We Just Got a Major Hint About How The Crown Will End

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The Crown is coming to an end. The sixth season of the wildly popular Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will reportedly be its final chapter. But how, exactly, creator Peter Morgan plans to wrap up that highly anticipated final season remains a mystery. But new photos released by Netflix of a teenage Prince William and Kate Middleton meeting for the first time offer some clues about the timeline for the final season.

The three images from the series show Will and Kate as university students. In one shot they are holding hands. In real life, the two were friends before they became romantically involved. The season will likely show the evolution of that courtship. In one extra behind-the-scenes photo, stage actor Ed McVey and newcomer Meg Bellamy, who portray Will and Kate on the show, pose in front of a cafe on the campus of St. Andrews University where the royal couple met.

Ed McVey and Meg Bellamy, the actors who play Will and Kate, in a behind the scenes photo from the set of Season 6

Given the casting of actors in their teens and early 20s to play Kate and Will, we know the final installment of the series will cover the late 1990s and early 2000s. Season 5 ended with Princess Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles (now King Charles III) in 1996. So the last season will likely start around the time of Princess Diana’s death in 1997.

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Morgan covered this episode of Queen Elizabeth II’s life in his 2006 film The Queen in which the monarch struggles with the public reckoning with the royal family after Diana’s car crash. It’s an infamous and essential moment in Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and Elizabeth Debicki, who played Diana in Season 5 of The Crown, will reprise her role as Diana in the early episodes of this season.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Dominic West confirmed that he filmed a scene in which his character Prince Charles must impart the horrific news to his two young sons, William and Harry. “It’s a hell of a season, because it deals with Diana’s death and the appalling scenes like having to break that sort of news to your sons,” he said. “You know, I’ve got two boys of that age, and so it’s a heavy, heavy, heavy season, and a heavy responsibility to get it right, and something I think we all take pretty seriously.”

The Crown S6
Meg Bellamy as Kate MiddletonCourtesy of Netflix

More complicated is the question of when the show will conclude if not with the death of its protagonist, Queen Elizabeth II, currently portrayed by Imelda Staunton. Back in 2020, creator Peter Morgan said that he had no interest in the show covering the Harry and Meghan saga, from their romance to their decision to move to America. “The Meghan and Harry story is nowhere near over yet,” he told Town & Country at the time. “And I’m happy that I’m never going to write it.”

That precludes Season 6 from venturing into the late 2010s and 2020s or dealing with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign ended when she died in 2022.

Read more: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s Steadfast Monarch, Dies

But the 2000s were an eventful time period for the monarchy. Other storylines that may be covered by the show include Britain’s reaction to September 11 and the invasion of Iraq; the Queen’s Golden Jubilee to celebrate 50 years on the throne in 2002; the deaths of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mum that same year; and Charles marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.

The Crown S6
Ed McVey as a university-aged Prince WilliamCourtesy of Netflix

Our best guess is that the season will end with some significant moment that (at least momentarily) seems to secure the future of the monarchy. That ending could center on the public finally accepting Camilla (Olivia Williams) as future queen after the drama surrounding the royal couple’s affair. Or, as the newly released photos suggest, it may focus on the next generation: Will and Kate.

The couple met and started dating at University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 2001. They married in 2011, though given the ages of the young actors playing Will and Kate, it’s unlikely their royal wedding will make it onto the show. But audiences will, at the very least, get a meet-cute.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com