The fifth series of Netflix’s The Crown will be its last, its creator and writer, Peter Morgan, has revealed, as Imelda Staunton is confirmed to replace Olivia Colman as the Queen.
Fans of the critically acclaimed show, watched by more than 73m households worldwide, had hoped for a sixth series, which Morgan himself had originally planned. But, he said he believed it was time to stop.
Morgan said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to confirm Imelda Staunton as Her Majesty the Queen for the fifth and final season, taking The Crown into the 21st century. Imelda is an astonishing talent and will be a fantastic successor to Claire Foy and Olivia Colman.
“At the outset I had imagined The Crown running for six seasons but now that we have begun work on the stories for season five it has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop. I’m grateful to Netflix and Sony for supporting me in this decision.”
Although the show was critically acclaimed in its first two series and won further awards for its third, some of the initial buzz around the programme appeared to have diminished. A list Netflix published of its most-watched shows of the year in the UK, including The Umbrella Academy and After Life, did not feature The Crown.
Netflix said that 21m households had “chosen to start” watching the new season of the show in its first month, up 40% from Season 2. That figure includes anyone who watches the first two minutes of any episode. After a recent change the company no longer counts viewers over a longer period.
Some also viewed the coincidence of the launch of the new series with Prince Andrew’s disastrous Newsnight interview as unfortunate timing for the show, with the Guardian columnist Emma Brockes writing: “It’s not often one has one’s delusions dismantled in real time, but so it has been, this past fortnight, witnessing Prince Andrew’s flagrant awfulness in tandem with The Crown’s terrible third season. The experience has been like a sudden, dramatic return to reason.”
Curtailing the series after season five means the show is unlikely to tackle contemporary problems faced by the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step down from royal duties, and the Duke of York’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Colman made her debut as the Queen in season three, which covers the period between 1964 and 1977, replacing Foy. She reprises the role for season four, which is in production at Elstree Studios and other locations around the UK. Tobias Menzies and Helena Bonham Carter play Prince Philip and Princess Margaret in season three.
Staunton, 64, said: “I have loved watching The Crown from the very start. 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.”
Staunton received a best actress nomination for her lead role in the 2004 drama Vera Drake, and is also known for playing Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films. Her tenure as the Queen is likely to feature several royal crises, including Prince Charles’s split from Diana, Princess of Wales.
The award-winning show, one of the most popular on Netflix, has been described as part of the “global cultural zeitgeist” by Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer at Netflix. The cast from season three won the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble in a drama series, and Colman won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama series. The Crown has so far won 144 award nominations.
Cindy Holland, the Netflix vice-president of original content, said: “I fully support Peter Morgan’s creative decision and am excited to see how he, Imelda Staunton and the cast and crew of season five bring this landmark series to a fitting and spectacular end.”