50 Jewels in the CROWN
Event gets an exclusive royal tour of the new Netflix series of The Crown – as we humbly present a majestic guide to pay TV’s top...
It’s a torrent coming at them, and they don’t know how to cope,’ says Claire Foy of the wave of personal and political problems facing the Royal Family in the glittering new series of The
Crown. Foy, who won a Golden Globe for her performance as Queen Elizabeth in series one, admits that the Royals ‘judge it wrongly every single time. And this series is very affected by the outside world and the Sixties and sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Stuff you would not associate with the Queen of England.’
Netflix’s eagerly anticipated second series of The Crown begins where the last series left off, in 1956, and the ten hour-long episodes will cover the momentous historical events of the next decade, such as the Suez Crisis, which sees Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden mired in a Middle East war. Vanessa Kirby is back as Princess Margaret, dating and then marrying the photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode), and Dexter star Michael C Hall will make his debut as the handsome young US president John F Kennedy, alongside first lady Jackie Kennedy, played by South African actress Jodi Balfour. Game Of Thrones’ Anton Lesser joins the cast as Harold Macmillan, who has to humiliatingly resign as prime minister in the wake of the Profumo sex scandal.
But episode one of the new series, which comes to our screens early next month, contains a bombshell closer to home as we find the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip (Matt Smith), if not on the rocks, then sailing perilously close. In the trailer we hear Lord Mountbatten (Greg Wise) telling Elizabeth: ‘You married a wild spirit. Trying to tame him is no use,’ and the show details Philip’s affair with a ballet dancer (thought to be based on the actress Pat Kirkwood).
‘I wanted to throw light on Prince Philip in a way that hasn’t been done before,’ says creator Peter Morgan, who along with Foy and Smith shares their on-set secrets with Event during breaks from filming.
Smith now realises that Philip’s quiet rebellion is easily underestimated by the public, who know him mainly for some well-publicised gaffes.
‘I’ve come to admire him the more I’ve learnt about him,’ says Smith. ‘He’s very bright. He is a great moderniser. He is incredibly funny. He’s on the front line and obviously he’s an alpha male. And then he has to kneel in front of his wife. It’s the Fifties, yet he’s told to give up his job and his name – his kids will take his wife’s name, Windsor. You can see how you’d go, “Hang on. I didn’t sign up for that.”’
‘Philip’s life wasn’t easy,’ admits Smith, who now feels a real sympathy with his character. ‘There was a lot of tragedy in it and for want of a better word he was orphaned [Philip’s mother was in a psychiatric clinic and his exiled father was mostly absent], and for any child that is a very traumatic experience. He watched people die young [his sister was killed in a plane crash] and that’s awful.’
Morgan is unapologetic about uncovering the Royals’ marital strife: ‘I thought everyone knew Philip had an affair? Nobody has identified the people involved, and I’m not going to do that. I’m not a vindictive
person. I’ve just done my best to stick to the facts as I have them.’ The facts are that Philip was packed off on a five-month world tour of the Commonwealth, leaving Elizabeth at home. In the series he visits Australia, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and goes to the Antarctic. What goes on tour normally stays on tour, but it wasn’t like that for the poor Prince who, while globetrotting, was honeytrapped by a journalist into revealing his dark secrets – his sister’s pro-Nazi leanings, his father’s financial issues, his mother’s depression.
Back at home Elizabeth is facing the Suez crisis, in which the UK, Israel and France invaded Egypt, then retreated in defeat ten days later.
Event joins the 33-year-old Foy on set at Elstree to see how she is transformed into the periodperfect Queen. ‘I loved wearing Fifties skirts,’ says Foy, ‘but I’m not a massive fan of the Queen’s choice of wardrobe. I think when she was younger she didn’t have to have the uniform, she was more free, but as she gets older you start to see the formation of the Queen as she looks now — the hair and everything. She works out what her role and her duty are, like we all do in any job. And by the end of this series we have a prototype of the Philip and Elizabeth we know today.’
That includes the wellknown voice – Foy, who is from Manchester, says she had to practise saying the word ‘one’ as ‘wahn’ several times before every shot – and the equally wellknown wave, which she admits has also evolved from series one, into the wristy flick we know now.
Writer Peter Morgan, a staunch republican, has faced a backlash from viewers after controversially referring to the monarchy as a ‘deranged institution’ led by a ‘countryside woman of limited intelligence who would have much preferred looking after her dogs and breeding horses to being queen’. But The Crown shows them as real people and we’ll see the massive strain the political havoc of this turbulent time put on the Queen’s reign.
Filming was not allowed at Buckingham Palace or any of the royal castles. Morgan took this in his stride, saying: ‘I want my independence, they want theirs. I don’t want to be associated with the Palace.’
While Foy has been acclaimed for her performance, she tries not to think too hard about whether the Queen herself has watched The Crown, though if she does, then this series will make for uncomfortable viewing. ‘Of course there is every chance she has watched it and I hope she likes what she sees. I hope she understands what we were trying to achieve. When you’re playing a real person, you never want to be ghoulish. I don’t want to pick apart a person. I want to invent someone. So I would hate for her to watch it and think I over-
Matt Smith, The Crown creator Peter Morgan and Claire Foy
Main picture and below right: Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth with Matt Smith as Prince Philip
Claire Foy shooting series two of The Crown