The queen was apparently a fan of "The Crown." Where does the Netflix series go from here?

The popular program paused filming its most recent season, detailing the late monarch’s life

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published September 20, 2022 7:19PM (EDT)

Prince Philip (TOBIAS MENZIES) and Queen Elizabth II (OLIVIA COLMAN) in "The Crown" (Netflix)
Prince Philip (TOBIAS MENZIES) and Queen Elizabth II (OLIVIA COLMAN) in "The Crown" (Netflix)

The danger in making your television program about a real person is that life happens. And so does death. 

In the aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II's passing on Sept. 8, mourners wondered about everything from money bearing her image to the royal succession and those corgis. As details of the grand state funeral emerged, so did more questions (though it turns out the dogs will be all right). Perhaps not urgently on the royals' minds, but on ours: What will happen to "The Crown"?

Netflix's popular series dramatizes the life of the queen from her 1947 wedding to the current century. A surprise in the wake of Elizabeth's death? The queen herself was apparently a fan. So swears George Jobson, "considered one of Britain's leading royal commentators," according to Entertainment Weekly, who notes "the Queen had a habit of settling in to watch the Netflix series on Sundays."

The CrownQueen Elizabth II (OLIVIA COLMAN) in "The Crown" (Netflix)This loyal viewership was allegedly in opposition to the wishes of her husband, Prince Philip. As Entertainment Weekly writes, "Philip tried to discourage his wife from watching it because he knew it would irritate her (or maybe he wasn't a fan of the series' portrayal of him as a callous, unfaithful spouse who bristled at Elizabeth's stature in contrast to his own?)."

In a statement about the queen's death, series creator Peter Morgan said, "'The Crown' is a love letter to her."

The actor who stepped into that role of "a callous, unfaithful spouse" in his younger years is Matt Smith who, after his charming "Doctor Who" tenure, seems drawn to dastardly guys. On NBC's "Today," Smith discussed meeting the queen's grandson, Prince Harry, who jokingly called him "grandad," in a reference to the show. Smith also said he had heard — though he did not specify his source — that the queen did watch "The Crown." Moreover, "she used to watch it on a projector on a Sunday night.

Harry confirmed his own viewing habits to James Corden of "The Late Late Show," saying he preferred the TV dramatization to tabloid stories. "I'm way more comfortable with 'The Crown' than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself . . . They don't pretend to be news  it's fictional." 

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Harry described the Netflix show as "loosely based on the truth. Of course, it's not strictly accurate, but . . . it gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that."

"The Crown" is currently filming its sixth season. As news of the monarch's death arrived, production halted. This pause wasn't due to uncertainty over how to proceed following the death of its main subject but rather, as Deadline reports, "a mark of respect." Filming was stopped not only on the day of the queen's death but also on the day of her funeral. In a statement about the queen's death, series creator Peter Morgan said, "'The Crown' is a love letter to her and I've nothing to add for now, just silence and respect."

The CrownPrincess Diana (EMMA CORRIN) in "The Crown" (Netflix)Season 1 of the show covers the events in the queen's life up to the end of Winston Churchill's time as prime minister. Season 2 dramatizes the tenure of two more prime ministers, as well as the birth of the queen's youngest son Prince Edward. Ending in 1977, the third season closes with the queen's Silver Jubilee, while the fourth season showcases Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer. Three actors have and will play the queen in "The Crown": Claire FoyOlivia Colman and Imelda Staunton, representing the monarch at various stages in her life.

The CrownMargaret Thatcher (GILLIAN ANDERSON) in "The Crown" (Netflix)Season 5 of the show is slated for a November premiere on Netflix, introducing Staunton, the noted British actor and singer who may be familiar to some viewers as Dolores Umbridge from the "Harry Potter" franchise, as the queen in her silver-haired years. The upcoming season will cover Princess Diana's marriage to Prince Charles, as well as her 1997 death. The sixth season, which paused its production to mark the queen's passing, will take the monarchy into the 2000s, introducing William and Kate. It remains unclear how far into the queen's life it will stretch.

On a 2017 Christmas broadcast, the queen seemed to hint at her "The Crown" viewership.

On a 2017 Christmas broadcast, the queen seemed to hint at her "The Crown" viewership, when some onlookers believe she referenced a scene from the show. However, in 2019, her communication secretary wrote a letter to The Guardian that read, in part, "We appreciate that readers of the Guardian may enjoy this fictionalized interpretation of historical events, but they should do so knowing that the royal household is not complicit in interpretations made by the program."

The queen may never have condoned "The Crown," but what could she have thought of it? As a source told The Sunday Express in 2017, the queen was apparently introduced to the series by Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, who would often watch a Netflix show while eating casually together, and "she really liked it, although obviously there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatized."

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

MORE FROM Alison Stine

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Explainer Netflix Queen Elizabeth Ii Streaming The Crown The Queen Tv