Netflix is Considering a Possible Prequel to 'The Crown'

Claire Foy as Princess Elizabeth and Jared Harris as King George VI in The Crown

Netflix is going all-in on big-budget royalty. The Crown, Bridgerton, and a limited series prequel based on the fictionalized life of Queen Charlotte are all heading for the streaming service in the next year or two. But that's not enough for the streamer, who is now looking to horn in on the PBS/BBC tendency to mine historical U.K. royalty for stories. As first reported by The Daily Mail and then confirmed by Deadline, Left Bank, the producer behind The Crown, is in talks with Netflix about doing a prequel series.

The Crown was one of Netflix's first big gambles when it committed to producing its own content. It was a significant move in the streaming service's attempt to "disrupt" the way TV is made. The service greenlit six seasons all at once in 2014, sight unseen, with a plan to completely recast the series every two seasons rather than cast one set of actors and pay tons of money for aging makeup. (CGI-aided aging and de-aging technology was not yet an affordable option.) The first three seasons earned respectable ratings, critical praise, and Emmy gold, but it was not a massive hit.

Then The Crown Season 4 arrived, and with it, a retelling of the marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Diana, and the series took off. Despite some last-minute decisions to end the show at the turn of the century, instead of pushing up to Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Season 5 and 6 are finishing filming, with planned releases in 2022 and 2023. Add in Bridgerton hitting big and the excitement at a Queen Charlotte prequel, and it's no surprise Netflix is looking for more royalty-based TV.

Alex Jennings as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and Lia Williams as Wallis, Duchess of Windsor in The Crown
Edward VIII's abdication is one of the many stories a prequel to 'The Crown' could cover. (Alex Bailey/Netflix)

Exactly what the new show would cover under the umbrella of a "prequel" is unknown, though reports suggest the show could range from "the pre-World War Two or late Victorian era when Queen Victoria reigned." That's a considerable period; the show could be set anywhere from the 1880s to the 1930s, eras that The Gilded Age and Downton Abbey have covered. That being said, The Gilded Age takes place in New York; Downton Abbey has been off the air since the middle of the last decade (despite the movies); and neither focuses on the highest levels of royalty.

ITV is still sitting on Victoria's rights (which covers Victoria's early reign from 1840 to 1860 and has never been canceled), while Bridgerton and the Queen Charlotte spinoff could technically cover everything from 1760 to 1830. That leaves the early modern era of the 20-century as the most practical setting. It also has several options for which dramatic mess the show would like to cover. 1880-1910 could focus on Victoria's disapproving relationship with her eldest son Bertie, who became Edward VII. It might cover his successor, George V, World War I, and the end of the British aristocracy. And of course, there's the drama surrounding George V's son, Edward VIII, who famously abdicated the throne to marry a divorced Catholic, putting Elizabeth's father, George VI, on the throne.

Despite that, Deadline reports "conversations over the prequel are in their early stages," which means this is not yet a series that is in development, let alone in the greenlight stage. Though Netflix went big with the original order for The Crown, the streaming service has slowly gone from trying to disrupt the way TV is made and now behaves far more like a traditional network. It now only says yes to future seasons if a show performs and no longer carelessly throws money around on projects that would never work. Still, if The Crown Seasons 5 and 6 achieve viewership numbers anything close to those generated by Season 4, a prequel is almost assured.

The Crown Seasons 1-4 are streaming on Netflix. Season 5 is expected to debut in November 2022, with Season 6 in 2023.


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Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found at Elite Daily, NBC News' THINK, and others. A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on Twitter: @anibundel