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Warning: Contains minor spoilers for seasons 4 and 5 of The Crown.
Royal enthusiasts devoured season 4 of The Crown in November 2020 and were quick to crave the next chapter. From the Oscar-nominated actors assuming the roles of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and Prince Philip to the casting of the new Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the show’s final two seasons are shaping up to be a fitting send-off for the groundbreaking drama.
Below, everything we know about season 5 of The Crown, including how Imelda Staunton is preparing to play the Queen, and why it won’t premiere until 2022.
When will production begin?
How many seasons will there be in total?
Back in November 2016, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos confirmed that Morgan’s initial pitch for the show outlined six seasons. “The idea is to do this over six decades, in six seasons presumably, and make the whole show over eight to 10 years,” Sarandos said, per The Hollywood Reporter.
But in late January 2020, Deadline reported that the show’s fifth season would be its last. “At the outset I had imagined The Crown running for six seasons but now that we have begun work on the stories for season 5 it has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop,” Morgan said in a statement. “I’m grateful to Netflix and Sony for supporting me in this decision.”
However, this decision was reversed in July. Morgan confirmed, via Deadline, that the show would return for a sixth season. “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,” Morgan stated. “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.”
This means The Crown will skip over some major content opportunities for the show. In early 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sent ripples through the monarchy when they announced they would step down from their senior royal roles. In November 2019, Prince Andrew was forced to walk away from his own royal duties after questions about his ties to Jeffrey Epstein arose. It seems unlikely either scandal will be covered in depth on The Crown.
Who will take over the role of Queen Elizabeth II?
Imelda Staunton will play Queen Elizabeth II. A scrapped sixth season originally meant Oscar nominee Staunton would have only one installment to make an impact. But now she’ll get two seasons, as was the case with the queens before her. Rumors of Staunton's casting made waves in November 2019, shortly after the third season premiered. Deadline confirmed the news in late January 2020.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to confirm Imelda Staunton as Her Majesty the Queen for the fifth and final season, taking The Crown into the 21st century,” creator and showrunner Peter Morgan said in a statement. “Imelda is an astonishing talent and will be a fantastic successor to Claire Foy and Olivia Colman.”
Netflix also tweeted a statement from Staunton about her casting: “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 to Peter Morgan’s scripts. I am genuinely honored to be joining such an exceptional creative team and to be taking The Crown to its conclusion.”
In a recent interview on the BBC radio show Woman’s Hour, Staunton spoke about the hurdles of playing Queen Elizabeth. “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,” she told host Emma Barnett, via Variety. “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.”
What about Princess Margaret?
Netflix announced in July 2020 that Oscar-nominated Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Maleficent) will take on the role previously played by Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Kirby. “I could not be happier to be playing Princess Margaret,” the actress said in a statement, shared to the show’s official Twitter. “The baton is being passed on from two formidable actresses and I really don't want to let the side down. Furthermore, to play siblings with my dear friend Imelda Staunton will be nothing short of a complete joy.”
In her first interview since nabbing the role of Princess Margaret, Manville said she found it “thrilling” to take on a role previously played by two other actresses. “I think, come on Manville, you’ve got to take that baton, and not let those two actresses think, ‘Oh we were great, shame about Manville.’ Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” she told Deadline in July 2020.
Asked whether she considered not accepting the high-stakes role, Manville said there was never a question. “There was never any doubt that I would say yes,” she recalled. “When they said ‘Margaret,’ I hadn’t really thought about it. Then I thought, ‘yes Margaret!’ That’s fabulous because she was so avant-garde. So naughty, delightful and funny. What a wonderful woman to play.” When pressed about other performers joining the project, Manville kept tight-lipped. “Not a single name has been dangled like a carrot to make me even more excited,” she told the outlet.
Who else is new to the cast?
Deadline reported on August 12 that Jonathan Pryce, the Oscar-nominated actor behind The Two Popes and The Wife, will play Prince Philip for seasons 5 and 6. He takes over the role from Tobias Menzies (seasons 3 and 4) and Matt Smith (seasons 1 and 2).
"I am delighted to be working with Netflix again,” Pryce said in a statement. “The positive experience I had making The Two Popes has given me the confidence to tackle the daunting prospect of portraying Prince Philip. To be doing so with Peter Morgan in the company of Imelda and Lesley will be a joy.”
In addition, the official Crown Twitter account announced in June 2021 that Elementary actor Jonny Lee Miller will join the cast as Prime Minister John Major.
