • Ben Miles as Group Captain Peter Townsend (season 1, featured season 2)

  • Greg Wise (seasons 1–2) and Charles Dance (season 3, featured season 4) as Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma

  • Jared Harris as King George VI (season 1, featured season 2)

  • John Lithgow as Winston Churchill (season 1, featured seasons 2–3)

  • Alex Jennings (season 1, featured season 2) and Derek Jacobi (featured season 3) as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor

  • Anton Lesser as Harold Macmillan (season 2)

  • Matthew Goode (season 2) and Ben Daniels (season 3) as Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon

  • Jason Watkins as Harold Wilson (season 3)

  • Erin Doherty as Princess Anne (seasons 3–4)

  • Josh O'Connor as Charles, Prince of Wales (seasons 3–4)

  • Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher (season 4)

  • Emma Corrin as Diana, Princess of Wales (season 4)

  • Emerald Fennell as Camilla Shand (season 4, featured season 3)