For all of The Crown‘s massive budget and attention to detail, the Netflix drama couldn’t swing filming at the real Buckingham Palace. (Queen Elizabeth, we imagine, would not be amused.) But if you ever thought you were looking at the actual 775-room palace while watching the series, you can thank production designer Martin Childs and lead researcher Annie Sulzberger.
Turns out, The Crown‘s version of Buckingham Palace is a seamless combination of real-life estates and sets on soundstages. (Fun fact: Vanessa Kirby told Harper’s Bazaar the crew turned the palace set at Elstree Studios into a disco to celebrate her last day playing Princess Margaret.) To get the look of their version of Buckingham Palace just right, the team scoped out the real deal. “We went on tours,” Annie told Refinery29. “Like any other members of the public — and they had no idea why we were there.”
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Still, they couldn’t access every part of the palace on the tour, and that’s where the historical research comes in. “One place you are never allowed to go, for obvious reasons, are the private apartments,” Martin told Vulture. “There are, however, rough layouts available.” In fact, the apartments are some of the only sets the crew built. Most of the other palace rooms belong to actual houses, including Lancaster House in London, Wilton House near the English town of Salisbury, and Wrotham Park in the English county of Hertfordshire. (Wrotham Park also doubled as Mr. Darcy’s house in Bridget Jones’s Diary.)
“Knowing that we could build only a certain number of rooms and without the kind of budget that could compete with a real palace, I decided that the private apartments were what we should concentrate on building,” Martin explained. “Plus, I wanted to incorporate some postwar austerity and neglect. You can beat up your own set, but you can’t add patches of damp and wield a hammer in a stately home.”
(Photo Credit: Netflix)
Martin even created a plan for how all of these filming locations connect to make up their version of Buckingham Palace. “For example, take a left off the landing of the queen’s private apartments, take the stairs down, and you finish up in Lancaster House, where if you make a right in the hallway, you wind up in Wilton House,” he said. “After two seasons and five directors, the plan still pretty much holds!”
All of that said, the team doesn’t obsess over getting every last detail spot-on, as Martin said: “Knowing that it’s a drama and not a documentary gave us license not to invent, but to create a vision of scale and untold wealth rather than slavishly reproduce the actual rooms.” Besides, it’s more about the feeling of the locations, as Annie explained, “The atmosphere has to feel right.” Mission accomplished, we’d say!
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