Royal family obsessors may still be parsing their way through the fourth season of The Crown, fact-checking every single outfit of Princess Diana's and rumor about Prince Philip against actual royal history, but that doesn't mean we can't start looking ahead to the next installment in the award-winning Netflix series. The show's creators have already released a steady stream of intel about the next batch of episodes, which will mark the series' third and final casting change and showcase the modern royal family in all their '90s glory.
Unfortunately for those who zoomed through season four the second it hit Netflix and are already clamoring to binge-watch dramatized versions of the next phase of Diana and Prince Charles' doomed marriage, the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher's term as prime minister, and Queen Elizabeth's reaction to some of the more peculiar trends of the '90s (what are the odds a Tamagotchi ever lived in Buckingham Palace?), season five won't be available for quite some time—and, in fact, still has yet to start filming. Here's everything we know about the new season, from its release date to the all-new cast.
When will season five of The Crown be released?
Filming on the next set of episodes is expected to begin in June 2021, Deadline reported earlier this year. The penultimate season of the series will then arrive on Netflix in 2022, likely sometime in November or early December, based on the previous seasons' release dates. The break between seasons four and five will be double that of the time between the third and fourth seasons; the filming timeline is reportedly unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has delayed and derailed countless other film and TV production schedules, and instead reflects the longer break that came the last time The Crown introduced a new cast, between seasons two and three.
By the way, that extra year will be worth the wait, since showrunner Peter Morgan recently reversed his previous announcement that the fifth season would be the show's last, confirming instead that he's sticking to his original plan to release six seasons. So, sure, we won't be getting any new episodes of The Crown for another two years, but our patience will be rewarded with two back-to-back seasons following the royals through the '90s and early aughts.
Who will star in the next season of The Crown?
Netflix began announcing the third and final group of royal lookalikes well before season four had even premiered, so we already have a pretty good idea of what the next cast of the show will look like. Imelda Staunton, of Downton Abbey and Harry Potter fame, will take over from Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth; Game of Thrones alum Jonathan Pryce will replace Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip; and Phantom Thread's Lesley Manville will step into Princess Margaret's (very fancy) shoes, following Helena Bonham Carter's cheeky take on the queen's younger sister.
Casting for the majority of the younger generation of royals has yet to be announced, but Netflix did confirm in August that Elizabeth Debicki, most recently seen in Christopher Nolan's Tenet, will play Princess Diana in the final two seasons of The Crown, taking over for Emma Corrin. Additionally, Variety reported in October that The Affair's Dominic West is in "late-stage discussions" to fill in for Josh O'Connor as an aged-up Prince Charles.
What will season five of The Crown cover?
When the next season of the show picks up where the final episode of season four left off, in 1990, the series' new cast will have plenty of historical ground to cover, though it's not totally clear exactly what time span we'll see in season five. Past seasons have traversed anywhere from eight to 23 years, but when Morgan announced that he was tacking a sixth season back on to the show, he noted that the extra episodes "will not bring us any closer to present day—it will simply enable us to cover the same period in greater detail," per The Hollywood Reporter. Without knowing Morgan's earlier plan for the fifth season, then, it's hard to know just how much of the queen's 21st century reign The Crown will explore—though we do know that it will end well before Prince Harry's 2019 wedding to Meghan Markle and their subsequent so-called "Megxit" from the royal family, at the couple's request.
Based on Morgan's very first pitch to Netflix, which proposed a 60-year timeline spread over just three seasons, as well as his recent statements that the final seasons will reach only to John Major and Tony Blair's terms as PM, The Crown could feasibly cover Elizabeth's reign through 2007. If those remaining years are split into two seasons, the fifth installment might depict the years from 1990 through about 1998.
Operating under that assumption, the fifth season will likely cover the queen's relationship with Prime Minister John Major, her self-proclaimed "annus horribilis" of 1992 (including the ends of three of her children's marriages and the introduction of a government order requiring the royal family to pay income taxes), and her reaction to her sister Margaret's rapidly declining health. That time period also encompasses the final rocky years of Charles and Diana's marriage, including their 1992 separation and 1996 divorce, as well as Diana's tragic death in a 1997 car crash. On a happier note, we'll also get to see tween- and teenage Princes Harry and William, and plenty of incredible moments to sustain the current wave of '90s nostalgia, including, with any luck, Charles' 1997 introduction to the Spice Girls.
We'll update this article as more information about the fifth season of The Crown is released.