COTE DE TEXAS

Behind the Sets of The Crown

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Are you watching The Crown, Netflix’s $100 million production about the life of Queen Elizabeth?  While some people are watching the episodes as they are shown each week, most people are just binge watching Season One’s 10 episodes over a long weekend.   That’s what Ben and I did.  It helps that Mr. Slippersocks Man majored in History in college – he loves all these historical shows, even if they are basically chick-flicks.

 

But, The Crown is a bit more than just another glossy royal story.  While it is basically about the love story of Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and her sister Margaret and her ill-fated love affair – The Crown’s First Season is also about major political events that happened before and after WWII in England. Much of the detail of the political intrigue in The Crown escapes both Ben and me  (Ben’s degree was actually in Middle Eastern Studies, so Royal gossip isn’t exactly his forte.)  It did help for me to read several blogs about the ten episodes to understand a lot of the minutiae, especially about Queen Elizabeth’s private secretaries and the different Prime Ministers and advisors.  In the end, all the history retold in The Crown makes it just that much more interesting. 

We were hooked after the first episode.

And then…there are the visuals. 

No expense was spared in recreating the luxe life of the royals.  Jewelry and tiaras were faithfully copied (although one blog about Royal Jewelry finds something to criticize about each piece of finery.)  The costumes and hats were also copied from vintage photographs of the Royals.  And the actress who is playing the Queen is incredible.  She has her accent down pat, along with all her mannerisms. 

Claire Foy – plays the Queen.  Doesn’t she look just like Queen Elizabeth?  Well, not here in real life she doesn’t.

Here Claire is next to the real Queen – in the wedding dress and reproduction jewelry.  She looks much more like the Queen here, doesn’t she?

And dressed up for an event – Foy captures the Queen in her fur and tiara.   But, it’s not the facial features that captures the likeness, it’s how the actress moves and holds her hands and how she stares and smiles.    Foy will be up for a Bafta, for sure.

A collection of vintage watches used by the stars.  No detail was too small to be ignored.

Some of the cast. 

There are standouts in the cast – like John Lithgow as PM Churchill.   He is so perfect, you forget it’s not really Churchill.   Again, it’s not the facial appearance.  Lithgow is over 6’4”, while Churchill was quite short.  But somehow – Lithgow becomes the Prime Minister. 

Also, I especially love Jared Harris who plays the King, Bertie.  Some of the best scenes are the ones that the ill King is in.   His death was so sad to watch, I could only imagine how the nation must have felt, something I had never thought of before.  Was his death as hurtful as Diana’s had been?   

And then, there is the last episode of Season 1.    A tear-jerker , it is about the forced breakup of Princess Margaret and her boyfriend, Peter Townsend.

Besides the fabulous acting, I’ve been enjoying the sets, as always.  There are so many different ones, and most were filmed on location in grand houses as opposed to on a sound stage. 

I especially got a big kick out of a few of the sets – some of them are very familiar to long time readers!

This story is a look at some of the great sets of The Crown.   I’ll break it up in a few parts to keep it brief.

First, a bit of history:

  Over the years I’ve written about quite a few movie houses.  One that I loved was the French Chateau featured in Bel Ami, a small, indie movie starring Uma Thurman and Rob Pattinson.

The movie Bel Ami was based on the famous French novel of the same name.  To recreate their French townhouse, the film crew rented this grand house in the English countryside.   The main drawing room of the house was re-wallpapered in blue for the movie, instead of its normal pink, and a houseful of French furniture replaced the usual English pieces.

Here, the library was changed.  The set designer covered the books up with a faux wall to create a bedroom out of the adjoining library.

When I first wrote about this house in Bel Ami HERE, I never imagined I would ever see it again.   Little did I know!!! 

A few years later, I was watching another indie – Hyde Park On Hudson – about F.D.R. and the time spent at his country home.   It was amusing to realize that the house at Hyde Park was filmed at none other than the same English Country Manor that Bel Ami was filmed at.

  Here is the same living room as it was decorated for Hyde Park On Hudson.  Chintz covered French furniture was used.  They even recovered the same French chaise that Bel Ami had used from the house.  A new rug was added, along with many of the house’s actual possessions and art work.   The blue wallpaper that was put up for Bel Ami was removed and the original pink wallpaper was used in the FDR movie.   Notice the furniture.  You’ll see this all again in The Crown!!