A season 5 cast will also presumably include new actors for Camilla Parker Bowles and Prime Minister Tony Blair. While the casting confirmations roll in, keep in mind that cameos from former cast members could occur; besides Foy in season 4, John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill and Pip Torrens’ Tommy Lascelles appeared briefly in season 3.
Will there be new actors for Princess Diana and Prince Charles?
Season 5 of The Crown will also welcome a new Princess Diana to the fold, following Emma Corrin’s one-season portrayal of the headline-making royal. Actress Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager, The Great Gatsby) will take on the role in seasons 5 and 6, as confirmed on Twitter. “Princess Diana’s spirit, her words and her actions live in the hearts of so many,” Debicki said in a statement, shared to The Crown’s Twitter. “It is my true privilege and honor to be joining this masterful series, which has had me absolutely hooked from Episode One.”
As for where Diana’s storyline will go in season 5, costume designer Amy Roberts told ELLE.com there’s information to be gleaned from the character’s season 4 costumes. For instance, when Diana joins the family Christmas photo at Balmoral wearing a “killer dress” in the final episode, it’s “a moment when she starts putting on armor. That’s what she does in the next series. This is the first real moment where she thinks, ‘Well, I’m going to fight you lot. I'm going to survive.’”
Meanwhile, The Wire and The Affair actor Dominic West is set to star as Prince Charles in season 5 of The Crown, The Hollywood Reporter revealed in October 2020. Variety confirmed the news in April 2021. The Brit would take over from Josh O’Connor, who played Prince Charles in seasons 3 and 4 of the series.
Will Emma Corrin return as Diana?
It’s customary for a new actor to take over a character on The Crown every two seasons, but according to The Sun, the show’s creators will try to feature Corrin in the next season, partly due to her popularity in the part. “Under normal circumstances, The Crown’s rule is that the entire cast changes after every two series, but Emma has been exceptional as Di,” a source told the outlet. “So although Elizabeth will take over the role, they’re looking at ways that her predecessor can appear, albeit in flashbacks to her younger years.”
The insider notes that flashbacks on the show have been utilized to show the childhood of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Claire Foy even appeared for a scene in season 4. “Now they’re looking at similar ways they can feature Emma more extensively, such as in repeated trips through time to Diana’s childhood and teenage years,” The Sun’s source said. Netflix has yet to address this report.
Will the new season depict the famous Martin Bashir/Diana interview?
Per The Independent, the show will recreate the famous 1995 Panorama interview between Princess Diana (Debicki) and Martin Bashir. This is the interview in which Diana referred to Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and said “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
The interview has created new controversy recently: Prince William said at the end of 2020 that an investigation into the methods used by Bashir and the BBC was a “step in the right direction,” and Bashir left the public broadcaster in May 2021 as it investigated accusations that he used “deceptive tactics” to get the interview.
Will Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make an appearance?
Prince Harry apparently wants Billions actor Damian Lewis to play him in a future season, and talk show host James Corden is on board with that—and wants to play Prince William.
However, Meghan Markle and Harry aren’t likely to be covered on The Crown.
In January, The Crown executive producer Suzanne Mackie told the BBC, “To be honest, whatever the life of The Crown is after where we are now, I doubt we'll ever go as far into the present day. I think we’ll probably…we don’t travel into the present day.”
Morgan originally held this stance back in 2018. “I feel uncomfortable writing about events within a certain time period,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I think there’s a certain amount of time within which, if you write about it, what you do instantly becomes journalistic. Because it’s too close to the moment.”
He continued, “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 Meghan Markle 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. If I were to write about Meghan Markle I would automatically be writing journalistically.”
What will season 5 be about?
No word yet on what, precisely, the fifth season of The Crown will cover. Season 4 ended in 1990, the year Thatcher was “ousted” from her Prime Minister position.
It’s unknown just how modern the monarchy will get, though Deadline reports season 6 will end in the “early 2000s.” The series will likely delve into the ‘90s and avoid depicting, say, the college courtship between Prince William and Kate Middleton, or Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
While we’re speculating about what The Crown could cover, keep in mind that many major events occurred within (and outside) palace walls in the thirty-year timespan between 1990 and 2020. There have been six prime ministers: Major, Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. Three major divorces rocked the ‘90s, including Princess Anne and Mark Phillips’ 1992 split and the 1996 breakups between Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. In 1997, Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. In 2002, both Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother died less than two months apart. Later that year, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Golden Jubilee after 50 years of ruling.
Some of these events were depicted in the 2006 film The Queen, which was written by Morgan.
When will season 5 premiere?
No official release date for the fifth season has been announced, but according to Deadline, the installment won’t premiere until 2022.
This post will be updated.
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