Only one TV show can unite royalists and casual onlookers alike: Netflix’s The Crown, the gripping and sometimes controversial decades-spanning dramatization of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Over multiple seasons, and with revamped casts, The Crown has tackled decades of the royals' history, most recently with the late 1970s in season 4 – which included a highly-anticipated performance from Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher.
Still, the real driving force of season 4 came in the form of young actress Emma Corrin, slipping elegantly into the role of Princess Diana. We met the people’s princess as a teenager, and followed her journey from Earl’s Court townie to wife of a future king.
So, what next? When it comes to The Crown season 5, we already know a lot about the show – both from history itself, and from Netflix's numerous casting announcements. Below, we'll sum up everything we know so far.
At a glance
- What is it? The fifth and penultimate season of Netflix’s The Crown, which follows the reign and personal life of Queen Elizabeth II.
- Where can I watch it? As with the previous seasons, The Crown season 5 will be available exclusively on Netflix. Though past seasons have had home video releases in some territories.
- When can I watch it? The season will not hit our screens until 2022. Filming will not begin until June 2021, according to reports.
The Crown season 5 release date: 2022
There will be a longer wait than usual for season 5 of The Crown. Deadline reported back in July 2020 that filming won’t start until June 21, with the series set to hit Netflix in 2022. The break in production is actually not down to the ongoing pandemic – the show had planned to take a gap year long before COVID presented the world of TV and film with numerous challenges.
The Crown season 5 cast: out with the young
- Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II
- Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret
- Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
- Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana
- And many more to be confirmed
The fifth season of The Crown will undergo another sizeable cast shake-up, as our ageing royal family enters the 1990s – The Crown season 4 ended in late 1990, as we'll discuss further down.
We’ll be waving farewell to Olivia Colman and welcoming Imelda Staunton to take on the role of Queen Elizabeth II. You may recognize Staunton from her role as the abominable Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter. Similarly, Tobias Menzies will be stepping aside to allow fellow Game of Thrones co-star Jonathan Pryce to take over as Prince Philip.
Additionally, we’ll see Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville assume the role of Princess Margaret, and Elizabeth Debicki, who you may know from Christopher Nolan's Tenet, will play the slightly older version of Princess Diana.
While the main cast changes have been confirmed, we are yet to find out who will fill the shoes of some of the key supporting cast. The roles of the Queen’s children, Anne, Edward and Andrew, are still unconfirmed, as are Camilla Parker Bowles and the Queen Mother. A Variety report from October 2020 said that The Affair’s Dominic West was in near-final talks for Prince Charles’ role, but that is also unconfirmed.
Season 4 also ended with the resignation of Thatcher, which means we’ll see a new Prime Minister enter the fray. Season 5 will follow the tenure of John Major, and we’ll likely also get a short burst of Tony Blair, who was in office during Diana’s death. Again, the casting for those two has not been confirmed yet.
The Crown season 4 recap: where did it begin and end?
The Crown season 4 picked up in 1977, but the first episode honed in on 1979 with the election of Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson). It also showcased the murder of Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance), claimed by the IRA, which served as the show's entry point into focusing on the ongoing Troubles in Northern Ireland. We also started to see the show come into what might be termed recent history, with focuses on working class struggles, the dissolution of Apartheid, and Diana’s influence on the public.
The Queen (Olivia Colman) also took an early shining to Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) as Charles’ (Josh O'Connor) perfect, prospective bride. After passing ‘The Balmoral Test’ with flying colors, the royal family pressured Charles into marrying Diana.
The Queen’s relationship with Thatcher also began on kind grounds, but slowly neutralized over the course of the season as ol’ Maggie’s rule got more and more ruthless. The pair’s personal relationship soured, but ends in a dignified fashion with mutual respect shown for the traits they have in common.
Season 4 also did a fantastic job of making each and every cast member pretty unlikeable. The substantial age gap between Charles and Diana makes for a turbulent dynamic – Charles’ petulant reactions to Diana’s personal struggles paired with his unwillingness to let go of Camilla (Emerald Fennell) makes him hard to watch in season 4.
Throughout the season, the Queen observed Thatcher’s weakness when it came to her children, particularly her son Mark who she cited as her favorite. Upon learning this, The Queen sets off on a personal journey to reconnect with her own children, and discovers that they all carry their own indiscretions, emotional baggage and personal struggles.
The Crown season 4 wrapped up in 1990 with the resignation of an unpopular Thatcher and a particularly frosty Christmas at Balmoral Castle. During the festivities, both The Queen and Prince Philip tire of Charles and Diana’s marriage complaints. While the Queen simply and coldly urged Charles to focus on his royal duty, Philip turned a darker corner, with a quiet warning of the consequences Diana will face if her marriage fails.
Hey, maybe that's why some critics want to see a pre-show disclaimer reminding people that The Crown is a fictional drama, and not a documentary (something Netflix has confirmed it has no plans to do).
The Crown season 5 plot: what will happen next?
With Thatcher gone and Charles and Diana’s unhappy union in full swing, we’ll be sailing full speed ahead into the 1990s. It has also been confirmed that there will be a sixth and final season of The Crown, set to conclude in the early 2000s. Showrunner Peter Morgan has said that "season six will not bring us any closer to present day – it will simply enable us to cover the same period in greater detail."
The season doesn’t have an official plotline yet, but we can take a swing at what might happen in season 5 based on real-life royal events, with an additional season taken into account.
1992 was a particularly rough year for the Windsor clan. It saw the breakdown of not one, but two royal marriages – Prince Andrew’s separation from Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Anne’s official divorce from long-term husband Captain Mark Phillips. Prince Andrew’s wedding featured briefly in The Crown season 4, and we get a glimpse into Anne’s spousal struggles too, which suggests they may have a more pivotal role in season 5.
Of course, we’re in for a further ride with Charles and Diana’s relationship, and that was not shy on scandal. In June 1992, author Andrew Morton released ‘Diana: Her True Story’, a bestselling autobiographical book that detailed Diana’s struggles and the turbulence of her marriage, with her own personal input. The book was published while she was still married to Charles. As you can imagine, it didn’t go down too well with the rest of the family, so we suspect it might crop up in the next season.
And to top off that year, we may see a fiery, fictionalized spectacle based on the 1992 Windsor Castle fire. The real fire burned for around 15 hours and caused six minor injuries to staff – and a great big castle fire is a good old excuse for some top-notch TV drama, isn’t it?
All in all, the Queen dubbed 1992 her "annus horribilis" in a famous speech. That's bound to be great material for the writers of Netflix's hit series.
We’ve also got scope for a number of scandals inside the British Government in the 1990s. Notably, we have John Major’s 1993 ‘Back To Basics’ campaign, designed to promote traditional familial values, but ultimately fell into ruin following a number of scandals inside the Conservative Party.
The Arms to Iraq affair that coursed through the 1990s may also make for juicy plot developments in The Crown, as government-approved sales of weapons to Iraq made John Major quite unpopular in the run up to Tony Blair’s winning election in 1997.
Finally, the core of The Crown season 5 will undoubtedly be the breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage, until their divorce in 1996, and Diana’s tragic death in 1997. We all know that there’ll be ample room for tension and drama there, and lots of us remember the impact that Diana’s death left on the world.
What remains to be seen is how true to real life The Crown will remain, and how much justice it serves Diana in her final moments. With season 6 on the cards, it is also unclear as to whether season 5 will even get to Diana’s death. It may serve as a dramatic season finale, or simply be left for the final series.
Still, we won’t be seeing any of that until 2022 at the earliest. In the meantime, maybe it's worth binging a few documentaries about the royal family and reminding yourself about what truly happened.