FDR:  Bill Murray actually became FDR in this movie with fake teeth and a fake mole.  The set designer hung chintz curtains in the drawing room. 

FDR:  The library with the shelves showing.  In Bel Ami – the shelves were covered.  

FDR:  In the dining room, the house’s gorgeous tapestries were left hanging on the walls.  Here’s the story about the FDR movie HERE. 

Here is what the house where these two movies were filmed looks like. Rather stark, it was built in the 1770s and it sits on over 100 acres outside of London in Hertfordshire.

While watching The Crown and enjoying the costume and set designs, I was so excited to see this same house was used once again, this time as Clarence House!!   This piqued my interest and I started concentrating on the interiors more.  The Crown’s Production Designer is Martin Childs, who won an Academy Award for Art Direction for Shakespeare in Love.     Besides seeing this familiar house in The Crown,  I noticed a few more very familiar houses.

Clarence House: 

As you know, Clarence House was built in 1830 for the Duke of Clarence.   It was the first home of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.  Philip decorated it and readied it for their family, to the tune of 70,000 pounds – then quite a princely amount.   He loved living there and considered it his first “proper home”  since, although he was a Royal cousin to Elizabeth and a Prince of Greece, he had lived a very austere and impoverished life.  

Original:   What the living room in the house actually looks like, with its pink wallpaper and blue wainscot.   The marble fireplace is a focal point, as are the tall windows and columns.   You will notice that most of the mansions used for film locations are usually a hodgepodge of generations worth of furnishings and really need updating! 

And here is how the house was used to stand in for Clarence House:

Clarence House:  In the living room at Clarence House, Princess Margaret – doing two things she does throughout the series:  talking on the telephone and smoking!   She is a chair smoker, as was her father and grandmother.  Her mother and the Queen did not smoke, thank God!

Clarence House:   The Queen meets PM Winston Churchill for the first time.  You can see the way the house was decorated for The Crown:  slipcovered chintz furniture, which I love, and a new needlepoint rug.  Some of the furniture from the house was reused like the console tables that flank the doors.  Some of the art work was also reused, while other canvases were not.   The production crew did reuse the piano and the curtains.    What is interesting is that this rug looks like the same exact one used for the FDR movie.   I also noticed several pieces of furniture that were used in both movies – I assume the Production crews rent movie props from the same companies.  

Clarence House:  The desk is needed for the work the Royals do.   Note:  The interior scenes of The Crown were filmed in dark tones, without much light.  I tried to brighten up the screencaps as best as I could, but I’m afraid, sometimes the photos are not the best!!

Clarence House:  New art work flanks the marble mantel, but the house’s original mirror was used. 

Clarence House:  Through the door is the library.  That room was used as the bedroom in BelAmi.

Original:  What the library actually looks like.   

Clarence House:  The crew moved the sofas from the house’s drawing room to use in the library.  The tiny TV was set up in this room.  Another thing the royal family did all the time was to watch TV on these tiny early models. 

Original:  The room outside the drawing room and library.  Notice the gorgeous clock on the stand at the left.  This was reused for The Crown.  

Clarence House:  This room was used to walk from one scene to another.  Here Philip waits for Elisabeth after her first meeting with Churchill.  Everything was reused, as is, including the beautiful clock on a stand.  

Original:  The dining room is another mess with too much – stuff, like the lamps on the pedestals.  The tapestries in the dining room are incredible though.

Clarence House:  The table was extended and the lamps were removed.  A crystal chandelier was added.  Notice the painting to the right of the mantel.  The one from the house was removed and a smaller one was placed there instead – see the faded wallpaper?  Too funny!!!

Clarence House:  The Duke of Windsor comes for lunch with Queen Elizabeth.  New curtains were installed for the movie.

Original:  The stairs and landing.

Clarence House:  Margaret waits on the landing for the Queen to arrive.  This is one of two stairs used in the series  to stand in for Clarence House.

Original:  The family room.  This room was also used in Bel Ami.   This is how it usually looks.

Clarence House:  The family room is turned into the master bedroom.  Here Margaret dresses in the mirror.   The oval portrait looks like it might be one of Queen Mary, placed there by the Production team.

