Off-screen romance rumours swirl for Matt Smith and Claire Foy

A royally revealing photo album: Matt Smith and Claire Foy made a VERY convincing Queen and Prince Philip in The Crown. Now, as rumours swirl of an off-screen romance, is life imitating art?

Their chemistry on The Crown captivated millions. From tender looks to stony silences, viewers agreed that, as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Claire Foy and Matt Smith were a convincing couple.

Off screen, too, the pair have at times seemed closer than mere acting pals. 

Whether nuzzling into his shoulder or play-fighting over dinner a deux, these pictures show the pair enjoy a bond that goes deeper than their professional work.

Tender kiss: Claire as Elizabeth and Matt as Philip in the first series of The Crown that aired in 2016

In 2017, she greeted him at LA airport with hugs, while over drinks in London that April they held hands. More recently, they acted together again, as another married couple, in the play Lungs. 

Little wonder that following news this week of the split between Matt and his girlfriend of the past five years, Lily James, many are wondering if life — and in this case, love — is imitating art?

Lily James, famous as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, and Matt Smith, the youngest Doctor Who, began dating in 2014 and moved in together in North London last year. 

Matt and Claire at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards in January. For her role in The Crown, Claire was awarded the prize for Outstanding Performance at the starry Los Angeles event

Claire pretended to hit Matt with her napkin at Soho’s Dean Street Townhouse, London, in April 2017

She was apparently seen shopping for an engagement ring with Matt’s sister Laura, a dancer.

The expectation was that they would marry and start a family. It was not to be. A long-time pal confirms: ‘They’ve split up, 100 per cent. It has been over for a while.’

Work pressure is undoubtedly a factor. As Lily said in an interview last year: ‘I know I can’t keep working at this intensity. I finish a job; Matt starts one.’

A source confirms: ‘A few months ago they decided finally to end it properly. They have many mutual friends, so hopefully it will all stay civilised.’ 

It seems Lily, 30, has taken the split rather badly. Not least the rumours, which Lily has found ‘very upsetting’, that Claire Foy, 35, is in some way involved.

The pair broke into song on stage while promoting The Crown series in Los Angeles, America, in May 2017

Reunited in September 2017 at LA airport, they shared a warm embrace before Claire cups Matt’s face in delight

After walking the red carpet on Sunday night at a film awards bash in London, Lily was seen looking distracted. 

An onlooker who bumped into her in the ladies explained: ‘Lily was re-doing her eye make-up and just looked like she was a bit shell-shocked.

‘During a conversation she sort of glazed over then apologised saying she had a lot on her mind.’

Matt, seven years her senior, is clearly trying to handle their parting carefully. The couple’s lunch this week at the Spaniards Inn pub in Hampstead seems to have been to discuss the fallout of the news that the romance was over.

Recently, Lily had a working break in South Africa with stylist friend Rebecca Corbin-Murray. On social media, she described Rebecca and herself as ‘post-traumatic stress disorder buddies’.

Their fingers were firmly intertwined at the Emmys in September 2018 where Claire won the Outstanding Lead Actress award

Matt and Claire are back at the Dean Street Townhouse restaurant this April, where they hold hands, share a bottle of wine and chat long into the night

Last week, Lily added another photo of herself at an animal reserve with the headline ‘National Cheetahs’ — a none-too-subtle swipe at her ex? I’m told Matt ‘absolutely denies’ that his friendship with Claire Foy is an affair; I’m also told Lily believes him.

However, it is fair to say that there has been more than enough intimacy to make any girlfriend feel insecure.

In 2017, they were giggling over takes on The Crown so much that neither could continue with the script — apparently something about the way Matt says ‘Olympic’ as Prince Philip sets her off. 

This spring, they dined in Soho, with Foy trying on her sunglasses for him despite the darkness. The supper, over several glasses of wine, looked friendly indeed.

Appearing as husband and wife in the West End play Lungs, the couple again look totally at ease with each other during rehearsals in October. Theatre critics praise their ‘natural synergy’

The pair held hands to cross the street in October after enjoying a lighthearted lunch on the South Bank, London

In October, while they were rehearsing for the two-hander play Lungs, they were seen holding hands in the street. The critics felt that their portrayal of a marriage was superlatively convincing.

Foy split from her husband, actor Stephen Campbell Moore, in 2017, reportedly near the end of filming The Crown. 

The couple, who have a four-year-old daughter Ivy Rose, announced in 2018 they had gone their separate ways ‘some time ago’. After the second series of The Crown, Claire took 18 months off, suffering from ‘fatigue’.

A source on The Crown said: ‘She was dealing with a lot of personal stuff and I can promise you nothing romantic was going on between her and Matt Smith at that time.’

During an interview to publicise the play, he was asked about Lily and said awkwardly: ‘I really believe in journalism and journalistic inquiry, but I also believe that that part of my life… Well, I want to keep it as my own.’

Although Lily has said family is the ‘most important thing’, she’s also admitted she’s ‘gone through different phases of wanting and not wanting to get married’.

As for Matt, his thoughts seem to be firmly focused on starting a family of his own.

‘I am thinking about kids quite a lot,’ he’s said. ‘I’d like a lot of them. A lot of my friends are having children and, dare I say, I think I’d be quite a good dad.’

Already a mother herself, his pal Claire Foy would surely agree.   

Picture research: CLAIRE CISOTTI 

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