Behind the scenes of The Crown. A man stands behind a camera and shoots Imelda Staunton, who wears a red sweater and sits at a wooden table.

Crafting the world of The Crown

Production designer Martin Childs looks back on many seasons, sets, and eras as The Crown comes to a close.

Photography by Justin Downing
13 December 20234 min read

From Buckingham Palace to the Royal Yacht Britannia, somewhere in the region of 2,000 meticulous, marvelous sets have backdropped The Crown since its 2016 premiere. But as the show embarks on its sixth and final season, production designer Martin Childs reveals that, somehow, he’s been holding out on us. “Knowing there would be no Season 7 meant I could safely use ideas that had been brewing for the best part of a decade,” the Emmy winner reflects. “It was like being able to publish a box set of B-sides and rarities.” 

Along with trotting out the color schemes and set details he’d dreamt up across the life of the show, Childs made time to build a few impressive blockbuster sets. The most challenging was recreating Windsor’s St George’s Chapel within the real walls of York Minster — but the resulting set was uncannily realistic. “In order to convince cast and crew that it was ours, we would have to walk them around the back to show them the braces and stage weights that held it up,” Childs laughs. 

During filming, royal history unfolded in real time. Imelda Staunton, who earned BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Season 5, remembers the atmosphere in the wake of the monarch’s death: “We carried on with as much dignity and grace as they have always done on The Crown, but, obviously, there was a different temperature in the world.” 

For Childs, representing the queen’s lifetime has been an exercise in careful curation. “We needed to establish in a fast-changing narrative where she is at any given time,” he explains. The reconstruction of Elizabeth’s Scottish holiday residence was actually set up not too far from London: “As we were keen not to flood the screen with tartan, this is ‘essence of Balmoral,’ bottled and brought south.”