Olivia Colman will return as Queen Elizabeth II, alongside her co-stars Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), Erin Doherty (Princess Anne) and many more familiar faces.
They’ll be joined by some key new cast members who’ll be central to the story in season four, including Emma Corrin as Diana Spencer (aka Princess Diana), and Gillian Anderson as Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Luckily, filming for season four was wrapped up just as lockdown hit. And although our attention is focused on the upcoming season, we do already know about many of the actors who’ll be taking over the big roles for the final two seasons of The Crown – including Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Jonathan Pryce and Elizabeth Debicki.
Read on for everything you need to know:
When is The Crown season 4 released on Netflix?
CONFIRMED: The Crown season 4 will be released on 15th November 2020 on Netflix.
Filming for the third and fourth season actually took place back-to-back, which meant that the shoot for this upcoming season was already well underway by the time season three arrived on Netflix in November 2019.
In an interview with Deadline in June, Tobias Menzies said that he’d filmed all his scenes and that the shoot was “about two or three weeks shy of finishing,” adding: “It’s quite possible that they will manage with what they have got and not have to go back into the shoot.”
That turned out to be true. In August, Peter Morgan explained his team’s decision not to film any more footage, telling The Hollywood Reporter: “In order to hit the release schedule for season four, we needed to start editing and lock episodes, which we’ve been doing throughout this time. And everything takes much longer under these new social distancing regulations and rules.
“So if we’d, for example, waited until next month, when a number of people are starting to film again in late August/beginning of September, to pick up these extra scenes, I think a) everyone would have been out of the rhythm of it and it would have felt very strange, and b) I think it would have compromised our post schedule.
“And we had to weigh up, ‘Is it worth it or not?’ And, actually, that we’re still able to hit our release schedule in November for season four has been worth it.”
All the main cast from season three will be back for season four – including Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.
The real-life Princess Anne revealed in ITV documentary titled Anne: The Princess Royal At 70 that she found the early episodes of the show “quite interesting” – but that she was flummoxed by comments made by her on-screen counterpart, Doherty, about her hairstyle.
In a previous interview with Town and Country, Doherty had said, “Makeup [for The Crown] literally took 10 minutes, but hair, sometimes it would take two hours. It’s its own beast.”
However, Princess Anne joked about the interview, stating, “Actually I read an article the other day about The Crown, the actress was talking about how long it took them to do their hair like I did. And I’m thinking, ‘How could you possibly take that long?’ I mean it takes me 10 or 15 minutes.”
Erin Doherty plays Princess Anne in The Crown (Netflix)Netflix
The existing cast members will be joined by a number of new cast members playing some very famous characters from history.
Is Margaret Thatcher in season 4 of The Crown?
Gillian Anderson is set to star as Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, and it’s likely that her leadership and her relationship with the Queen will be central to season four.
Season three finishes in 1977, so we’ve almost hit the year Thatcher was elected: 1979. She then remained in office until 1990, so we should expect to see a lot of Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher throughout the new season of the show as it has always focussed heavily on the relationship between the monarch and her Prime Ministers.
And Anderson has confessed to how nervous she was before filming her scenes as Thatcher, saying: “As we got closer to filming, I almost died. My heart has never beat so fast in all of my life.”
We also now know that her husband Denis Thatcher will be played by Stephen Boxer, whose previous roles include Dr Joe Fenton in Doctors and David Elster in Humans. Netflix has released this image of the Thatchers outside 10 Downing Street:
“I have been glued to the show and to think I’m now joining this incredibly talented acting family is surreal,” Corrin said when the casting was announced. “Princess Diana was an icon and her effect on the world remains profound and inspiring. To explore her through Peter Morgan’s writing is the most exceptional opportunity and I will strive to do her justice!”
Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown series 4 (Netflix)Netflix
Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) married Diana in 1981 after a brief courtship. Their eldest son Prince William came along in 1982, with Prince Harry arriving in 1984 – events which will all fall within the time period covered by season four.
Peter Morgan is also likely to cover the difficulties within the royal marriage which led to their 1992 separation and subsequent divorce.
One of the scenes fans are especially looking forward to is the recreation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s 1981 royal wedding, which we glimpse in the teaser trailer for season four.
According to star Emma Corin, who plays the Princess of Wales in The Crown cast, Diana’s exact wedding dress has been recreated for the series, which she said caused the whole cast and crew to go silent when they first saw it.
She told British Vogue, “The Emanuels, who designed the original, gave us the patterns, and then it was made for me.
“We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress – I think it was Lancaster House in London – and I had a team of about 10 people helping me put it on, because it’s massive. I walked out and everyone went completely silent.”
We also now know that season four will depict Princess Diana’s struggles with bulimia, with eating disorders charity Beat providing guidance to ensure it’s portrayed in a “sensitive and non-glamourising way”.
Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind The Crown, told The Independent that “producers worked closely with Beat to ensure that their portrayal of Princess Diana’s bulimia in season four was both accurate to the disorder and sensitively handled.”
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What will happen in season 4 of The Crown?
The fourth season should take us from 1977 up to about 1990, though the exact timespan is yet to be confirmed by the creator of the show, Peter Morgan, or by Netflix.
