Long live the queen — but the Netflix series all about the royal family will bow out a little earlier than expected. On Friday, Jan. 31, Netflix announced that Imelda Staunton will play Queen Elizabeth in the final season of The Crown, via a post on Twitter. Though the Emmy-winning drama was originally slated to run for six seasons — with three different actors playing the queen for two seasons each — The Crown’s creator, Peter Morgan, explained in a statement obtained by Bustle that he felt that it made sense to end the story a little early.
“At the outset I had imagined The Crown running for six seasons,” Morgan said in his statement, before revealing that he rethought his plan as pre-production began on Season 5. “It has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop.” The creator and producer also praised Staunton as “a fantastic successor” to Claire Foy and Olivia Colman, who each played the queen at different points in her life.
In a statement of her own, Staunton also referenced taking over the throne from Foy and Colman, explaining that she has been a fan of The Crown since its premiere in 2016. “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,” Staunton said. “I am genuinely honored ... to be taking The Crown to its conclusion.”
Rumors of Staunton’s casting first began swirling in November, though the production team declined to comment or confirm them at the time, describing the reports as “pure speculation.” Staunton was nominated for an Academy Award for the 2004 film Vera Drake, but she is probably best known for her delightfully evil performance as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter franchise. Naturally, many social media users have pointed out the coincidence of Staunton playing two iconic British roles, with some noting that many of Umbridge’s all-pink ensembles would seem perfectly at home in Queen Elizabeth II’s brightly-colored wardrobe.
While the period of time the final season of The Crown will cover hasn’t yet been confirmed, the show is currently filming Season 4, which will include the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In December, new set photos featured Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin — who are playing the royals — filming a scene in which Charles and Diana disembark a plane while holding their young son, William. Based on that and other set photos, it seems that Season 4 will touch on the 1980s and Diana’s journey from ordinary girl to “the people’s princess,” and O’Conner told Entertainment Tonight in November that the conflict between her, Charles, and Camilla Parker Bowles will continue to play a major role in the show going forward.
The events of Season 3 took place between 1964 and 1977, and based on the fact that the cast have been spotted filming scenes based on Diana and Charles’ 1980s Commonwealth tours, it seems likely that Staunton’s season will pick up in the early 1990s.
One thing that the show definitely won’t cover is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step down as senior royals. “To be honest, whatever the life of The Crown is after where we are now, I doubt we’ll ever go as far into the present day,” executive producer Suzanne Mackie told PA, adding that the show won’t chronicle any events past the early 2000s.
In the meantime, fans can take comfort in the fact that Season 4 of The Crown will bring enough history and drama to comfort fans after the news of the show’s early end.