Soundtrack review: The crown (season 1) (Hans Zimmer & Rupert Gregson Williams – 2016)


“The Crown” is an upcoming American-British television drama series, created and written by Peter Morgan and produced by Left Bank Pictures for Netflix. The show is a biographical story about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The Crown will trace the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding in 1947 to the present day. It is expected to span 60 episodes over six seasons, with Claire Foy playing the Queen in the early part of her reign. Hans Zimmer wrote the main theme with Rupert Gregson-Williams composing the score. British monarchy has always been an intriguing but frustrating subject for me and I’m sure the show will have plenty of backstabbing.

It’s Hans Zimmer so even a main titles theme for a TV show is reason to get excited and to take joy in a short but epic piece that still manages to bring the trademark build up that I love so much: it starts quietly, then it rises like a wave of music before fading out again. It’s only a glimpse but I like it. It’s simple but it sinks in fast. That is the main theme of the score so it comes back even in the body of the composition which the younger Gregson Williams brother wrote. “Duck shoot” blends with the main titles it comes after as if it was the natural extension. The main theme escapes the confines of the opening credits and roams freely throughout the score. I love the comfort of the RCP sound and I love the way Hans and his collaborators can make meaningful cues out of simple motifs repeated and assembled together by musical craftsmen. “Duck shoot” has a two note motif that repeats itself louder and louder as instruments keep joining the fun. When the horns come in I feel something move inside me. Once again the construction of the cue is just the way I like it: quiet emotional / loud burst / back to quiet.

As the events in the show progress the music knows when to get out of the way and not weigh heavily on the listener. Cues like “Government” or “Limerick” are fillers but still enjoyable and I know that I need to focus on what’s going on on screen when I listen to it. The 8 minute long “The letter” will raise a few eyebrows; it hides inside musical elements that for me bring Zimmer nostalgia; Rupert Gregson Williams arranged the Zimmer theme and motifs very cleverly and everywhere I look there’s a shade of “Time” or a short emotional buildup that makes this reflective piece precious to me.

Maybe it’s because of the story and the way ruling Britain is supposed to be done; maybe it’s the idea that people in those positions need to keep their emotions in check and bottled up but I wish there were more unleashed emotional moments like the middle section of “In this together”; a piece like this brings the story to me and helps me connect with it. Most of the score is quiet and it makes sense; this also makes me feel and appreciate more the louder moments. Rupert Gregson Williams did a great thing in “The crown”: he gave each musical moment the different weight of the scene or character it was written for. This score is like a heat map of intensity of the show and it helps me know before even watching it which characters are more passionate, which colder and how different events marked them.

While not a score that will be memorable in any way I consider “The crown” to be the start of a musical canvas that will stretch for years to come as the show will go on. Definitely al album better enjoyed in context.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 68

Album excellence: 26%


Duck shoot

The letter

The anointing



About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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