Reportedly the most expensive series to be shot for Netflix, The Crown is a lavish period piece based on true events. The Crown gives viewers a fascinating look into historical events while also providing a peek into the often-scandalous lives of the royal family. (Yes, the royal family made headlines long before the additions of Kate and Meghan, although it might be difficult to remember a time before they dominated the news.)
Part of the genius of The Crown is the way it portrays a fictionalized version of the royal family's inner lives, while refusing to stray far from real-life events. Watershed moments, like the famous 1961 meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and Jackie Kennedy, are depicted faithfully on the show, at times with an extra layer of "Did that just happen?" (No, Elizabeth and Jackie weren't at each other's throats in real life, although they may not have been the absolute best of friends.)
The performances on The Crown are consistently its most impressive aspect, and it can feel near-impossible to watch the series without constantly reaching for your phone to look up more information on the characters who populate the show. To make matters easier, here’s a guide to all the major figures, paired side by side with their real-life counterparts, as they appear in season 3. The major characters of the show are being portrayed by brand-new actors this season, with Olivia Colman taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy and Helena Bonham Carter stepping in as her sister, Princess Margaret.
Claire Foy as a younger Queen Elizabeth II
When she became queen at just 25 years old, Queen Elizabeth II was seen by many as the new modern face of the monarchy. And while we now picture her as a sweet old monarch with a regal white coif and a fabulous collection of hats, it turns out she was once kind of a babe. Claire Foy played the queen in the first two seasons of the show.
Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II
Olivia Colman is brilliant in season 3 as an older, more self-assured queen struggling to lead her nation.
Vanessa Kirby as a younger Princess Margaret
Queen Elizabeth’s only sibling, Princess Margaret, was known as the more fun-loving and free-spirited royal. When she was 22, she scandalously fell in love with her father’s aide, Group Captain Peter Townsend, a divorced man 16 years her senior. Their romance was frowned upon within the royal family, and after much pressure, she ended their relationship. Vanessa Kirby played the role before Helena Bonham Carter assumed it in season 3.
Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret
Among other things, Princess Margaret was known for initiating the most infamous divorce in royal history. Helena Bonham Carter brings new life to the character in season 3, making Margaret's frustration with her marriage and family role clear.
Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles
Season 3 of The Crown is a big one for Prince Charles, and English actor Josh O'Connor has his unique mannerisms down pat. But what will his chemistry with Diana be like next season?
Matt Smith as a younger Prince Philip
Were we the only ones Googling “Young Prince Philip” after falling for Matt Smith’s charming version of Queen Elizabeth’s dashing husband? That hair! That style! No wonder Elizabeth insisted on marrying him even though her family is said to have been less than thrilled by her choice.
Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip
Tobias Menzies takes over the role of Prince Philip from Matt Smith for the show's third season. The resemblance is a little uncanny, you have to admit.
Emerald Fennell as Camilla Shand
Camilla Shand (later Parker-Bowles), the woman who would eventually come between Charles and Diana, is introduced in season 3. She's played by English actress Emerald Fennell, who was also the showrunner for the second season of Killing Eve.
Jason Watkins as Harold Wilson
English stage, film, and television actor Jason Watkins does a mean impression of Harold Wilson, the Labour politician who served as British Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976.
Matthew Goode as Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowden
A dapper photographer who married Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1960, Armstrong-Jones was a bohemian who suddenly entered a life of privileges, parties, quarrels, and infidelities that ended in divorce 18 years later. Known as a bit of a womanizer, he shook up the monarchy as outsiders like Wallis Simpson had in the past. Matthew Goode took on the mantle of this divisive character in The Crown's first two seasons.
Michael C. Hall as John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States
The JFK of The Crown's earlier era is charming, a strong leader—and bitterly jealous of his wife's popularity, leading to his not-so-secret infidelities. As the '60s ushered in a new era of revolutionary politics and upended social mores, Kennedy represented a challenge to Queen Elizabeth's desire to be an active monarch—of course, not so active as JFK. Michael C. Hall portrayed the leader of the free world in the first two seasons.
Jodi Balfour as Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady of the United States
Jackie Kennedy, played by Jodi Balfour, was not only First Lady; she also became a pop culture and society sensation. With her signature, classic style, pill box hats, pearls, and perfect brunette coif, she was fashionable and chic in a way that Queen Elizabeth never was, though perhaps she sacrificed much more of her privacy—especially when it came to her relationship with her husband.
Jared Harris as King George VI
King George VI wasn’t supposed to be king at all. His brother, Edward VIII, was destined for the throne, until he abdicated the crown in order to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson. George famously had a stammer and was terrified of public speaking, but eventually overcame it with the help of his speech therapist and friend Lionel Logue.
John Lithgow as Winston Churchill
It was an interesting choice to cast an American actor to play Britain’s most memorable statesman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill. But Lithgow delivers a captivating performance of the British bulldog during his last years in office.
Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother
Queen Elizabeth II’s mother was one of the most popular royals in British history. In fact, she was so beloved by the people that Adolf Hitler once described her as “the most dangerous woman in Europe.” She lived to be 101 years old before peacefully dying in her sleep, her eldest daughter by her side.
Ben Miles as Group Captain Peter Townsend
A war hero and equerry to King George VI, Townsend became a scandalous figure in Britain after falling in love with Princess Margaret.
Alex Jennings as the Duke of Windsor
King Edward VIII is best known for almost destroying the monarchy after proposing to the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. His decision to marry a woman with two living ex-husbands would have created a constitutional crisis in Britain, so Edward renounced the throne in order to wed Simpson. The couple later went into exile in France, where they spent much of the rest of their lives.
Originally Appeared on Vogue