Recreating the extraordinary world of The Queen and the royal family was a daunting prospect for the team behind Netflix’s opulent royal drama The Crown, and it quickly became apparent that building it from the ground up was near impossible.
The original plan to build most of the sets in a studio was scrapped, and the cast and crew instead travelled to England’s most opulent stately homes and cathedrals to film the now iconic scenes.
Executive producer Suzanne Mackie explained the decision saying, ‘Everywhere you look, every detail, I don’t think we would have ever really got that. What’s wonderful is when you have that incredible scale, beauty and grandeur, as well as something that’s quite intimidating, then you put one of our characters, on their own perhaps, in that vast state room, and suddenly that image can speak volumes for what we’re trying to say.’
Below are some of the key shooting locations which brought the royal world to life on screen:
Standing in for Buckingham Palace, this lavishly decorated Pall Mall townhouse is just down the road from The Queen’s official residence. Commissioned by the ‘Grand Old’ Duke of York and built in the 1820s Lancaster House was originally known as York House and acted as a central meeting place for politics and high society throughout the 19th century.
When the Duchess of Sunderland lived in Lancaster House, it’s said that her close friend, Queen Victoria, commented enviously on the fact that ‘I come from my house to your palace.’
Greenwich Naval College
The Buckingham Palace courtyard which saw the to and fro of the royals and noted figures in their lives throughout the series was recreated at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
The Tudor-built structure was originally Greenwich Palace and saw the births of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The classical buildings that appear today have evolved over the centuries with a significant amount of the construction having taken place in the 17th century when the building was the Royal Hospital for Seamen and housed retired British Navy veterans.
This South London Art Deco home was used in a variety of ways in the series, standing in for The Queen’s quarters on the Royal Yacht Britannia, the HMSS Queen Mary and Bermuda Government House.
The house’s great hall dates to the medieval age, but the majority of the structure was built in the 1930s.
Standing in for Castle Mey in Caithness (which The Queen Mother buys and then restores to use as a holiday home) is Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire.
The castle was built by the 9th Earl of Erroll in the 16th century, and it is now mostly in ruins where it sits atop a cliff overlooking the North Sea.
The Queen’s tour of Kenya – where she learned of her father’s death in 1952 while on a Commonwealth Tour – was recreated for the series in locations in South Africa.
The memorable scene where King George undergoes surgery at Buckingham Palace was actually filmed in Goldsmith’s Hall in the City, just down the road from St Paul’s Cathedral. Interestingly, the surgeons were real surgeons who were hired to ensure the scene was as realistic as possible.
The headquarters of the Goldsmiths’ company since 1339, the building is the third to have stood on the site since then having been nearly destroyed by a bomb in 1941.
The oldest airport in England, this art deco airport in West Sussex was used in a number of pre and post flight scenes.
Now part of Brighton City Airport, the private Shoreham Airport is used as a base for flying schools and as a home airport for a number of private aircrafts.
The sumptuous wedding scenes as well as the coronation and the ‘big argument’ where Philip heatedly asks ‘Are you my Queen or my wife?’ as he and Elizabeth discuss whether he will kneel before her were filmed in gorgeous Ely Cathedral, which substituted for Westminster Abbey.
The vast cathedral dates to the 7th century when a monastery was built on the sire by the daughter of the King of East Anglia Etheldreda. The present cathedral was constructed after the Norman conquest of 1066 when the Norman Abbot set about rebuilding the abbey on a grand scale.