As Netflix puts it: “Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family find themselves preoccupied with safeguarding the line of succession by securing an appropriate bride for Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is still unmarried at 30… while Charles’ romance with a young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) provides a much-needed fairytale to unite the British people, behind closed doors, the Royal family is becoming increasingly divided.”
We’ll also meet Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher for the first time – but it’s not an easy relationship between the Queen and her new Prime Minister: As the nation begins to feel the impact of her “divisive policies”, Netflix says, “tensions arise between her and the Queen which only grow worse as Thatcher leads the country into the Falklands War, generating conflict within the Commonwealth.”
This is just speculation, but The Crown season four could also cover the 1981 incident where six shots were fired at the Queen during the Trooping of the Colour. It could also include the Buckingham House intruder, Michael Fagan, who made it into the Queen’s bedroom after a serious lapse in security.
It’s likely we’ll meet US President Ronald Reagan in season four, and explore his relationship with the Queen, as we have seen most of the US Presidents at some point during the first three seasons of The Crown.
If you enjoyed the 1969 Royal Family documentary episode in season three, cross your fingers that It’s a Royal Knockout will get its own episode as we cringe our way through the much-ridiculed 1987 charity game show.
Meanwhile, Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles on the show, has said that his character will be portrayed in a harsher light in season four, with one episode set to focus on the beginnings of the love triangle between Charles, his future wife Camilla Parker-Bowles and her husband Andrew Parker-Bowles.
He told the PA news agency: “Well, it’s the Diana years so we know that period so well. And in terms of Charles himself, if series three was to make people feel empathy and sorry for him, I guess we’re going to pull the rug from under him in the next series.”
Paparazzi photos suggest that season four will cover Charles and Diana’s 1983 royal tour of Australia, with filming taking place in Spain.
And we’ll be waiting to find out who plays an adult Prince Andrew as he goes off to the Falklands War… perhaps not an enviable role to play on-screen right now.
Who will star in The Crown season 5?
Imelda Staunton (Getty)
Imelda Staunton will play Queen Elizabeth II herself.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to confirm Imelda Staunton as Her Majesty The Queen,” The Crown’s creator Peter Morgan told Deadline. “Imelda is an astonishing talent and will be a fantastic successor to Claire Foy and Olivia Colman.”
And one other acclaimed thespian who will definitely be joining the cast is Lesley Manville – who will take on the role of Princess Margaret as previously played by Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Kirby.
Manville was reportedly the producers’ first choice for the role, and on landing the part she said, “I could not be happier to be playing Princess Margaret, the baton is being passed on from two formidable actresses and I really don’t want to let the side down.”
She added, “Furthermore, to play siblings with my dear friend Imelda Staunton will be nothing short of a complete joy.”
Meanwhile, Oscar nominee Jonathan Pryce will follow Matt Smith and Tobias Menzies in the part of Prince Philip. “I am delighted to be working with Netflix again,” he said. “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 and in the company of Imelda and Lesley will be a joy.”
Also confirmed for season five is Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana. The actress, known for The Night Manager and Tenet, said: “Princess Diana’s spirit, her words and her actions live in the hearts of so many. It is my true privilege and honour to be joining this masterful series, which has had me hooked from episode one.”
In an interview with The Mirror, she added: “It’s a dream role. She is such a remarkable human being and she really does still live in the hearts of so many people. I’m overwhelmed, I’m terrified and I’m excited. I can’t wait to start.”
When will The Crown season 5 begin filming?
Imelda Staunton told Entertainment Weekly that her research for the role is “ongoing” – but she anticipates filming on season five being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that so many TV productions have been on pause.
“I think everything in the world is going to get pushed on, isn’t it?” she said. “So who knows? I’ve been chipping away at it quietly.”
However, Deadline reports that filming for season five is set to begin in June 2021, and that a pause was always planned in between seasons five and six to account for the cast changeover.
After all, seasons one and two were filmed together and released in 2016 and 2017; and seasons three and four were filmed together and released in 2019 and (hopefully) 2020.
The sixth season will shoot in 2022, so with any luck it should be released in 2023.
Will Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appear on The Crown?
The royal couple made major headlines in January 2020 when they announced they would be stepping down as senior royals and moving abroad.
These events certainly won’t be covered in the fourth and fifth seasons of The Crown, which will be set decades earlier. Theoretically, there could be chance we’ll meet Meghan in season six – but it currently seems unlikely that the series will ever make it to present day royal life, as creator Peter Morgan told Entertainment Weekly he prefers to keep the focus on historical topics.
“I feel uncomfortable writing about events within a certain time period. 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.
“If you wait a certain amount of time, if you allow fifteen or twenty years, basically a generation, between you and [the events] then you can write about it somewhat freely as drama,” he said.
“Meghan and Harry are in the middle of their journey, and I don’t know what their journey is or how it will end,” he The Hollywood Reporter. “One wishes some happiness, but I’m much more comfortable writing about things that happened at least 20 years ago.”
He added: “I don’t know where in the scheme of things Prince Andrew or indeed Meghan Markle or Harry will ever appear. We won’t know, and you need time to stop something being journalistic. And so I don’t want to write about them because to write about them would instantly make it journalistic. And there are plenty of journalists already writing about them.”