Clarence House:  Prince Philip, on the phone of course, in the master bedroom at Clarence House. 

Clarence House:  Princess Margaret in bed – on the phone!  I told you!!!  A minute later she gets up and starts smoking.

And this is where it gets a little complicated.  While all these rooms in Clarence House were filmed in this same house, a few other key rooms were filmed elsewhere, which is strange because the character will be walking through a hall that was filmed in one house and into a room which was actually filmed in another house across the country.  

For instance – when the Queen & Philip finish talking with Churchill in one scene at “Clarence House” they walk through this hall, below, that was actually filmed at the estate Wrotham Park:

Clarence House:  We see the Queen & Philip walk through the foyer (filmed at Wrotham Park) to the meeting with Churchill…  

…then, past the stair hall (at Wrotham Park) ….

…then, through the billiards room (at Wrotham Park.)  After the meeting (which was filmed at the original house) is over, the couple are seen walking back through this hall that is supposed to be at Clarence House and which was filmed at Wrotham Park.  Although most scenes at “Clarence House” were filmed at that one white house, these very few scenes were filmed at Wrotham Park.  And then – several rooms representing Buckingham Palace were also filmed at Wrotham Park. 

Wrotham Park is a beautiful house that sits on over 2500 acres.  Robert Byng lives there and it was his direct ancestor who built the Palladian style mansion in 1754.  Over 60 movies have been filmed at Wrotham Park, which is quite a beautifully furnished house:

 

Wrotham Park.  The list of movies filmed here is so extensive – from Bridget Jones Diary to Jane Eyre to Gosford Park.

Here, the grand foyer at Wrotham Park.   The Queen & Philip are seen walking to and fro from her meeting with Churchill in this same hall…

…through this stair hall…

…and through the billiards room.  It is notable that you can’t even see the rooms they walk through.   Which makes me wonder, why bother?  Couldn’t they have found a hall in the original white house to film this short walk to and fro, rather than film at a second house?   To me, it’s a bit confusing.  I think that they should film all the rooms supposed to be Clarence House at one house.  But then, no one asked me!!

Clarence House:  And finally, there is this set – the Queen Mother’s private sitting room at Clarence House.  This large library is quite attractive with its tall ceiling and collection of oil portraits.   Notice how the paintings are lit from below, as opposed to from above.  

Clarence House:  Around the fireplace is a set of damask covered furniture.  I tried and tried to find what house this room is located in, but to no avail!   So apparently, now three houses were used to represent Clarence House.   And notice, Princess Margaret is doing her two favorite things:  smoking AND watching television!

If anyone recognizes this library – let me know!!

BUCKINGHAM PALACE:

Replicating the rooms at Buckingham Palace (BP) is a bit trickier because the palace is quite grand and very large.  Plus, there are personal spaces, public spaces, and office spaces in Buckingham Palace that will needed to be filmed.  Since The Crown couldn’t film at the BP itself, they chose the next best thing – Lancaster House.  Built in 1825 for the Duke of York and Albany, the second son of King George III,  it was known then as York House.  Lancaster House is located right next to Clarence House and today is used for both royal and non-royal events.  Its entrance hall was once known as the finest in London. 

The elegant Lancaster House with its large green lawn.  To its right, you can see the white facade of Clarence House.

The original floor plan for York House.  For The Crown, the principal rooms used were the long gallery at the left, the stair hall, and the large salons behind the stair hall.  For the Queen’s and Philip’s private quarters at BP – those were actually built on a sound stage.   And still, other rooms at BP were filmed at Wrotham Park.

 

BP:  The great staircase in Lancaster House – this doubles for the entry in Buckingham Palace and the actors are seen coming and going on these stairs.

BP:  Here Prince Philip and his children come from Clarence House to check out their new home at Buckingham Palace.  Today, BP is actually finally undergoing a restoration that will last 10 years.  Built in the early 1700s, BP has been home to the royals since George III bought it in 1771.  The restoration will replace all the antiquated wiring, plumbing and heating – the Queen will remain there while the repairs take place.

BP:  The top of the stair hall where all the public rooms are located.

