Minor spoilers below for seasons 4 and 5 of The Crown.
Royal enthusiasts devoured season 4 of The Crown, which featured Emma Corrin’s long-awaited turn as a young Diana Spencer, the soon-to-be princess in love. But the season cut off just as her once-dreamlike marriage to Prince Charles had hit the rocks, leaving fans desperate to witness what they know happens next: Prince and Princess end their marriage, and Diana embarks on a life of independent celebrity and humanitarianism, only to meet her tragic end in a car accident in Paris. But seeing the inner workings of The Firm—and the inner dramas of Diana’s vibrant life—through The Crown‘s Emmy-winning performances is, regardless, irresistible. And 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.
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When will production begin?
Variety reported on April 7 that season 5 of The Crown would begin filming in London in July 2021, and sure enough, production is currently underway. Showrunner Peter Morgan revealed at the Emmy Awards in September 2021 that they’d be shooting season 5 again “in a couple hours” after the ceremony.
Production then took a pause in early September after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Morgan revealed to Deadline that “The Crown is a love letter to her and I’ve nothing to add for now, just silence and respect. I expect we will stop filming out of respect, too.”
Do we have any production pics yet?
On July 30, The Crown revealed the first look of Staunton as Queen Elizabeth.
And in late August, Netflix unveiled its first images of the new Prince Charles and Princess Diana. They look pretty unhappy, which seems appropriate.
In September, People released exclusive images of the TV parents on set in Surrey with the new Prince William and Prince Harry. In the photos, taken at Dunsfold Aerodrome, Elizabeth Debicki’s Diana sports the late royal’s iconic coif, as well as a floral midi dress.
And more images continue to leak from the set. On October 13, images surfaced of Debicki and Dominic West recreating Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ trip to Italy in the ’90s. The actress totally nailed Lady Di’s look.
On November 5, Debicki was photographed wearing a recreation of Princess Diana’s famous “revenge dress,” which she wore to the 1994 Vanity Fair dinner at the Serpentine Gallery in London. That evening coincided with the airing of a documentary featuring an interview that Prince Charles had with Jonathan Dimbleby, in which he admitted to being unfaithful to Diana with Camilla Parker.
Diana had bought the dress in 1991, but didn’t dare to wear it at the time—an off-the-shoulder dress is against Royal protocol. The dress was perceived by some as a form of vengeance against Prince Charles and the Royal family.
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.”
This decision was again 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?
Harry Potter alumna 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, 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?
Variety reports that Dominic Wests’s son, 13-year-old Senan West, will play Prince William in the new season, marking his onscreen debut. The heir to the throne will be portrayed “as he begins to mature into a young man” and will make his entrance in the final episodes of season 5, per the outlet. Senan’s audition tape, sent in by his agents, apparently impressed the producers.
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.
In March, it was announced that Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, known for her role as marketing boss Sylvie Grateau in the Netflix hit Emily In Paris, has been cast as Monique Ritz. Ritz is the widow of Charles Ritz who sold his hotel in Paris to Mohamed Al Fayed. Diana and Dodi Fayed spent their last evening together at the Ritz hotel.
Of her role, Leroy-Beaulieu said, “It was a very small thing but it was a lot of fun and I was so, so happy to be in it. Every episode is like a little film on its own. It’s crazily well written.”
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 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.
What about the infamous relationship between Diana and Dodi Fayed?
After her marriage with Prince Charles had crumbled, a divorced Diana eventually met the Harrods heir Dodi Fayed, with whom she shared a brief love affair before the tragic car accident that took her (and his) life. Variety has confirmed that Fayed will indeed appear in season 5, played by The Kite Runner‘s Khalid Abdalla. It is not yet clear whether this season will cover the crash or will merely introduce Fayed as Diana’s new partner.
Will it portray other romantic relationships Diana had?
Pakistani star Humayun Saeed was announced by Variety as the actor to portray Dr. Hasnat Khan in Season 5. Saeed is well-know for his action-comedy films Jawani Phir Nahi Ani and its sequel Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2. He also starred in romantic-comedy Punjab Nahi Jaungi.
Diana and Dr. Khan dated for two years, from 1995 to 1997. The heart surgeon gave a statement to the Metropolitan Police n 2004 that was revealed in the inquest into her death in 2008. He claimed she broke up with him after meeting Dodi Fayed while on a trip with Mohammed Al Fayed and his family.
Khan eventually returned to Pakistan and said in his statement that prior to their break up, that he had considered being with her long term, but the press constantly following the Princess and himself was too difficult. He had invited her to move to Pakistan, and she discussed it with a friend Jemima Goldsmith who was married to Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan and lived in the country with him. Imran Khan is now Prime Minister of the country.
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.
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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. Season 5, therefore, will almost certainly cover the early 90s.
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 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 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?
During Netflix’s global fan event, TUDUM, in September 2021, Staunton revealed that, sadly, the next chapter of The Crown won’t debut until November 2022.
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In the meantime, there’s plenty of other Princess Diana content to keep us busy.
This post will be updated.
Savannah Walsh is an Editorial Fellow at ELLE.com.
Hilary Weaver is a freelance writer based in New York who writes about politics, queer issues, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and every woman the Queen has ever made a dame. I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again three times in theaters, and that’s pretty much all you need to know.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is an associate editor at ELLE, where she covers news and culture.