The British royal family had a rough go of it in the 1990s, trying to stay relevant while imposing unrealistic, outmoded portrayals of the perfect family. The Crown Season 5 of The Crown enters this new period with all the grace, poise, and self-awareness of a certain vengeance dress-wearing character, proving that the ’90s were indeed a fertile time for the show.
Since the Queen’s death on September 8, 2022, this is also the first season of Peter Morgan’s lavish series to premiere on Netflix. This understanding, as we enter Season 5 of the current King on Netflix, makes the show more interesting than ever before.
The Crown Season 5 of The Crown reminds viewers that this isn’t the first time the Royal Family has faced such public scrutiny, as the recent death of the Queen and ascension of King Charles III have sparked conversations about the monarchy, its relevance, and connection to modern Britain, its shameful colonial legacy, and its role as an institution often defined by family scandal.
The Crown Season 5 is set in the early 1990s, a time when public approval of the monarchy was on the decline, and the show vividly depicts the institution’s long-standing problems with relationships, marriage, and decorum, which those in power fear will destabilize Britain itself if the public learns about, GASP, divorce.
John Major, the British prime minister, has said that “the House of Windsor should be bringing the country together, offering an example of idealized family life” (played by Jonny Lee Miller). “The senior royals seem to be dangerously self-deluded and disconnected from reality. The junior royals foolish, entitled, and lost.”
With Elizabeth (Staunton) describing the royal yacht Britannia as “a floating, seagoing replica of myself,” the Britannia serves as an overt metaphor throughout Season 5. Due to maintenance costs, the boat was taken out of service in 1994, and the government decided in 1997 to not replace it. While waiting eagerly for his ascension, the Prince of Wales describes himself as a “useless object locked in a waiting room accumulating dust,” and he ignores his greatest asset: the potential coronation of the beloved Diana, Princess of Wales.
Unlike the Royal Family, led this time by the flawlessly stoic Imelda Staunton as the Queen, Elizabeth Debicki’s Princess of Wales is The Crown’s most potent method of interaction.
The Crown Season 5, Diana, Princess of the People
Princess Diana is the most sought-after aspect of both the Royal Family and The Crown, a fact that was overlooked by the real-life monarchy but not in the Netflix series. Following great performances by rollerskating Corrin and Kristen Stewart in Spencer, Elizabeth Debicki assumes the role of Diana in her thirties, bringing her formidable skill to the role of a public figure people now seem to have a checklist for. Debicki skillfully acquires that unmistakable skyward glance, pulling back to a faraway monotone or providing cheekily whispered conversation, and conveying subtlety and empathy to a person consigned to a public pedestal.
The amount of the settlement had better have eight digits and begin with three if he’s going to cram my mouth with gold and hope I gag.
Had I been aware, I would have worn a garment of vengeance
The Emmy-winning costume designer Amy Roberts ensures that viewers of The Crown get the authentic-looking period clothing they expect. The scene in which Dominic West convincingly portrays Charles’ TV interview with Jonathan Dimbleby in which he admits his affair is followed by footage of Diana assessing her wardrobe with intent before she dons the so-called “revenge dress,” one of the most recognizable garments in all of popular culture. Debicki wears a knockoff of Christina Stambolian’s gorgeous, off-the-shoulder black evening gown to the Vanity Fair summer gala at the Serpentine Gallery. This is the perfect moment to show anybody who doubts the political significance of the fashion industry. When Prince Charles unexpectedly visits, Diana says, “Had I known, I would have put on a vengeance dress.”
Emotional commitments, institutional support, and “the system”
The Crown season 5, like the previous four, delves into the love dynamics of the Royal Family and the Queen’s insistence that her subjects be faithful to their marital vows by the canons of the Church of England. The topic of remaining in an unhealthy marriage has been discussed extensively, with even the Queen acknowledging that “being happily married is an option rather than a mandate.” Constant references to the monarchy as “the system” rather than “the family” (even though it insists on formally calling itself a family) may be a subtle dig at Meghan Markle’s usage of “The Firm” to describe the Royal Family.
Princess Margaret, who has many characteristics to Diana, explains that the system is difficult for individuals like them (a brilliant Lesley Manville replacing Helena Bonham Carter). “For her sake, I feel terrible. From the exterior. Having a lot going on in their head as someone with a lot of depth. Like someone who has a hard time maintaining a simple lifestyle. as someone who has personality and style. And the stuff of stars, too.”
A (probably) accurate (but still skewed) history lesson from the British government
Aside from speculative dialogues in the state rooms of Buckingham Palace, one of the show’s selling points is that it dabbles with historical situations without being historically precise. The Crown continually compares the current situation of the Royal Family to that of the past, which works sometimes but not always. The juxtaposition of bonfires, fireworks, and literal classroom interpretations of Fawkes as a “traitor” may be a little much given that Diana’s explosive interview with Bashir took place on Guy Fawkes Day.
Several episodes provide background on Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) and his son, Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Mena’em Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), also known as Dodi, Diana’s future boyfriend. The show explores Al-upbringing Fayed in Egypt in 1946, when the country was under British control, as well as his subsequent fixation with fitting into British society with the aid of Sydney Johnson, the former valet of the abdicated King Edward VIII. According to Sydney, “the Royal Family is the cornerstone of British society.” As the saying goes, “if you’re seen in their company, if you’re recognized and trusted by them, then all doors will open everywhere else.” Through his money and property holdings, such as his £1.5 billion bid to purchase Harrods, a famous London shop and “part of the national character,” Al-Fayed hopes to gain favour with the Royal Family.
