Creator Peter Morgan confirmed on Friday (January 31) that the royal drama, which has brought Queen Elizabeth II’s reign to life on the small screen, will conclude after its fifth series, with Imelda Staunton set to take over from Olivia Colman for the show’s last hurrah.
From the start, Morgan had outlined a vision for the show spanning six seasons, bringing viewers almost to the present day, but the writer now claims that he has found a “perfect” end point - one which will take the show “into the 21st century.”
“At the outset I had imagined The Crown running for six seasons but now that we have begun work on the stories for season five, it has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
It’s become a punchline to suggest that every twist and turn of recent royal dramas (and there have been many) would be excellent fodder for future instalments of The Crown - but getting to the point where the show would catch up with contemporary drama was really never Morgan’s intention.
Instead, by looking at the time frame of past series - and taking his “21st century” comment into account - we can expect things to tie up in the early to mid 00s.
Season three spanned 13 years (from 1964 to 1977), so we can safely assume that the next instalment will cover a similar time frame, potentially kicking off in 1980, when Prince Charles and Diana were first linked. The events leading up to their separation in 1992 would make a sensible end point for round four - so series five could then start up soon after and conclude about a decade later.
So, what will this “perfect” conclusion be? Compared to the scandals - and tragedies - of the 90s, the 00s were a smoother ride for the royals, but there are still a handful of milestone events that could each make for a fitting - and emotional - finale to the series...
Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother’s death (2002)
For Her Majesty, 2002 was a year marred by grief as she mourned two deaths in quick succession. Her younger sister, Princess Margaret, died in February after suffering a stroke; her mother Elizabeth then passed away in March at the age of 101. Given that so much of Morgan’s series has been dedicated to exploring the Queen’s sometimes uneasy relationship with her sister (and, to a lesser extent, her close bond with her mother), the loss of those closest to her will surely cast an indelible shadow over the series’ end.
The Golden Jubilee (2002)
Morgan loves to play with contrasts, so the juxtaposition of the Queen’s double bereavement with her Golden Jubilee just weeks later will surely prove irresistible material for his finale. Think along the lines of the last episode of series three, which contrasted national celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Elizabeth’s reign with the Queen’s internal tumult as she attempts to rally Margaret following her overdose. A jubilee is a natural point for reflection, too - cue a soft focus montage of The Crown’s Queens past, like a greatest hits reel.
Prince Charles' wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles (2005)
Should Morgan wish to draw the show out a little longer, Prince Charles’ second wedding to his long-time love Camilla could be another fitting end point.
After their romance in the late 70s (as played out by Josh O’Connor and Emerald Fennell in series three), followed by their respective marriages (to other people) and the very public splits that ensued, the couple finally tied the knot in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall in 2005, chosen to avoid potential religious controversy over the future head of the Church of England marrying again in a church.
The Queen and Prince Philip did not attend the civil wedding (due to the monarch’s religious role as Defender of the Faith, it was rumoured) but were present at the subsequent Service of Prayer at St George’s Chapel and hosted a reception for the pair at Windsor Castle.
Series three established a fascinating dynamic between the Queen and her eldest son - and hinted at the family’s attempts to split Charles from his ‘unsuitable’ first love - so finishing with a very modern royal wedding would be an intriguing conclusion for this storyline. Perhaps Morgan will imagine the Queen admitting that her son should have prioritised love over duty in the first place?