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Have you ever wanted to speak in a British accent like the one the royals use on The Crown? The actors had to learn too, and they’ve shared some tips for speaking like British royalty!
A new season of The Crown
The latest season of The Crown—the fourth—is now on Netflix, so yesterday I started another re-watch of the series to get ready, and it gets even better with multiple viewings. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the first two seasons, but this is my first rewatch of the third.
If you’re not already a fan, the first two seasons of The Crown had an almost totally different cast from the third and fourth seasons. Instead of aging the cast members up, they replaced them as a group. I was against it at first, because I adored the original cast, but the next one did not disappoint!!
The role of Queen Elizabeth II went from Claire Foy to Olivia Colman, while her husband Prince Philip went from Matt Smith to Tobias Menzies. And in some genius casting, Princess Margaret’s role passed from Vanessa Kirby to Helena Bonham Carter!
And season four brings two new characters: Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher, and Emma Corrin as Princess Diana.
As I sit here writing this I’m on Season 3, so by tomorrow I should get to start the new season!
How to do a British accent like The Queen’s
What also gets better with repetition is driving my husband crazy by talking like British royalty. He likes the show, and watches it with me, but he can’t stand it when I start clipping my vowels and stiffening my upper lip. Which, of course, makes me do it more, because that’s the kind of 30-year relationship we’ve had.
If you would like to have a posh accent like you live at Buckingham Palace (and not as a servant), here are my tips for how to sound like British royalty, gleaned from talk show appearances of the cast over the years, an interview with the show’s dialect coach, and my own observations from watching the show:
Have a stiff upper lip
Talk without moving your upper lip, and you’ll be 75% of the way there. Just pretend the inside of your upper lip is glued to your two front teeth.
Helena Bohnam Carter taught this trick to Stephen Colbert:
Don’t open your mouth much
William Conacher, the dialect coach who worked on The Crown (as well as many other TV shows and movies) said in an interview that when he started working on The Crown, “I had to study how the Queen and the Royal Family speak and discovered that they don’t actually open their mouths, which explains why their voices sound so different.”
Shorten your vowels
Clip words as much as possible by shortening the vowels. When you say “sandwich,” try to get from the “s” to the “n” as directly as possible. “Buckingham” almost skips the “a” altogether, making it “Bucking’m.” Not opening your mouth much helps with these.
With words like “crown” and “house” you’re not just shortening vowels, you’re pretty much eliminating diphthongs.
A diphthong is when two vowel sounds are combined in one syllable, like in “crown.” Say it in American, and notice how much your upper lip has to move: your mouth opens for the “o” sound, and then you purse your lips for the “u” sound.
But remember, we’re not moving our upper lip! So to say “The Crown,” you instead basically say “The Crahn.” You’re still keeping that upper lip plastered to your front teeth, but you’re also lowering your jaw a bit (just a little!).
Claire Foy demonstrated a similar word to James Corden and Method Man, “house”:
Say a totally different word
Sometimes, you just have to substitute a totally different word in order to nail the accent.
To say “thank you,” you instead say “then cue.”
To say the word “yes,” you instead say the word “ears.”
Olivia Colman demonstrated this to Stephen Colbert on a recent episode:
Forget most “r” sounds
Don’t pull your tongue back when a word has an “r” sound in it (except at the beginning of a word—they do pronounce those), so that you make more of an “uh” sound.
But hit every “t”
When Americans pronounce every “t” in a word they sometimes sound weird. For example, when I hear someone say “Toronto” and they pronounce both “t”s the same, it sounds off to me (I barely hit that second “t”). Same with totally (which I say more like “toadally”) and so many other words. But those British royals really like their “t” – they pronounce every one as if it’s the star of the word.
Turn “sh” into “s”
If a word has a “c” in it that’s supposed to be pronounced like “sh,” don’t. Say it like an “s.” Like, “appreciation” becomes “uh-PRE-see-ay-shn.” It also works with “ss” like in “issue.”
That’s it! Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to annoying my husband.
Photo: The changing of the Guard at the Buckingham Palace (@erugopu)/Depositphotos.com