BP:  Here the Queen heads to her BP Drawing Room, where she meets with her Prime Ministers and VIPs.  But, once that open door closes, her office is actually filmed in another location.  Nothing is quite what it seems in movieland.

BP:  The long gallery that is often seen in The Crown.  It also doubles as a banquet hall in the movie.   

BP:  The magnificent sky light in the long gallery.  

BP:  For the Eisenhower’s state dinner, The Crown set up this 80’ long table in the gallery which is doubling as a banquet room.  In the movie, the banquet was canceled and the table had to be dismantled before it was ever used.

 

BP:  A view of the Queen walking through the long enfilade on the top side of  Lancaster House.   Queen Victoria called her own house at Buckingham Palace – “a home,” while she called Lancaster House “a palace” because its state rooms are so beautiful.

BP:  The main drawing room at Lancaster House that filled in for Buckingham Palace.  Many scenes take place in this room with its beautiful gilt molding.

BP:   In the same state room, this scene took place with the Duke of Windsor – his first time back in London after the abdication.  Missing from the meeting in the movie was Prince Philip – but in real life, he WAS at this meeting.  Of course Princess Margaret is smoking, yet again. 

 

BP:   This state room was used for the two sisters to practice their royal duties with the sword.

Many other rooms featured at Buckingham Palace in The Crown were actually filmed at a few other majestic mansions.   One will be very familiar to CdT readers!  

Earlier this year I wrote about Wilton House in Salisbury HERE – when it was used as a movie location for Outlander, a series on Starz.  If you remember – when I casually decided to write about this film location at Wilton House, it sparked a 3 part series about the Bright Young Things and other important houses in Wiltshire.  

And so, I was thrilled to spot the fabulous Wilton House used to represent Buckingham Palace in numerous scenes during The Crown.   

Wilton House:  One of the most famous drawing rooms in England is the Double Cube Room at Wilton House with its magnificent Van Dyke painting.  Did you notice this room being used in The Crown?

BP:  Here, the two young Princesses – Elizabeth and Margaret – hurry to meet their father in Buckingham Palace.  They used Wilton House’s Double Cube room for this scene.  What is somewhat disappointing is that the production never emphasized these fabulous locations.  Most are lit in the dark and are very moody.  This room, in all its grandeur, could have been used to juxtapose the two young girls against the awe of the Palace, and all that entails.  But, I’m not the Art Director!!!  Unfortunately!!!

OK.  That’s just a joke!!

BP:   And from the other direction with the Van Dyck in full view.  It looks like the production used all the furniture that is usually in this room, and didn’t add any of their own.  Why should they?  This furniture is gorgeous.   Remember that long sofa under the Van Dyck?   The actress that plays the young Elizabeth is also very good, very memorable with expressive eyes.

AND…did you know that in Season 3, the lead actors will be replaced?   The actors that play Elizabeth and Philip now will be replaced with older actors.   

BP:   Here the Queen awaits a meeting in the Double Cube Room.  The doors to the Single Cube room are closed.   I tried to lighten these screencaps as much as I could, but the lighting of the film is just very, very dark.

BP:   Here, the Queen and Prince Philip have a talk.  This settee is incredible with the carved head in gilt wood.   Honestly, I’m surprised that Wilton House even allows film crews here.  This is such a magnificent room, don’t they worry about the rug and the sofas getting ruined?

BP:   A view into the Great Anteroom at Wilton House, standing in for Buckingham Palace.   Nothing was changed – even the large urn on the floor remained as it always is placed.  

Wilton House:   The Single Cube Room.  

BP:   Princess Elizabeth in her playroom at Buckingham Palace, which was filmed in the Single Cube Room at Wilton House.  

BP:  Another view of the two princess in their playroom at BP/Wilton House.

Wilton House:   And then, at Wilton House, there are the Small and Large Smoking Rooms – two adjoining rooms at the front of the grand house.  Both rooms feature the famous set of Russian leather furniture that came to the house with its Russian Countess.  This Small Smoking Room was briefly seen when the Queen had a meeting here with her secretary.

Wilton House:  The Large Smoking Room is known for its set of riding prints and the Chippendale bookcase with the carved violin on its front.  Unfortunately, as with all the rooms filmed at Wilton House, the camera never lingers on the interiors at all and it is only an obsessed person that would realize this room holds one of the most famous pieces of Chippendale furniture in private use.   In fact, this bookcase (seen above) is never even shown in The Crown.

