How to watch The Crown season 4 – plus cast, plot and details
Olivia Colman returns as Queen Elizabeth II as we head into the Thatcher years for the fourth instalment of Peter Morgan's royal epic.
With The Crown season four now streaming on Netflix, fans of the royal drama are finally able to see Emma Corrin make her debut as Princess Diana – a role she plays brilliantly, as we explore in our four-star The Crown review. We also get to see Gillian Anderson don an impressively buoyant wig to play Margaret Thatcher.
Corrin and Anderson are the two headline additions to The Crown cast, joining stars including Olivia Colman (Queen Elizabeth II), Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O'Connor (Prince Charles), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret) and Erin Doherty (Princess Anne) – who are all making one final appearance before they're replaced for seasons five and six.
If you're wondering how much of the season is fact or fiction, we've got plenty of guides to the real history behind The Crown – from Charles and Diana's marriage to the complicated relationship between the Queen and Thatcher. If you're wondering how to watch the show online, take a look at our information below!
How to watch The Crown season 4
If you're wondering how to watch The Crown season 4 online, head over to Netflix where all 10 episodes are now available.
The Crown season 4 release date
The Crown season four was released on Sunday 15th November 2020 on Netflix.
The Crown season 4 cast
All the main cast of The Crown season three are 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 are joined by a number of new cast members, playing some very famous figures. Those include Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher), Emma Corrin (Princess Diana), and Tom Byrne – who plays Prince Andrew.
Margaret Thatcher's husband Denis Thatcher is played by Stephen Boxer, whose previous roles include Dr Joe Fenton in Doctors and David Elster in Humans, while Rebecca Humphries stars as Carol Thatcher in The Crown season four. Freddie Fox plays Mark Thatcher.
Is Margaret Thatcher in season 4 of The Crown?
Gillian Anderson stars as Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, and her leadership and her relationship with the Queen is central to season four.
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.”
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Is Princess Diana in season 4 of The Crown?
Emma Corrin joined the cast as 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 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.
Season four also depicts 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."
The Crown season 4 plot
The fourth season starts at around 1979 and finishes up in the early 1990s.
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 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."
Meanwhile, Josh O'Connor, who plays Prince Charles on the show, previously said 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.”
Season four also covers Charles and Diana's 1983 royal tour of Australia, which was filmed in Spain.
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 these 10 episodes 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 of 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.
Do we see Charles and Diana's wedding in The Crown?
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".
How accurate is The Crown season 4?
For the full low-down, take a look at our guides to the real history behind The Crown – covering every single season of the Netflix drama. We've got features on everything from the relationship between the Queen and Thatcher, to the real-life story of Buckingham Palace intruder Michael Fagan.
Find out more about Charles and Diana
Did you know Prince Charles dated Diana's sister Sarah Spencer?
It turns out there was a lot more to Charles and Diana's marriage than we thought.
Princess Diana and Princes Charles' Australia tour went down a storm, but left a sour taste in the mouths of some...
Find out more about Margaret Thatcher
The Queen and Thatcher's relationship is fraught at times in The Crown, and it seems the series might not have been too far away from the truth...
The Crown show's Mark Thatcher go missing during a motor rally – what's the truth behind that?
The Crown season 4 trailer
First, Netflix dropped a 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.”
And then, Netflix dropped a full official trailer – giving us a much fuller look at what the season has in store.
In it, we hear Princess Margaret warn that Diana "will break" rather than bending to the will of the Royal Family and becoming what they want her to be. We also see Margaret Thatcher in a frosty audience with the Queen, telling her monarch that she's very comfortable making enemies thank you very much.
The Crown season 5 cast, filming and release date
Imelda Staunton will play Queen Elizabeth II in seasons five and six of The Crown.
“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. 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."
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 2020. Season five of The Crown is expected to arrive on Netflix in 2022.
How many seasons of The Crown will there be?
Many fans will be wondering when The Crown will end.
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 in 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.