The Crown has a history of making stars of its leading cast - just think of Claire Foy as the Queen, Emma Corrin as Princess Diana or Erin Doherty as Princess Anne.
With the hype around its season five cast rapidly reaching fever pitch, here’s our lowdown on who’s playing whom in Netflix’s dramatised version of recent royal history - a version that has caused controversy even before it has landed on the streaming platform.
Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II
Staunton will be donning the fabled crown for the first time this season, making her debut as Queen Elizabeth II. She’s got some big shoes to fill - Olivia Colman and Claire Foy have played previous incarnations of the character - but Staunton’s an acting force to be reckoned with herself. Though perhaps best known for her role as hateful professor Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series, she’s appeared in Oscar-nominated film Vera Drake, Paddington and Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads among many, many others as well as numerous lauded stage roles, from Mama Rose in Gypsy to Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
It also seems she’s excited to get going: after accepting the role, Staunton said that she had “loved watching The Crown from the very start,” adding: "As an actor it was a joy to see how both Claire Foy and Olivia Colman brought something special and unique to Peter Morgan’s scripts.”
Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip
Appearing opposite Staunton as Prince Philip will be Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce. He’s renowned for being somewhat of an acting chameleon, having been in work as varied as the Bond franchise (as a villain in Tomorrow Never Dies) to period dramas (such as The Age of Innocence).
He also picked up his first Oscar nod for appearing as Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio) opposite Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict in the film The Two Popes - after that, playing an ageing, powerful man should be a cinch.
Dominic West as Prince Charles
Taking over from Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles (now King) will be Dominic West. Born in Yorkshire, West broke through thanks to his performance as Jimmy McNulty in noughties sensation The Wire; since then, he’s gone onto star in The Affair, the BBC’s TV adaption of Les Miserables, The Pursuit of Love, new series SAS Rogue Heroes and even Brassic, as well as films including Pride (he played the real-life character of Jonathan Blake, one of the first people to be diagnosed in Britain with HIV, who, at 72, remains one of the country’s oldest surviving people with the illness).
He was at the centre of a media storm last year when photographs depicting him and his Pursuit of Love co-star Lily James were published that appeared to show them very cosy indeed in a break from filming (he was playing her dad). West and his wife Catherine FitzGerald put on a united front, telling reporters that their marriage was “very strong, and we are still very much together”.
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana
Time for the big one: who will be playing Princess Diana? That would be Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki. Born in 1990, her star has been on the rise for several years now, having broken through in Britain opposite Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager, the success of which landed her a recurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as appearances in Christopher Nolan blockbuster Tenet and crime thriller Widows. She appeared on the London stage in 2016 in The Red Barn at the National Theatre opposite Mark Strong. It looks like she’s already got Princess Di’s mannerisms down to a T: the head tilt is uncanny.
Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne
Taking the reins from Erin Doherty, Claudia Harrison will be playing the no-nonsense Princess Anne in season five. Another stalwart of British TV, Harrison clocked up roles in Channel 4 drama Humans and The IT Crowd before starting on The Crown.
Speaking about the role, Harrison has also called Anne “an extraordinary character”, adding: “She’s not there to make people feel better about themselves, but she is superb at her job and is a proper feminist. She’s someone we can really look up to and I think she has no sense of entitlement."
Timothee Sambor / Senan West As Prince William
Prince William will be played by two actors this season. While Timothee Sambor portrays a younger iteration of the character, Dominic West’s own 14-year-old son Senan will be playing William during his later years. West Junior will be appearing in the final episodes of the season, but he’s clearly got talent of his own: in a November article, Variety reported that his audition tape reportedly caught the eye of the show’s producers, and his pensive stares in the trailer hint at a troubled soul.
Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker-Bowles
Londoner Olivia Williams takes the mantle from Emerald Fennell to portray the now-Queen Consort Camilla Parker-Bowles. She’ll be playing the role during the most tumultuous period in Camilla’s life: as the infamous “third person” in Charles and Diana’s marriage - and during the period when it was finally exposed to the public.
Williams can call on decades of acting experience for the role, with a CV that includes Lucky Break, the Sixth Sense and The Nevers under her belt. She recently appeared in the Oscar-winning film The Father, directed by Florian Zeller, opposite Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for the role.
James Murray as Prince Andrew
Manchester-born James Murray has had a busy few years: best known for his role in BBC series Cutting It (he is married to his co-star Sarah Parish, in fact), he has also appeared in Ryan Reynolds’ hit Netflix film 6 Underground, and is due to appear in Carey Fukunaga’s upcoming World War II miniseries Masters of the Air alongside Austin Butler, recently seen as Elvis, and Fantastic Beasts actor Callum Turner.
