Queen Elizabeth’s Former Press Secretary Doesn’t Remember Her Being As “Glum and Boring” In Real Life As She Is Portrayed On ‘The Crown’

He gives a frank assessment of the performances of all three Queen Elizabeths: Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, and Imelda Staunton.

Queen Elizabeth in blue at a royal wedding
(Image credit: Getty Images)

And just like that, it’s over: after seven years, Netflix’s The Crown has aired its final episode, with part two of season six dropping on the streaming service this past Thursday. Three women have undertaken the daunting task of playing the larger than life Queen Elizabeth on the show: first Claire Foy, then Olivia Colman, and, finally, Imelda Staunton; now, Deadline reports, Her late Majesty’s former press secretary is weighing in on how accurate (or not) their portrayal of her was.

The three Queen Elizabeths on "The Crown"

(Image credit: Netflix)

(Minor spoiler alert) Foy, Colman, and Staunton all appeared together in a scene where they unite under the arches of St. George’s Chapel, where the late Queen is buried. Dickie Arbiter, Her late Majesty’s former press secretary, has been, as Deadline puts it, “a hawkish viewer” of the series since its inception in 2016 and, now that the series has concluded, can reflect on the performances of the three women who undertook the role of the longest-serving British monarch in history.

In particular Arbiter “was withering about Colman and Staunton’s portrayals of Queen Elizabeth over the past four seasons of The Crown—the period in which he worked closely with Her Majesty,” Deadline writes. Arbiter said he didn’t recognize the “drawn” woman played by Colman and added that Staunton’s portrayal was “gloomy in a way that did the Queen a disservice,” the outlet reports. 

Queen Elizabeth

(Image credit: Getty)

“I don’t remember her being glum and boring,” Arbiter said. “Glum if there was a death in the family or one of the dogs had to be put down, but she was playing glum and boring right the way through.”

That said, Arbiter said Staunton nailed it in one scene: “when she delivered an address to the nation after Princess Diana’s death,” Deadline writes. (Arbiter played a key role in orchestrating that speech in real life, so he would know.) 

Queen Elizabeth in 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Arbiter’s favorite portrayal of Queen Elizabeth came from Foy, who played a young Elizabeth in the first two seasons of the show; Arbiter called her performance “brilliant.” Yet Arbiter was critical, in particular of The Crown’s creator Peter Morgan, of “dramatic license gone bonkers” in his portrayal of the events surrounding Diana’s death in 1997, in particular scenes where Prince Charles (played by Dominic West) breaks the news of Diana’s death to their sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

“The sequence of Charles telling his sons of their mother’s death was so insensitive,” he said. “It was so unnecessary. The death of their mother is still raw with both of them.”

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.