Secrets of The Crown: Which ‘royal’ stuffed their bra with birdseed? Who had a near-death experience on set?
Posted by  badge Boss on Nov 09, 2022 - 09:24AM
From yuppie phones to changing eye colours, welcome to the weird world of The Crown (Picture:

Series 5 of Netflix show is released today (November 9) on the streaming platform. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes on the loosely-based drama of The ?

From ’s corset to meeting Princess Margret, we look at the secrets of The Crown.

John Lithgow’s cotton wool trick

The legendary John Lithgow plays Winston Churchill (Picture: Netflix)

Actors use the oddest tricks to get into their roles. When John Lithgow appeared as Winston Churchill, he acquired his famous voice by sticking cotton wool pads up his nose. ‘It was rather repulsive watching me pick cotton wool out of my nose after every scene, but everyone just had to put up with it,’ said the US actor.

Producers also had to commission an enlarged fake door for No.10 Downing Street to disguise the fact that Lithgow is 6ft 4ins while Churchill was just 5ft 6ins.

Takeaway catering

A converted double-decker bus supplies catering but at one location, filming at a country church, it couldn’t fit down the narrow lane. Instead, lunch was delivered in takeaway containers. David Roper, who played the Bishop of Norwich, recalled: ‘I was a bishop sitting next to the Queen Mother and we looked like we were having McDonald’s out of takeaway boxes.’

Claire Foy’s corset

Actress Claire Foy balanced becoming a new mother with portraying the Queen (Picture: Netflix)

Pregnant when she auditioned, Claire Foy had recently given birth when filming started, so wore a corset while playing a young Elizabeth. ‘I found myself halfway up a Scottish mountain with engorged boobs and no way of getting down to feed my baby,’ she said.

‘I had to ring my husband and tell him to give her formula milk. As I sat in a Land Rover trying to get my breast pump to work, I felt I’d made the worst mistake of my life.’

Somerley House

Somerley House in Hampshire doubles as Charles’s official residence of Highgrove. Haze guns were used to create an ‘aged’ look and the grass was left to grow for a month before filming to make it look authentically overgrown.

Diana’s wedding dress

The Netflix version of Princess Diana’s dress was shockingly similar to the real thing (Picture: Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images/Instagram/emmalouisecorrin)

The wedding dress wore for Diana’s wedding to Charles in season four was an almost exact replica of the original. Designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel gave the wardrobe department the original pattern so they could whizz up an identical model. ‘I walked out and everyone went completely silent,’ said Corrin.

Marion Bailey’s stuffed bra

The wardrobe department dreamed up a novel way to ensure Marion Bailey could replicate the Queen Mother’s famously cuddly figure. They stuffed her bra with birdseed to give her bosom just the right matronly look.

Helena Bonham Carter met Princess Margaret

Helena Bonham Carter once came face to face with the princess she portrayed in The Crown (Picture: Des Willie/Netflix)

Princess Margaret left Helena Bonham Carter speechless when they met in real life. Bonham Carter, who played Princess Margaret in seasons three and four, was introduced by her uncle, who was a friend of Margaret. ‘She was pretty scary,’ said Bonham Carter. ‘She met me at Windsor Castle and said, “You are getting better, aren’t you?” I presume she was talking about my acting abilities.’

Location, location

The cast may have changed for Season 5. But the backdrops remain largely the same. London’s Lancaster House stands in for the gilded corridors and chambers of Buckingham Palace and Suffolk’s Somerleyton Hall is once again a surrogate for the Queen’s beloved East Anglia estate, Sandringham.

Ardverikie Castle, previously best known as home to TV’s Monarch of the Glen, stands in for Balmoral along with Rhinefield House – a hotel in the New Forest. Many scenes have also been shot in Mallorca, recreating holidays Charles and Diana took with their sons.

The Windsor Castle scenes, including the 1992 fire, a certain dramatic high point of season 5, are filmed at Burghley House in Lincolnshire. Charles and Diana’s unravelling marriage will be shown at Hertfordshire’s Brocket Hall, standing in for Kensington Palace.

Vintage mobile phones were hot property (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Old mobile phones

Sourcing vintage royal regalia sounds like a headache. But the props department said the biggest headache was finding everyday items such as old mobile phones. Seen in every yuppie’s hand in the 1980s, crew had to scour shopping site like eBay to find brick-like mobiles for series four.

