The Crown's Jonathan Pryce Has a Priceless Story About Meeting Queen Elizabeth II

Long before he was Prince Philip on The Crown, Sir Jonathan Pryce met a number of royals. He shared spot-on anecdotes about the queen and preparing to play her consort with E! News.

By Natalie Finn Nov 16, 2023 3:00 PMTags
Watch: Prince William & Kate Middleton Share RARE Photo of Queen Elizabeth II

If you're a prolific, award-winning actor from the United Kingdom, chances are you've crossed paths with members of the royal family.

That's the case, at least, for Sir Jonathan Pryce, the star of stage and screen who took on the role of Prince Philip for the final two seasons of The Crown opposite Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II.

Off the top of his head, he met the queen "a couple of times, when she attended functions and I was in the line," Pryce exclusively told E! News ahead of the Nov. 16 premiere of the Netflix series' final season. "Diana, I met twice. Anne, when I was created a knight, she dubbed me with the sword. And Charles, when I was made a CBE, he put the medal around my neck."

So, just to briefly unpack that, the 76-year-old was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) during the queen's 2009 Birthday Honours at Buckingham Palace, with now-King Charles III giving him his medal. Then Pryce was knighted in 2021 for services to drama and charity, with Princess Anne doing the honors on her mother's behalf.

And along the way, Pryce saw the queen and Princess Diana here and there, no big deal. 

The Crown Season 6 Official Photos

But while he sounded impressively unfazed by this high level of hobnobbing, the two-time Tony winner recalled a particular "little chance" he had to speak with the late queen in 2004. 

"I quite enjoyed telling her about a play I was doing at the time, and that she should come and see it," Pryce said. "And it was a play called The Goat by Edward Albee, where a man falls in love with a goat. Her reaction was... quite something, as she slowly walked away."

(Knowing her reputation for wry humor, we can only imagine that reaction. But The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? did win the 2002 Tony Award for Best Play before it moved to the West End, so maybe the monarch missed a fun night out.)

Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Ironically, seemingly the one senior royal Pryce never met was Philip. But in preparation to play the queen's cherished consort, the Welsh actor met people who were close to him—including from the carriage-driving circuit Philip enjoyed so much—to gain insight into one of the key supporting characters of the past century.

"That kind of insight was really valuable," Pryce said, "because I only knew him as this very austere character who was always three feet behind the queen and occasionally said the wrong thing. You get a more fully rounded picture of a man who was great company."

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art alum worked with movement and dialect coaches—"Many of us don't talk anything like the royal family," Pryce noted—and closely studied videos of Philip to get the retired naval officer's physicality right.


"His behavior in public, it told you a lot about him, how he greeted people, whether he was standoffish or if he was warm," Pryce said. "He had a very particular way in which he would put his hand out to shake, and he would take their hand strongly."

As opposed to the queen, he added with a laugh, who had "a completely different way of shaking people's hands." 

The Crown also employed a royal expert who coached the cast on protocol.

"When Imelda and I had our first scene together, eating a meal, and the servants put the food down in front of us," Pryce recalled, "both of us, because of our backgrounds, instinctively turned to say 'thank you' to the servants. And we were immediately told by the expert, "No, no, no, you don't say thank you to the servants.' 'What do you do?' 'You ignore them.'"

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Aside from that telling etiquette lesson, Pryce said working with Staunton, whom he's known for years, and seeing her as the queen "seemed perfectly natural."

Both seasoned performers who've played other historical figures, they approached The Crown as "a family story that's been put together by Peter Morgan," Pryce explained, referring to the series' creator and main writer. "So like any other film, we're representing the script, we're representing Peter's ideas. And you don't allow yourself very often to go, 'Oh my god, you're supposed to be the queen.'" 

He and Staunton didn't feel the need to discuss much ahead of time before shooting a scene, either.

"We had a mutual trust of how we worked as actors and it was fun," Pryce said. But at the same time, "we took it very seriously, that's the interesting thing. You tend to make jokes on a set. We didn't send up or make fun of anything because it would've detracted from the seriousness. Except it was fun to do."

Keith Bernstein/Netflix

But certain moments called for the utmost trust in each other—and in the show itself.

Part one of The Crown's sixth season covers the 1997 death of Princess Diana in a car crash, an infamously precarious moment for the royal family after the queen initially assumed the public would expect her to be her usual reserved self—a rare miscalculation during her 70 years on the throne.

