There’s now less than a month to go before we return to Buckingham Palace for season four of The Crown – and Netflix have released a whole new set of cast posters, with potential plot teasers hidden in their social media captions, including the two (very different) challenges Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher will each pose to the monarchy.
Anticipation has been steadily building ever since the streamer dropped an ominous trailer for The Crown season four that puts the spotlight on Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s so-called “fairy tale” marriage, and it looks like this will be at the centre of the drama’s next instalment.
We were also previously treated to a whole bunch stills from the show itself, including a few pictures of The Crown season 4’s Gillian Anderson as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
But while fans are excited to Anderson’s performance as well as Emma Corrin’s debut as Diana Spencer (AKA Princess Diana), the show’s core cast remains the same for season four.
Olivia Colman returns (for one last time) as Queen Elizabeth II, alongside Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), and Erin Doherty (Princess Anne).
Read on for everything you need to know.
The Crown season 4’s release date on Netflix
CONFIRMED: The Crown season four will be released on 15th November 2020 on Netflix.
How did they finish filming The Crown season 4?
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.
And, in what must be a massive relief for The Crown’s producers, filming for season four was just about complete by mid-March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit and sent the TV industry into lockdown. The final days of filming were brought forward and Helena Bonham Carter had to cancel her wrap party.
In an interview with Deadline in June, The Crown’s Tobias Menzies said he’d filmed all his season four 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.”
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.
The Crown season 4 trailer
First, Netflix dropped this tantalising 30-second first-look clip of The Crown season four, giving our first glimpses of Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana:
Then, in October, we were treated to a longer teaser trailer which puts the spotlight on one of the main storylines explored in season four: the courtship, engagement and marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
The ominous trailer plays on the contrast between the “fairy tale” image the troubled reality of Charles and Diana’s marriage.
Throughout the video we hear the real voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, delivering the speech from the royal wedding: ‘Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made. A prince and princess on their wedding day. But fairytales usually end at this point with the simple phrase, ‘They lived happily ever after.’… As husband and wife live out their vows, loving and cherishing one another, sharing life’s splendours and miseries, achievements and setbacks, they will be transformed in the process.
“Our faith sees the wedding day not as the place of arrival but as the place where the adventure really begins.”
The Crown season 4 cast
All the main cast of The Crown 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 existing stars will be joined by a number of new cast members, playing some very famous characters from history.
Those include Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher), Emma Corrin (Princess Diana), and Tom Byrne – who plays Prince Andrew.
Margaret Thatcher’s husband Denis Thatcher will be played by Stephen Boxer, whose previous roles include Dr Joe Fenton in Doctors and David Elster in Humans, while Rebecca Humphries has been cast as Carol Thatcher in The Crown season four. Freddie Fox will play Mark Thatcher.
Georgie Glen is set play Diana’s grandmother, Ruth Lady Fermot.
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 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.
— Gillian Anderson (@GillianA) October 4, 2020
In this portrayal, “We certainly see another side of Thatcher that has more of an emotional life than perhaps has been seen before,” Anderson told RadioTimes.com. “For instance, in terms of the episodes where her son goes missing. That is grounded, well-founded and well-documented emotion that she was experiencing at that time, so it doesn’t feel like it’s out of order in a way. It’s a whole portrait. It’s not a one-dimensional portrait.”
Anderson also said she had no doubts about accepting the role of the Conservative Prime Minister.
“I didn’t have any reservations,” Anderson revealed. “She’s such a complex and challenging character that it seemed like a no-brainer to say yes, regardless of my own opinions or thoughts or preconceptions, or even fear levels. It didn’t take a lot of persuading.”
Netflix has released this image of the Thatchers outside 10 Downing Street:
Is Princess Diana in season 4 of The Crown?
Emma Corrin has been cast to play Lady Diana Spencer in The Crown. She’ll then hand on the role to Elizabeth Debicki, who’ll play Diana when the cast changes for season five.
“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!”
Discussing her casting, Corrin told RadioTimes.com: “It was a very long process, it took about a year I think, actually. It was kind of quite stressful, and a lot of different stages, but in retrospect it all worked out brilliantly. At the time very stressful. Josh was actually there when I got offered the role, so he compares it to X Factor, which is probably quite accurate.”
O’Connor added: “It was like X Factor.”
Images released by Netflix show Diana being photographed by paparazzi, and walking down the red carpet with Charles. (However, eagle-eyed fans of The Crown have spotted a historical error – a very 21st-century red London bus – in the background of one of the shoots. Whoops!)
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.
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.”
Will we see Charles and Diana’s wedding?
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. However, as Emma Corrin told RadioTimes.com, “We don’t actually show the wedding – I’m in the wedding dress for, like, a fraction of a moment.”
Despite that, the actress did go through the “mad” experience of recreating Diana’s real-life wedding dress.
Describing how it felt to wear the dress, Corrin said: “Oh mad. I mean, heavy. Very heavy actually… I loved the process of the fittings actually, weirdly, almost more than the wearing it on the day.”
She added: “I had so many fittings for it, I think about probably four or five, and each of one of those was several hours long.”
She also 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.”
The Crown’s twitter account also shared an image of the dress, which was created to “capture the same spirit and style” of the original “without creating a replica.”
The Crown season 4 plot
The fourth season should take us from 1977 up to about 1990.
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.
A new set of cast posters also revealed potential plot teasers in the accompanying social media captions. For example, a picture of the Queen in-between Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher was accompanied by the caption, “Change will challenge tradition,” suggesting that both of the two latter women will each pose (in their own ways) a threat to the older customs of the monarchy.
The social media caption for the new image of Prince Charles – “Desire will challenge duty” – seems to confirm that we will see the continuation of his affair with Camilla even after his “fairy tale” wedding to Diana.
The Crown season cast
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.”
Lesley Manville will play Princess Margaret in the fifth season of The Crown. pic.twitter.com/R5aZEBOW0t
— The Crown (@TheCrownNetflix) July 2, 2020
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.
When will The Crown season 5 be released?
Season five of The Crown is expected to arrive on Netflix in 2022.
How many seasons of The Crown will there be?
So, initially, we were expecting six seasons. Then, in January 2020, Netflix made a surprise announcement that the fifth season would also be the show’s last. And then, in another twist, show boss Peter Morgan announced an unexpected U-turn in July 2020 and declared that there would now be six seasons of The Crown after all.
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.
Morgan has continued to rule out covering Harry and Meghan’s story on The Crown – and he also indicated that The Crown will not delve too deeply into Prince Andrew’s life.
“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.”
You can watch seasons 1-3 of The Crown right now on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, visit our TV Guide, or find out about upcoming new TV shows 2020.