Matt Smith almost died

Playing the Queen’s husband provided Matt Smith with a surprising challenge (Picture: Netflix)

Playing Prince Philip turned out to be a near-death experience for . In season one, he was filming a scene of the royal tour in Africa when he was asked to get on a horse and trot around. ‘In my stupidity, I got on the horse and cantered around, and then the horse – who was a bit frisky – just went,’ said Smith.

‘I tried to grab a branch and everyone was shouting, “Oh my God, don’t grab the branch.” So I went under the branch and then down a ravine. As it galloped towards a herd of zebra, a huge man grabbed it by the reins and saved my life.’ The scene didn’t even make the cut.

Designing the sets

Not surprisingly, the Queen refused to lend Buckingham Palace for filming. Instead researchers went undercover. Joining public tours incognito, they scribbled down notes of every detail, from the shape of the doorknobs to the pile on the carpets, so they could rush back to their studio and recreate it all.

Annie Sulzberger, who led the team, said: ‘We went on tours like any other members of the public and they had no idea why we were there.’

Olivia Coleman’s eyes

Olivia Colman’s eye colour caused quite the stir when playing the Queen (Picture: AP)

When Olivia Colman took over as the Queen, the producers’ biggest headache was the colour of her eyes. The Queen had startlingly blue eyes. So does Claire Foy. Colman’s eyes are brown. Colman agreed to try blue contact lenses but they affected her performance so badly that the idea was abandoned. They also attempted to change her eye colour in post-production but in the end decided it just didn’t feel right.

Stolen props

A mock Fabergé egg was among $200,000 worth of antiques stolen from the set (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Safeguarding props can also a problem. Around $200,000 of antiques including a mock Fabergé egg, a grandfather clock and a gold candelabra were stolen from three production vehicles parked in Doncaster. The 200 items were grabbed when raiders forced open the vehicles during filming of the fifth series.

The Queen’s coronation dress

Claire Foy donned an immaculate replica of the famous outfit (Picture: Print Collector/Getty Images)

The Queen’s coronation dress was commissioned by Harrods for a window display to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Despite being made to a mannequin size, it fitted Claire Foy perfectly. She was the first person to ever wear it.

It was a huge relief for the wardrobe department. On average it takes two to three weeks depending on intricacy for each piece of royal clothing to go from sketch to reality.

Who Elizabeth Debicki nearly played…

Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Princess Diana in Season 5 – actually auditioned for a role in Series Two but lost out to someone else. ‘I won’t say who because they played it beautifully. Also, if I told people, they’d be like: ‘WHAT?’ she says.

Born in Paris, raised in Melbourne and based in London Elizabeth is 6’ tall and got her first break straight out of drama school in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. At 6’3”, Elizabeth is considerably taller than the 5’10” Diana and her co-star Dominic West who’s 6’ tall.

Vanessa Kirby doesn’t smoke

Non-smoker Vanessa Kirby took to herbal cigarettes in the absence of a nicotine habit (Picture: Netflix)

Vanessa Kirby, who played the young Princes Margaret, doesn’t smoke and found the royal’s chain-smoking a real drag. She compromised by smoking herbal cigarettes for the role.

Father and son on set

Dominic West’s son, Senan, plays Prince William in Season 5 which led to some unexpected moments. Dad of four, Dominic, found himself in full Dad protective mode when Senan, 13, was invited to take afternoon tea with the Queen, played by Imelda Staunton. 

Faced with a plate of chocolate eclairs, Senan started eagerly tucking in. ‘I had to run on set going: ‘Senan, you’re going to have to do this 20 times, take it easy,’’ says Dominic. ‘By the end of it, he’d had about 20.’

The real Buckingham Palace

The royal set was located next to the Big Brother house (Picture: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Scenes outside Buckingham Palace – including the balcony – are shot on a huge set at Elstree Studios. After pouring thousands of pounds into the work, producers realised there was one problem – the set was back-to-back with TV’s Big Brother house.

Filming was often disrupted by noisy crowd scenes and firework displays on eviction days until the Big Brother house was finally relocated.

Lesley Manville was sworn to secrecy after winning the role of Princess Margaret (Picture: Keith Bernstein/Netflix)

Casting secrets revealed

Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville were the very first actors to be cast in Season 5, where they play the Queen and Princess Margaret. Sworn to secrecy for months, Lesley – best known for starring in the BBC comedy Mum – was so excited she ended up telling her sister Diana, and her son, Alfie Oldman (his dad is Lesley’s ex, actor Gary Oldman.)

‘I knew they wouldn’t say. You have to tell someone and I haven’t got a husband or boyfriend to tell,’ says Lesley, 66. ‘I used to wake up and think: ‘F*** I’m going to play Princess Margaret.’