The whole cast knew going in that getting the depiction of those events right would be the trickiest of dances, and Morgan has said that he might have written around the tragedy if he hadn't been able to get Elizabeth Debicki to play Diana, having envisioned the elegant Australian actress in the part of the '90s-era Princess of Wales.

In the scene where the queen and Philip are first told about the accident in the middle of the night, "my instinct as an actor was to do as little as possible and absorb that information," Pryce recalled. "I want the audience to make up their own minds about what I'm thinking."

Plus, he added, "It would be more honest, because I know it was such a personal moment. I didn't want to get it wrong somehow."

And as someone who remembers all too well what it was like when Diana died 26 years ago, Pryce predicted that watching it unfold on The Crown would be "a shared emotional moment" for the audience, as it was for those on set when they filmed it.

"Because so many of us, in Britain anyway, had a huge reaction at the time," he noted. "Even people like me, who didn't think they would cry at the death of a member of the royal family."

Part 1 of The Crown's sixth and final season is streaming on Netflix. Part 2 premieres Dec. 14.

Read on to see the stars vs. the real people they're playing:

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Ed McVey as Prince William

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Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II

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Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II

Olivia Colman played the royal family's matriarch for seasons three and four.

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II

Claire Foy played Queen Elizabeth II in seasons one and two of Netflix's The Crown, portraying the early days of the Queen's reign.

Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip

Jonathan Pryce is taking over the role of Prince Philip for the fifth and sixth seasons.

Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip

Tobias Menzies stepped into the role of Prince Philip for seasons three and four.

Matt Smith as Prince Philip

Doctor Who alum Matt Smith played a younger version of Queen Elizabeth's longtime love Prince Philip in seasons one and two.

Dominic West as Prince Charles

Dominic West will play Prince Charles in The Crown's fifth season.

Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles

Seasons three and four featured Josh O'Connor as heir apparent Prince Charles.

Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana

Elizabeth Debicki will play Princess Diana in season five of The Crown.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana

Emma Corrin took on the daunting task of playing the beloved late Princess Diana for season four.

Senan West as Prince William

Dominic West's own son, Senan West, will play his on-screen son Prince William in the latter half of season five.

Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret

Lesley Manville is portraying Elizabeth's strong-minded sister Princess Margaret in seasons five and six. 

Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret

Helena Bonham Carter was a natural fit to play the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, in seasons three and four of the period drama.

Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret

British actress Vanessa Kirby portrayed a young Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of The Crown.

Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker Bowles

As the Charles-Diana saga heats up in seasons five and six, Olivia Williams is stepping into Camilla Parker Bowles' heels.

Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles

The Prince Charles-Princess Diana saga wouldn't be complete without Camilla Parker Bowles, played by Emerald Fennell in seasons three and four.

Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne

Claudia Harrison is taking the reigns as Princess Anne in seasons four and five.

Erin Doherty as Princess Anne

Erin Doherty played Prince Philip's favorite child, Princess Anne, in seasons three and four.

James Murray as Prince Andrew

James Murray will portray Prince Andrew as his marriage to Sarah Ferguson falls apart in seasons five and six.

Sam Woolf as Prince Edward

Sam Woolf will star as Queen Elizabeth's youngest child Prince Edward in seasons five and six.

Johnny Lee Miller as John Major

It's not just the royals who are portrayed in The Crown. Johnny Lee Miller will take on Prime Minister John Major, who served in the role from 1990 to 1997.

Bertie Varvel as Tony Blair

Afterwards, Bertie Varvel will nab the prime minister role in seasons five and six as Tony Blair, who served from 1997 to 2007.

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher

Gillian Anderson played Britain's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in season four.

Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Fayed

For seasons five and six, Khalid Abdalla is originating the role of Dodi Fayed, Diana's partner who also died in the 1997 Paris car crash. 

Ben Daniels as Antony Armstrong-Jones

Ben Daniels joined The Crown in season three to play Princess Margaret's ex husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Matthew Goode as Antony Armstrong-Jones

Matthew Goode became Antony Armstrong-Jones for season two of The Crown.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill

John Lithgow played one the most famous prime ministers, Winston Churchill, in season one.

Alex Jennings and Derek Jacobi as Edward, Duke of Windsor

The infamous Duke of Windsor made an appearance in seasons one through three, played at different times by Alex Jennings and Derek Jacobi.

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