The more we go into the present, the less we need The Crown because we can see what’s happening as it’s happening. It has been announced by Netflix that The Crown will come to an end after its sixth season, and given the audience’s tragic awareness of the days ahead, especially for Princess Diana, the next season is likely to be an emotionally charged one. For its fifth season, “The Crown” addresses timely and relevant concerns about the Royal Family’s accessibility, function, and resources. As a result, “the system,” which is now under public scrutiny, is more fractured and troublesome than ever.
The Crown Season 5 Cast
Since its 2016 debut on Netflix, The Crown has been an unprecedented success, breaking records along the way. In 2021, it became the first drama to sweep all seven major Emmy Award categories. It has returned for its fifth and last season.
The second major cast change in the show’s history (the royals all switched to new actors after season two, as the timeline moves forward through the decades) and the first time a new series has aired since the deaths of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have generated a great deal of interest in the show’s upcoming third season.
Let’s take a closer look at the new cast of The Crown, and the other places you may recognize them from:
Playing the role of Elizabeth II is Imelda Staunton
In season 5 of The Crown, we’ll see the Queen endure her harshest criticism, as we follow her through the several scandals that rocked her world in 1992, or her “annus horribilis,” as she memorably called it. Imelda Staunton will take over for Claire Foy and Olivia Colman as the monarch in seasons five and six.
A veteran of both the stage and the screen, Staunton is best known for her portrayal of the villainous Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter film series. She has also been nominated for an Oscar for her performance as the title character in Vera Drake and a BAFTA for her roles in Return to Cranford and The Girl. Fans of “Doctor Who” may recognize her as the voice of Interface from the Matt Smith period episode “The Girl Who Waited,” which aired in 2011.
In the role of Prince Philip, Jonathan Pryce
Prince Philip, who shows no signs of slowing down in his latter years, has a strong acquaintance with Penelope Knatchbull, alias Lady Romsey, the wife of his godson, in season five.
Jonathan Pryce, who took over for Tobias Menzies, who had replaced Matt Smith at the beginning of season 3, is another famous face; he is most known for his appearances in films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The Two Popes, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. In a 1999 Comic Relief special, he portrayed The Master from Doctor Who.
John Major is portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller
The fictitious meeting between Prince (now King) Charles and then-Prime Minister John Major, arranging for the Queen to abdicate, is one of the most contentious plotlines of The Crown season five. The individual has called it a “barrel full of crap” on his own.
With Lesley Manville in the role of Margaret, Princess of Wales
After Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Kirby’s tempestuous depictions, Manville portrays a more settled version of the Queen’s fiery sister; yet, an unexpected reminder of a former love provokes some bitter contemplation in series five.
Dominic West as the future King of England
Prince Charles has had a dramatic year, what with the dissolution of his marriage, the now-famous phone chat with Camilla, and a hidden plan to overthrow the monarchy.
In this contentious role, played by Josh O’Connor, Dominic West steps in to fill O’Connor’s shoes. He has recently been seen in SAS: Rogue Heroes, although West is most known for his appearances in The Wire, The Pursuit of Love, and Appropriate Adult, in which he played serial murderer Fred West.
Princess Diana is portrayed by Elizabeth
The trailer of The Crown season 5 suggests that Elizabeth Debicki will play Diana Spencer with eerie precision, making it difficult to watch the show’s focus on Spencer’s tragic and controversial final years, which include her headline-grabbing interview with Martin Bashir and the lead-up to her death in a Paris car crash. In the first season, Emma Corrin portrayed Diana.
As Camilla Parker-Bowles, Olivia Williams
Camilla and her marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles remain at the forefront as season five focuses on her connection with Prince Charles.
This season, Olivia Williams will be replacing Emerald Fennell. She played Anna in The Sixth Sense and was nominated for an award for her work in both The Ghost Writer and An Education.
Casting Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne
In the next fifth season, Anne’s marriage will end, and a new, surprising love interest will enter her life.
In the role of Prince Andrew, James Murray
In The Crown Season 5, Prince Andrew’s marriage to Sarah Ferguson begins to crumble, marking his first appearance on The Crown.
Lydia Leonard as Cherie Booth and Bertie Carvel as Tony Blair
Tony Blair and the Labour Party win a resounding victory in the May 1997 General Election in the penultimate episode of Season 5. Bertie Carvel is known for his roles in Doctor Foster, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, The Sister, and the original Broadway cast of Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s Matilda: The Musical (now a film starring Emma Thompson as Carvel’s character, Miss Trunchbull), plays the previous prime minister. Lydia Leonard, who plays Blair’s wife, attorney Cherie Booth, may be seen most recently in the BBC/HBO series Gentleman Jack and the Prime Video adaptation of Call My Agent in English, 10 Percent.
Dominic West’s real-life son, newcomer Senan West, will portray William in the film adaptation. Marcia Warren (Vicious) replaces Marion Bailey as the Queen Mother, while Sam Woolf (one-off performances in programs like Call the Midwife excepted) gets one of his first substantial roles as Prince Edward. As for the cast, Natascha McElhone (Designated Survivor) will play Penelope Knatchbull, Outlander’s Andrew Steele will play journalist Andrew Morton, and Humayun Saeed (a huge figure in Pakistani television and cinema) will play heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.