Inside the evolution of Queen Elizabeth as the royal role passed between the three actresses
The drama inspired by the lives of the British royals uniquely featured a rotating cast during its run to reflect its characters aging through the decades, and Queen Elizabeth was played by Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton. Though the show has depicted some of the darkest times in the royal family’s history, it also strengthened the public perception of the monarch, who died on Sept. 8, 2022 — thanks in part to the sparkle of the stars.
Foy originated the role of a then-Princess Elizabeth at the start of the series and played the Queen in seasons 1 and 2.
“People forget how beautiful Elizabeth was,” The Crown’s costume designer Amy Roberts tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. “This young girl growing up, the discipline that she brings on herself is quite remarkable. Her clothes might be fashionable, but there's a more controlled element about them.”
“They were very glamorous years. The Queen was the most glamorous figure in the world, and Claire Foy captured that well,” adds Robert Lacey, the series’ historical consultant. “She also conveyed her fragility and her uncertainty and how she grew into the role.”
The part passed to Colman in seasons 3 and 4, who plays a middle-aged Queen unafraid to clash with her prime ministers on politics.
“Those seasons portrayed how the Queen could relate to her people more closely than their elected representatives,” Lacey explains.
Despite the often serious scenes playing out on set, Colman brought much levity to the set!
“Olivia led the way on fun. She just wasn't going to have a kind of somber serious makeup truck,” hair and makeup designer Cate Hall tells PEOPLE. “We would have lunchtime raves. All the lights would go off and there'd be loads of neon, loud music and glow sticks. Considering we were doing quite serious subject matter, the light relief was quite intense.”
Hall joined The Crown in season 3 and says there was an ease among each back-to-back cast.
“It’s the joy of doing something where you've done the series before. [The actors] come with a kind of open trust and there's a real intimacy that develops quite quickly,” she tells PEOPLE. “They're loads of fun. Dominic West [who stars as Prince Charles] is a hoot.”
Staunton closes the role of Queen Elizabeth in seasons 5 and 6, and she gracefully portrays the monarch’s tumultuous later years.
“She captured the twinkle amid the dowdiness. She brought great softness to the stern side of the Queen,” says Lacey. “Those were the years of the family issues threatening to derail the family institution. You could say she kept it on the rails.”
Of her role in season 6, Staunton previously told Tudum, “I felt more comfortable this time. I love her stillness and her ability to not be thrown by everything that must have constantly — throughout her whole life — gone on around her.”
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Dedicated to every detail, Hall says that Staunton was committed to the Queen's "lack of vanity" through minimal makeup.
“It was kind of like to get the job done," she says of Queen Elizabeth's relationship with makeup during her record reign. “Imelda was really keen to follow that principle because it speaks to that lack of vanity. It speaks to quite a practical approach. Her eyebrows weren't overly groomed. She would wear a lipstick, but it really wasn't a kind of overly done makeup look."
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