The Crown season 5: Everything we know so far from the cast to the storylines

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Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana  (PA)
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana (PA)

A new generation of royals are set to take on The Crown as Netflix’s palace drama enters series five.

The latest instalment of Peter Morgan’s royal saga is currently in production, and is expected to arrive on our screens in November, complete with an entirely different cast (just as Olivia Colman and co took over from Claire Foy and Matt Smith) as the show enters the Nineties, complete with some of its most gripping (and potentially controversial) storylines yet.

Here’s what we know so far about The Crown’s penultimate season…

Who will play the Queen in series five?

Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II (Netflix)
Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II (Netflix)

Now that Colman has completed her two season reign, it’s time for a brand new actress to embody Her Majesty in her later years - Bafta winner Imelda Staunton.

“I have loved watching The Crown from the very start,” Staunton said when her role was confirmed following intense speculation last this year. “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 honoured to be joining such an exceptional creative team and to be taking The Crown to its conclusion.”

Who else is in the cast?

Dominic West as Prince Charles (PA)
Dominic West as Prince Charles (PA)

Oscar nominee and two-time Tony winner Jonathan Pryce will join Staunton as Prince Philip, with Phantom Thread scene stealer Lesley Manville cast as Princess Margaret. “The baton is being passed on from two formidable actresses [Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter] and I really don’t want to let the side down,” she said. “Furthermore, to play siblings with my dear friend Imelda Staunton will be nothing short of a complete joy.”

The younger generation of royals will be recast too, with Emma Corrin handing over the part of Diana, Princess of Wales to Elizabeth Debicki after just one series. The Australian actress is no stranger to prestige British telly - many will recognise her from her role in The Night Manager miniseries - and has also appeared in films like Steve McQueen’s thriller Widows and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.

“Princess Diana’s spirit, her words and her actions live in the hearts of so many,” she said when her new role was announced over the summer. “It is my true privilege and honour to be joining this masterful series, which has had me absolutely hooked from episode one.” A first look image from set shows Debicki, with her hair in the Princess’s Nineties crop, reclining on a sofa reading.

As for the rest of the royals? Dominic West will play Prince Charles opposite Debicki, while Olivia Williams is set to join the cast as Camilla Parker Bowles (picking up the baton from Emerald Fennell). Fans have also spotted actress Claudia Harrison filming scenes as Princess Anne, alongside Theo Fraser Steele as her second husband Timothy Laurence, while reports have claimed that James Murray will play Prince Andrew.

There’ll be a whole new line-up of political players, too. In one of the series’ least likely strokes of casting, Trainspotting star Jonny Lee Miller is poised to play former Prime Minister John Major. The show’s producers, meanwhile, are yet to announce who will play Tony Blair, though unconfirmed rumours last year suggested that Andrew Scott could be in the running.

The release date

We have a wait on our hands once again. Filming began earlier this summer, meaning that new episodes are scheduled to land on Netflix in 2022. It’s a gap similar to the previous pause between seasons two (which premiered in December 2017) and three (which arrived almost two years later in November 2019). Sigh.

How many series do we have left?

Morgan’s initial grand plan, ambitiously alluded to when the show made its debut back in 2016, was to allow the Queen’s reign to play out over the course of six series - however, at the start of this year, he revealed he’d changed his mind and had found the “perfect” end point that would allow him to conclude the saga after just five seasons.

Olivia Colman and Josh O’Connor pictured in series four (Netflix)
Olivia Colman and Josh O’Connor pictured in series four (Netflix)

Thankfully, though, Morgan seemed to have a change of heart during lockdown (plenty of time to immerse oneself in niche royal research, we imagine) and announced in July 2020 that The Crown would run for six series after all. “As we started to discuss the storylines for series five, 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,” he said.

Morgan’s planned end point for the series, though, will stay the same, meaning that the sixth series “will not bring us any closer to present day - it will simply enable us to cover the same period in greater detail.” Don’t expect to see Megxit or Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview cropping up, as the writer has previously spoken at length about his “20 year rule,” which gives him “perspective” on royal events and, he says, prevents his depictions from becoming “journalistic” (ouch…)

The Crown cast and their real-life counterparts - In pictures

What about the storylines?

We can expect series five to cover the majority of the Nineties, meaning that the show could cover some of the most contentious episodes in recent royal history. The Queen famously called 1992 her ‘annus horribilis,’ and just those 12 months would certainly provide Morgan with plenty of dramatic material.

The year saw Princess Anne divorce her husband Captain Mark Phillips and Prince Andrew announce his separation from wife Sarah Ferguson; now-infamous photos of the latter having her toes kissed by a Texan billionaire were published in the tabloids just a few months later. Plus, 1992 also saw the release of Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story, a biography based on extensive interviews with the Princess, which saw Diana open up about her unhappy marriage and her struggles with bulimia. In the final act of an objectively awful year, Windsor Castle caught fire in November, destroying 115 rooms.

Series five, then, could arguably focus on just those 12 months and still be packed with drama, but Morgan will doubtless focus on other incidents from the decade too. The following year saw the royals open the doors of Buckingham Palace to the public for the very first time, in an effort to raise funds to rebuild Windsor Castle after the devastating fire, which surely has the makings of a Philip-focused episode.

Netflix: The Crown - Series 4

The continuing deterioration of Charles and Diana’s relationship will surely take up yet more screen time, and it’s likely that the Princess of Wales’ famous Panorama interview (now back in the headlines once again) will feature. It’d be hard to pull off a full re-staging of footage that is so familiar to so many, though, so perhaps Morgan will focus on the events leading up to - or the fallout from - the interview, just as he chose not to recreate much of the couple’s wedding day in series four. His biggest challenge, though, will surely be how to tackle Diana’s tragic death in 1997.

Over at Number 10, the Queen’s audiences with Margaret Thatcher’s successor Major will surely feature among series five’s political storylines, as will the rise of Blair’s New Labour, leading up to his landmark 1997 election win. Blair is a favourite topic for Morgan, whose previous films The Deal, The Special Relationship and, of course, The Queen all focus on the former Prime Minister.

All four series of The Crown are available to stream on Netflix

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