BP:   The secretary approaches the Queen in her office.  The pair of leather settees flank the door in the Small Smoking Room – seen here.   The two chandeliers in the Large Smoking Room remain for the movie, as does the firescreen and all the accessories on its mantel.

BP:   The Queen at her desk in the Large Smoking Room. Above her is the beautiful clock the sits atop the mantel.  You can sense the scale of the room by high that mantel actually is.

BP:   As the secretary closes the door to the Large Smoking Room/Queen’s Study – you get one of the few glimpses of the set of riding prints.   Aren’t those desk chairs unusual, with their leather backs???   I wonder if those were rented or did they come from another room in Wilton House?

BP:  The view from the Large to Small Smoking Rooms to the Stair Hall and Foyer at Wilton House.

BP:   And the Queen looks out the front windows of her study to the legendary London Fog – except she is really in Salisbury at Wilton House!!  Interesting because there is no photo – that I could ever find – of this view of the Large Smoking Room. 

While that’s all the rooms filmed at Wilton House that I could find, there are a few more rooms at Buckingham Palace that were filmed at yet another house - Wrotham Park.   In total, four different locations were used to represent Buckingham Palace.

While a few scenes were filmed here at Wrotham Park that stood in for Clarence House, the house was used mostly to stand in for several important spaces in Buckingham Palace.

 

Vogue Magazine came to Wrotham Park to photograph the main actors, dressed as themselves, with their own hair and makeup.  Here Elizabeth and Philip, as they normally look.  Claire Foy and Matt Smith.

 

Wrotham Park:  This drawing room, beautiful in red stood in as a personal drawing room for the Queen at Buckingham Palace.   Notice those two gilt mirrors flanking the windows.  The art work is so beautiful in this house.  

BP:  The beautiful red drawing room as seen in The Crown.  The production surprisingly used their own furniture, but they did use Wrotham Park’s own mirrors and art work.   The paintings in this room are incredible.

  BP:   And a view the opposite way shows more of the beautiful oil paintings in the room.   The production doubled up on this room and also used it to stand in for a vacation setting location – I guess hoping nobody would notice the same room was used twice?

Here, against the back wall in the drawing room, the actors who play The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as they normally look – pose for Vogue Magazine.   Alex Jennings as The Duke is soooo good!!! 

For Vogue, in the same room – Princess Margaret, without a cigarette.   This poor actress, Vanessa Kirby – I wonder if she really smokes?  What is interesting – and I suppose it’s so obvious – but the royals who smoked died so young, while the ones that didn’t lived until a very, very old age, and were/are healthy.   One exception is Queen Mary who died of lung cancer when she was 85.

Wrotham Park:  The library is particularly attractive, with high, arched, wood niches at each half mark.  Notice how each niche is framed by an oval oil portrait.

BP:  The Queen used this room primarily to meet with her tutor whom she hired to give her a “real” education.  She felt woefully unprepared to talk to dignitaries and world leaders because she really had never received an education.  The library was left as is, except they did change out the desk  and chair that were there.   The rug was left as is.

For Vogue, Claire Foy in the library.

Wrotham Park:   The music room is blue and white with red curtains.    The room as it normally is, looks almost unfurnished.

BP:   This room was used as the Queen’s formal Buckingham Palace sitting room.   She meets with the Prime Ministers and dignitaries in this room.  When she meets with Princess Margaret here instead of the family’s private drawing room – Margaret knows she’s in trouble with her sister since the Queen brings her into THIS formal drawing room to talk!!

BP:   Since the Wrotham Park music room has no furniture – the production crew brought in a set of yellow damask English antique chairs and settees, along with a new large, yellow based rug.  They reused the red curtains and the piano.  All the art work remained of course, because it so beautiful!!

  BP:  Queen Elisabeth with the new Prime Minister, who apparently had a severe drug problem.

