As the BFI Film Festival begins, we celebrate royal residences that have been used for movie locations.
From palaces to castles, these are the movie locations fit for a queen, says Dominic Wells
‘Iknow I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too.’ Which actress would not give their ring finger for the chance to deliver this speech? Elizabeth I has been played by dozens of screen greats, from Bette Davis in 1939 through to Glenda Jackson in 1971 and Cate Blanchett in 1998 and 2007 – plus Miranda Richardson’s hilariously childish Queenie in Blackadder. Helen Mirren hasn’t just played Elizabeth I but Elizabeth II, too, winning an Oscar for The Queen.
The Virgin Queen’s father, Henry VIII, is equally attractive to actors: Charles Laughton, Richard Burton, Robert Shaw, Ray Winstone, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Damian Lewis are just a few of those to have played the axe-happy antihero. And the royal TV series just keep coming: The Tudors was racy, Wolf Hall award-winningly cerebral and Liz Hurley’s E! series The Royals flat-out bonkers. Channel 4 meanwhile recently launched its sitcom, The Windsors.
Because some of the castles and palaces are lived in by the royal family, they don’t all welcome huge film crews, so other historic buildings act as stand-ins. Here are Britain’s top royal attractions, as picked by Visit Britain, along with their ‘stunt doubles’.
LONDON’S TOP ROYAL ATTRACTIONS BUCKINGHAM PALACE
The office and official residence of the Queen is open to the public from July to October. On a tour of the lavish State Rooms and garden, you can see the Old Masters in the Royal Collection of art. Seen on screen: Countless appearances of the exterior, but the interior is doubled by other homes, including Cliveden House and Englefield House in Berkshire, and Lancaster House and Osterley Manor in London. In the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, Danny Boyle filmed Daniel Craig as James Bond in Buckingham Palace with the Queen.
Tour the magnificent King’s and Queen’s State Apartments in the former home of Queen Victoria and Diana, Princess of Wales, and pay a visit to the Diana Memorial Fountain which is nearby in Hyde Park. The exhibition Fashion Rules Restyled is on until 2017. Seen on screen: In 2009’s The Young Victoria, Ham House in Richmond stood in for Kensington Palace.
“The Tudors was racy, Wolf Hall cerebral and The Royals flatout bonkers”
This is the Queen’s favourite residence, and the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Visit the sumptuous State Apartments, St George’s Chapel and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. If you see the royal standard flag flying, which is red, yellow and blue, it means the Queen is in residence. If you visit on a weekend then you might be in luck, as this is the Queen’s weekend home. The venue is currently hosting the exhibition Fashioning a Reign :90 Years of Style from the Queen’ s Wardrobe, which displays items of clothing worn by Her Majesty over the years. See non screen: My Week with Marilyn did shoot briefly outside the castle, as Marilyn Monroe visited it while she was filming The Prince and the Show girl. But the visit by Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne to the library actually took place in Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
This is where every monarch since 1066 has been crowned, and where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) were wed. It contains the graves of the country’s greatest minds, too, from Isaac Newton to Charles Dickens. Seen on screen: Feature films have to use stand-ins, such as Lincoln Cathedral in The Da Vinci Code and The Young Victoria, Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire in The King’s Speech and St Nicholas Church in Dunsany Castle in Braveheart.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE
Tudor times are recreated by costumed characters in Henry VIII’s favourite residence; don’t miss the maze and the famously beautiful gardens by ‘Capability’ Brown. Seen on screen: In recent years Hampton Court has become one of Britain’s biggest film ‘stars’, appearing in The Young Victoria, Jack the Giant Slayer, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Theory of Everything, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Terrence Malick’s The New World.
TOWER OF LONDON
This 900-year-old guarded fortress on the north side of Tower Bridge is home to the magnificent Crown Jewels. Prisoners who have been locked away here include Sir Thomas More, King Henry VIII’s wife Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes. Expect to queue. Seen on screen: Tom Cruise filmed Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation here, though the café he eats at doesn’t exist in real life. But even Cruise’s star power was upstaged by the wedding of Kermit and Miss Piggy in M up pets: Most Wanted.
Clockwise from main image: Buckingham Palace; TheRoyals TV series; Hampton Court Palace
Top: Tower of London Left: TheWindsors TV series