Why Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Should Fill The ‘Downton’-Shaped Hole In Yr Life

Hey, you.
You’re still feeling the after effects of a world without ‘Downton Abbey’, aren’t you… there, there. Stop crying, because something comparable in genre – but, in this writer’s opinion, infinitely better – has come along to fill the Crawley-shaped hole in your life.
Enter ‘The Crown’, the new original Netflix drama about Queen Elizabeth II’s coming-of-reign: from the cast and costumes to the sets and scandals, every one of the reported US$120 million it cost to make (it’s the streaming service’s most spenno project to date) is spent sucking you into the backstory of Britain‘s longest-reigning monarch.
You may have already binge-watched the shit out of S1 (if that’s you, don’t fret: S2 has already been greenlit and is being filmed in London as. we. type) but, for those who haven’t, may we present the following reasons this blue-blooded period drama is deserving of your adoration.

From the very first ep, it’s clear that a shitlaod of The Crown’s budget went towards locking down an A+ cast who could do the characters justice. Yes, Claire Foy is phenomenally believable as Queen Liz – she has the accent down pat – but the real MVPs is John Lithgow as Winston Churchill in his twilight years as PM.
He falls so seamlessly into Churchill’s candor and cantankerousness that you forget he’s, er, not Churchill. Seriously, though, they could be twins. Or at least brothers.
His stellar performance is followed closely by that of our new fave Vanessa Kirby, who perfectly communicates the delicious brattiness of poor Princess Margaret, whose love life gets shafted by her sister’s (but more on that later).
Not only is does her character’s affair with RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend – the biggest royal scandal since the Abdication Crisis at the time – offer an insanely engaging subplot, but Kirby’s richie-rich wardrobe is the stuff of sartorial dreams.
Notable mention to Matt Smith, who you obviously know from ‘Doctor Who’ and makes a very good Prince Philip
It goes without saying that you can’t chuck Britain’s royal family in any old thing, so costume designer Michele Clapton had quite the task ahead of her.
Luckily she’s well qualified; she clothed all of Westeros (and beyond) for HBO‘s ‘Game of Thrones’ S1-S5. She also created Cersei Lannister‘s leather coronation gown and lion crown for S6, which earned her an Emmy, so suffice to say she knows a thing or two about crowning powerful women.
Clapton and her team estimate that a whopping 95% of the principals’ costumes are custom-made – including the spot-on replica of then-Princess Elizabeth’s iconic Norman Hartnell silk wedding dress for her marriage to Philip in 1947 – while the extras mostly wore vintage from the late ’40s and early ’50s.

Fun fact: the costume guys were saved the painstaking process of creating a replica of Liz’s coronation gown because – as luck would have it, Swarovski had actually created a spot-on copy for an exhibition and allowed it to be used for filming.

So many scandals, not enough members of the Royal family. The Crown gives us an insight into everything from (the former) King Edward’s notorious abdication from the throne to marry his lady love Wallis Simpson – and how it affected his place in England and the Windsor family – to Margaret’s intense affair with married war hero Townsend (played by the dashing Ben Miles).
It’s a whole lot of fun to watch the four-years-younger Margaret conspire to keep the early days of her romance a secret from her sister as she gears up to take the throne; it wasn’t until Liz’s coronation on June 2, 1953 – when Margaret lovingly plucked a piece of fluff from her lover’s collar inside Westminster Abbey, surrounded by information-hungry journos – that the illicit romance came to light and the shit hit the fan.
The show does an A+ job of making you feel for poor Margaret, who we know is ultimately denied the chance to marry Townsend because doing so would have incited uproar (as the sister of the head of the Church of England, which strictly forbade marrying a divorcee, it would have been the ultimate insult). The bitterness that festers between her and Elizabeth is awkward, but amazing, to watch.
God save the Queen (and your social life).
S1 of The Crown is currently streaming on Netflix.
Photos: Netflix / Alex Bailey.