  BP:  While The Crown has an episode about the Queen’s love of horses, including a ridiculous scene of the horses mating,  the series does not really dwell much on her love of dogs.   The Queen is followed about by her many dogs as she walks through the castles.  When she flies to each of her castles, the entire dog pack comes.  At one time, her pack numbered 15!!  While the Queen is a well known horse breeder, maybe one of the most successful women at it, her abilities at dog breeding is much less known, though here again, she is quite proficient at it.    Once the Queen only had Corgis, but now she has added Dorgis – a dachund corgi mix.   A rather sad story about the end of the Queen’s dog breeding program was told in a long Vanity Fair article.  If you have a love and respect of dogs, you will enjoy reading this fascinating story.  HERE.

   The last of the Queen’s dogs photographed by Annie Lebovitz.  She is no longer breeding dogs, instead, allowing her once large pack to age along with her.  The point to this is that when the Queen passes, she won’t leave a pack of young dogs behind. 

 

For Vogue:  the actresses who play the Queen, the Queen Mother, and Queen Mary – all looking very different here, especially the Queen Mother!   This drawing room at Wrotham House as not used in The Crown.

The men of The Crown, filmed in the billiards room at Wrotham Park.  This room was used for Clarence House. 

 

Above is a model made for a series of rooms built on a soundstage to replicate yet even more rooms at Buckingham Palace.   The rooms built on the soundstage include the Queen’s private spaces – their bedrooms, their sitting room, and their breakfast room.   These rooms were easily converted and some of these were repeated for the Duke of Windsor’s house in exile.   Also, an entrance was built with a staircase and a series of rooms that represent offices at BP. 

 

BP:  The large sitting room built on the soundstage.  The flooring on all the soundstage rooms are wide planked wood, which gives a clue to which interior is really on the soundstage.  Another clue is the small, rather anemic looking, white columns that are found throughout.    The spaces on the soundstage are very nicely furnished – but they can not replicate the fantastic architecture found in the majestic mansions that were used – such as the molding, the ceilings, and the mantels.    This personal sitting room has a set of English furniture in cream damask.  Of course, there is a TV set!   It is interesting to think how much we once depended on television for our news.  Today the internet has somewhat replaced the television and newspaper.

 

  BP:  The Queen’s bedroom and the Prince’s bedroom connect through a series of dressing rooms, and an enfilade of open doors.  Here, the Queen’s bedroom doors are open to the dressing rooms, on through to the Prince’s bedroom where the Queen is modeling her crown for him.   Notice in the dressing room, the art department hung a rather plain looking rug on the wall as if it was some prized tapestry!  

  BP:  Many of the scenes between the Queen and the Prince take place in these private spaces on the soundstage.

 

BP:  The Queen’s bedroom with its wide planked wood floors and white columns.  There is a pretty Empire styled bed.   I’m not sure why so many of the lamp shades look like these Victorian era ones?  

BP:  The private sitting room in the Queen’s personal space at Buckingham Palace.  This room has a set of gilt painted furniture with a chintz fabric.  And that terrible shade with a beautiful antique vase base – why???   Are these shades so popular in England? 

Does this furniture seem familiar?  If so, it’s because its the same set of furniture used in the FDR movie.   The fabric has been changed, but I am guessing the production team rented the same furniture from the FDR movie and used it here. 

Looking the opposite direction with more terrible lampshades.

 

FDR:   From the FDR movie – you can see that it’s the same exact set of furniture, just recovered with new chintz.  The chaise was actually also used in the Bel Ami movie.  Obviously those lamp shades are a hot item at the Prop Company!!  Is there only one Prop Company in England?   I tried to find the company these production crews used for the furniture, but to no avail. 

 

  BP:  The entry hall and staircase built on the soundstage.  This is really cheap looking compared to the sets filmed in the various mansions.   At first I didn’t realize this was built on the soundstage and I was wondering, what house are these stairs in?  They just didn’t match the grandeur of any of the rental houses.

  BP:  Many scenes take place in the offices in the Buckingham Palace and various other places.  You can tell this was filmed on the soundstage by the molding and the wide planked wood floor.

That’s all for Clarence House and Buckingham Palace.

Next up  - I’ll show you where Sandringham, Balmoral, Windsor and a few other important houses were actually filmed at.  Some are beyond fascinating – like Queen Mary’s spaces!! 

 

Iris Apfel !!! Wow – a personal sale!!!  Fun to look at.  HERE.

Christmas in Paris HERE.