Who knew that the fourth series of a Netflix show about the Royal family would cause so much consternation in 2020? Even with the global pandemic possibly annihilating the entire live arts sector (and just about every other industry), the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, still found time to write a letter beseeching The Crown’s creator to add a “health warning” to remind viewers that the series is a fictionalised version of true events.
Have the events of this year sent everybody mad? Quite possibly. But season four pulled absolutely no punches when it came to retelling the story of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Diana, a naive 19-year old, married off to an older Prince who was in love with another woman (Camilla Parker-Bowles) and who continued an affair with her long into the marriage. Where’s the lie, viewers asked?
While there’s been no word on whether the Royal family have even watched the show (much less what they actually think about it) the fact that it dominated the headlines in this messiest of years confirms just what a cultural phenomenon the series has become. And despite it arguably veering just a little slightly into the sensational side of history, we need to know when the next instalment of royal trials and tribulations is coming our way.
The Crown series 5 release date
The Crown famously films two seasons at a time, so after a speedy series 3 and 4, it’s only natural there would be a decent break between series 4 and 5, especially as the entire cast is being switched up.
Deadline previously reported that filming for season five is set to begin in June 2021. The show tends towards the lavish – big sets, international shoots, lots of extras – none of which is exactly Covid-friendly. At the earliest, think late 2022 – previous seasons have landed in the autumn, so best block out October and November in your diaries.
Who will star in The Crown series 5?
All change, please. While we’d have happily watched the dream team that is Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin as Charles and Di for another few series, sadly, the passing of time means we’re getting a whole new, older cast. That also means it’s adieu to Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip, Olivia Colman as HRH and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.
But have no fear, as the casting directors have gone above and beyond in the new line up.
Legendary stage and screen actor Imelda Stauton will play Queen Elizabeth II, Leslie Manville will play Princess Margaret and Game of Thrones star Jonathan Pryce will play Prince Pip.
At the announcement of the casting, Staunton seemed genuinely thrilled by the new role, and said: “I have loved watching The Crown from the very start. As an actor, it was a joy to see how both Claire Foy and Olivia Colman brought something special and unique. I am genuinely honoured to be joining such an exceptional creative team and to be taking The Crown to its conclusion.”
However, the difficulty of the role has made itself clear now, as she told Woman’s Hour: “I think my sort of extra challenge, as if I needed it, is that I’m now doing the Queen that we’re a little more familiar with. With Claire Foy, it was almost history and now I’m playing one that people could say 'she doesn’t do that,' 'she’s not like that,' and that’s my personal bête noire
Emma Corrin will be passing the baton on to Elizabeth Debicki – last seen in The Night Manager and Tenet. While Debicki is perfecting those doe eyes, she said: “Princess Diana’s spirit, her words and her actions live in the hearts of so many. It is my true privilege and honour to be joining this masterful series, which has had me hooked from episode one.”
In an interview with The Mirror, she added: “It’s a dream role. She is such a remarkable human being and she really does still live in the hearts of so many people. I’m overwhelmed, I’m terrified and I’m excited. I can’t wait to start.”
As for Prince Charles, well, that hasn’t been announced yet, though there were rumours that Dominic West might be stepping into the Royal shoes. Well, he has had previous experience of marriage infidelity in...ahem…The Affair.
Other roles still to be cast are: The Queen Mother, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward; Sarah, Duchess of York, Camilla Parker Bowles and the Princes William and Harry.
Another role that looks like a bit of head-scratcher to fill is that of Tony Blair. While there’s some industry chat that Michael Sheen – who played the part of Blair so perfectly in Peter Morgan’s Blair Trilogy – could be called upon again. However, will he now be too old to play Yung Blair?
Other names mentioned for taking on the role of the last Labour PM are Henry Melling (The Queen’s Gambit) or Callum Turner (The Capture), and even Andrew Garfield (Spiderman) has been mentioned. Good thing the hair and make-up department are evidently handy with prosthetics.
What will series 5 cover?
It’s all gearing toward the Royal family’s “annus horribilis” of 1992. Wait around a few more years Liz, things are only going to get worse...
Series four left off in 1990: Margaret Thatcher had resigned and John Major is on the way in. Charles and Diana’s marriage was on the way out - though they were still officially together. Princess Anne’s marriage also appeared doomed, and Prince Andrew is showing future shades of a future perverted personality (see: the weird moment he tells mummy about a film plot where “Emily meets several twisted and perverted older predators who seduce the vulnerable, helpless young girl as we follow her induction into sensual pleasures”).
While we’ve already had fun speculating what might be in series five, there are some major milestones that surely creator Peter Morgan will have to include.
The official dissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage will play a key part of this - and the fury in the family when Diana went public with her interview with Martin Bashir.
Then, there's Diana's death by car crash in 1997. There was an outpouring of grief by the public which quickly turned to anger when they felt the Royal family refused to properly acknowledge her death.
Prince Andrew and Fergie also got divorced, but Morgan has said not to expect any seeds being sown for the show to cover the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, he said he runs the show on the 20 year rule, which is, he won’t cover things that have happened less than two decades ago: “That is enough time and enough distance to really understand something, to understand its role, to understand its position, to understand its relevance... I don't know where in the scheme of things Prince Andrew or indeed Meghan Markle or Harry will ever appear.”
Other major events that might make the cut are the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992, the Dunblane massacre in 1996, the rise of New Labour and Tony Blair voted in to power in 1997, and there must surely be at a mention of the Twin Towers terrorist attack, an atrocity which shook the world in 2001.
Is it too soon to talk about series six yet?
Season six - the last in the series - will take us up to the early noughties, Morgan told Deadline, and he stressed the passing of time will go slower in these final two seasons: “As we started to discuss the storylines for Series 5, it soon became clear that in order to do justice to the richness and complexity of the story we should go back to the original plan and do six seasons.
“To be clear, Series 6 will not bring us any closer to present-day — it will simply enable us to cover the same period in greater detail.”
As for covering the public’s obsession with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, he told Entertainment Weekly: “Let’s wait 20 years and see what there is to say about Meghan Markle. I don’t know what there is to say about her at the moment. I wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t presume. She’ll only become interesting once we’ve had 20 years to digest who she is and what her impact has been.”
The Crown series 5 trailer: is it here yet?
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