Murray has been open about the struggles involved in playing such a controversial real-life figure as Andrew. “It’s not really my job to feel too much, to judge the character,” he told This Morning. “Remember, we’re in the 1990s, before all the things that we know now. I just have to read what’s on the page, do my research and play that quasi-fictional character. Because otherwise, it’s just going to get in the way.”
Emma Laird Craig as Sarah Fergusson
Relative unknown Emma Laird Craig has the job of bringing Fergie to life at a challenging time for the Royal Family: season five starts a year before she divorced Prince Andrew. Though Laird Craig has primarily made her name in theatre - most recently in a production of Fatal Attraction opposite Kym Marsh - she has also appeared on shows like Eastenders.
Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Al-Fayed
Egyptian-British actor Khalid Abdalla has the task of embodying Dodi Al-Fayed, Diana’s lover. Abdella shot to international fame after appearing in the 2006 film United 93, but has also appeared in The Kite Runner and opposite Matt Damon in Green Zone.
He’s also an activist: after Egyptian dictator Mubarak’s fall in 2011, Abdalla helped found the Mosireen Collective in Cairo. Comprising a group of activists and revolutionary filmmakers, the initiative aimed to support free speech in Egypt - and became the most-watched non-profit YouTube channel in the world after it launched.
Humayun Saeed as Hasnat Khan
Incredibly, Saeed will be the first Pakistani actor to be cast in a Netflix Original series for his turn as Dr Hasnat Khan, described as the love of Diana’s life. Born in Karachi, Saeed is an actor and producer, and is one of the most popular stars in Pakistan, appearing in some of the country’s biggest-grossing TV and film productions since entering the industry in 1995.
Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret
Rounding out the Royal Family is Lesley Manville, who plays Princess Margaret. A fellow Vera Drake alumnus, Manville has been a mainstay of the British acting scene for years - indeed, she appeared as Margaret Thatcher in the 2009 TV series The Queen. Now she’ll be ditching politics for life as a royal - which sounds like a challenge given, as she’s said, “historically the Royal family haven’t exposed their emotions publicly”. Her most recent film role was as the title character in the joyful comedy drama Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.
Timothy Dalton as Peter Townsend
Bond actor Timothy Dalton plays the latest iteration of Princess Margaret’s former lover Peter Townsend. While he is arguably most famous for appearing as the superspy in in the Eighties, he’s also appeared in Hot Fuzz, Jane Eyre, Doctor Who and a slew of other films and television productions. Basically, he’s established. According to Manville, his take on the role is also “spot on”, so watch this space.
Marcia Warren as the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Industry legend Marcia Warren takes the role of the Queen Mother - a role that was reportedly originally meant to go to Judi Dench, before the Dame dropped out.
At 78, Warren has won numerous Olivier awards for her work since she graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1963. She’s played Vera in BBC sitcom No Place Like Home, has appeared in Keeping Up Appearances, Midsomer Murders, Sherlock and Inside No. 9.
Jonny Lee Miller as John Major
On to the politicians, where Jonny Lee Miller will be appearing (surprisingly!) as the beleaguered Conservative primeminister John Major. Most famous for his turn as junkie Sick Boy in the Trainspotting films (and for marrying Angelina Jolie in the late Nineties), Miller has made a name for himself on TV too, having played Sherlock Holmes in the American series Elementary, opposite Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson, and won an Olivier Award in 2012 for his role in Frankenstein at the National Theatre opposite Benedict Cumberbatch: perfect training for resurrecting Major’s career.
Bertie Carvel as Tony Blair
Carvel has big shoes to fill: not only is he taking on the role of one of the most famous Prime Ministers in modern memory, he’s also doing so after Michael Sheen’s star turn in the role in 2006 film The Queen. Born in Marylebone, Carvel has some serious acting chops: he’s won two Olivier awards, for playing Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and for his performance as Rupert Murdoch in James Graham’s West End play Ink. He’ll be best known to many across the country for playing love rat Simon Foster who finds himself at the sharp end of his wife’s revenge in TV drama Doctor Foster, opposite Suranne Jones.
Remarkably, this isn’t Carvel’s first time in the Crown: in an episode of season two, he played legendary broadcaster Robin Day.
Salim Daw as Mohammed Al-Fayed
Israel-born actor Daw will be playing the wealthy father of Dodi Al-Fayed and sometime owner of Harrods (he sold it in 2010) in season five. Born in 1951, he’s been iacting for a long time. Perhaps best known for his role in spy thriller Oslo alongside Andrew Scott and Ruth Wilson, he’s also appeared in 2020 film Gaza Mon Amour and Netflix show Fauda.
Daw has been enthusiastic about the role, calling it “huge” and “the most wonderful gift an actor can dream of — it’s the biggest role of my career.”