Still Watching

Inside The Crown’s Three-Queen Farewell

As The Crown comes to an end, executive producer Suzanne Mackie drops by Still Watching to discuss the series’ legacy and that final scene that united Imelda Staunton, Olivia Colman, and Claire Foy for the first time.
Inside The Crowns ThreeQueen Farewell
Justin Downing/Netflix

It’s finally time for the queen to rest. The Crown has come to an emotional conclusion with the 10th and final episode of the sixth season, “Sleep, Dearie Sleep,” which brings together the series’ three Elizabeth IIs—Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, and Imelda Staunton—for a grand finale. Here, Still Watching hosts Hillary Busis, Richard Lawson, and Chris Murphy unpack the finale. The Crown executive producer Suzanne Mackie also drops by the podcast to discuss crafting the end of the epic series, orchestrating the meeting of the three queens, and saying an emotional goodbye to her favorite fictional royals. 

The series finale of The Crown takes a meta approach to its inevitable ending, focusing the bulk of the action on the queen contemplating her own mortality and whether she might step down during Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles’s wedding. While it’s understandable that those at The Crown decided to end the series well before drama between Prince William and Kate Middleton and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle comes to a head, it makes for a bit of a letdown nonetheless. “It’s a little anticlimactic,” says Murphy. “It’s a little boring when there’s so much juicy stuff coming.”

That’s not to say the episode doesn’t have its fair share of scandal. Luther Ford’s Prince Harry finally takes center stage as the series finale chronicles the infamous Nazi-costume scandal that landed him on the front page of all the British tabloids. “Its position on Harry and the Nazi uniform is maybe as puzzling as its position on Elizabeth’s greatest secret,” says Busis, noting that Harry only seems contrite due to the fact that his grave error in judgment landed him on the front page—and that the Windsors don’t seem overly concerned about what he actually did. “Elizabeth and Philip, they lived through the Blitz. They were in the Allies. You would think that it would be a bigger deal for your grandson to dress like a Nazi.”

Even Harry’s indiscretion, Lawson notes, is used to reflect back onto Queen Elizabeth and her reign. The idea that the queen is the last of a dying breed of royal is present throughout the entire episode, most notably in a speech from Jonathan Pryce’s Prince Philip. “Philip has a really interestingly despairing speech to [Elizabeth] about how the whole thing’s going to fall apart—‘It’s over when you die, but, look, we’ll be dead. It doesn’t bother us.’ For the show to acknowledge that the death of Elizabeth is really the beginning of the end of all of this was surprisingly bleak,” says Lawson.

For Suzanne Mackie, an executive producer of The Crown who’s been on board since the very beginning, it really is all over. “It’s been 11 years for me, every single day, pretty much seven days a week. The Crown has featured heavily in my life. So it’s very mixed emotions,” she tells Busis and Murphy.

According to Mackie, she and series creator Peter Morgan knew pretty early on that they wanted to have all three actors who played Queen Elizabeth II appear in the final episode. “Long ago as season two, I think, we first started talking about it,” she says. “We just said, ‘God, one day, can you imagine—when we get to episode 10 of season six, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have all three?’” However, getting Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, and Imelda Staunton in the same place at the same time wasn’t the easiest task to pull off: “They are busy. Just trying to get them to fit in with our schedule and our schedule to fit in with their schedules, it was difficult.” It all ended up working out on the penultimate day of shooting the series at York Minster, The Crown’s stand-in for Westminster Abbey. “That final scene when the queen walks the length of the hall to the door and lets in the light and then it closes, we only had one minute left to film it—literally one minute left, otherwise we go into overtime,” says Mackie. 

The producer recalls gathering around the monitor with director Stephen Daldry to watch Staunton’s long walk. “There were lots of cameras, the lighting, the ticking clock. Behind me and Stephen Daldry and Adriano [Goldman], the DP, we had Claire and Olivia watching. And then we got Imelda all the way to the door and the door opened, and she walked out and the door slammed. And we all looked at each other and went, ‘We got it, we got it.’”

That experience was “incredibly emotional” for the cast and crew, Mackie says. “There was something very pure in that last, final walk. It felt like we were all gathered together. It was like the endeavor of a journey of a thousand steps, if you like, was sort of suddenly playing out in front of us…. We all did turn and hug and have a bit of a tear in the eye. It felt very emotional because it felt like the door had just shut on the whole thing.”

“Was I moved by the three queens standing together in black as the queen was walking out of the chapel? Yeah, I was moved,” says Murphy. “I understood the importance. I understood why people feel so strongly about her.”

Busis, too, was able to look back on The Crown fondly, particularly for its portrayal of Princess Diana. “I do think that the Diana stuff is where the show has been most successful, most consistent, and where it makes the best case for why we should care so much about this person specifically,” she says.

But for Lawson, it all ultimately comes back to Queen Elizabeth. “Regardless of your feelings, she was a figure who loomed large for the better part of a century,” he says. “And that’s significant.”

That’s a wrap on The Crown, and on this season of Still Watching. Send any questions, comments, or final musings on the series to Still Watching at And keep an eye out for a new season of Still Watching coming in the new year.