Elizabeth II in film and television: royal filming locations
Elizabeth II has appeared many times in films and television, in documentaries, and has been portrayed by several great actresses in fiction films and series, sometimes in the background but often in the foreground. The most famous sovereign in the world, the Queen of the United Kingdom has thus become a true pop culture icon, directly or indirectly highlighting places that are now linked to her history. Here are the most memorable.
The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006)
Taking place after the tragic death of Lady Di, The Queen focuses on Elizabeth II’s reaction and feelings as her kingdom goes through a most difficult time. Played by Helen Mirren, an actress who won an Oscar for her performance, the monarch inhabits this masterful and melancholy work.
Although Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence in London, and Balmoral Castle in Scotland, her country home, do appear on screen, becoming the scene of crucial scenes, director Stephen Frears’ teams did not obtain permission to shoot there.
The Old Royal Naval College was used to film the shots showing the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It is in particular the inner courtyard of this monument in Greenwich, also classified as a UNESCO site, that Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) crosses to visit Elizabeth II. For the interiors of the palace, the director invested in Halton House in Buckinghamshire. A country house built in 1883 at the request of Alfred de Rothschild, now open to film and television productions, but not to the public.
Balmoral, the privileged retreat of the Queen and her family, has been “recreated” on screen at Cluny Castle, a 1604 building located in Sauchen, Scotland. The Queen’s bedroom, while at Balmoral and hearing the news of Diana Spencer’s death, was fashioned from a room at Blairquhan Castle on the west coast of Scotland. Formerly the home of the Baronets Hunter-Blair, this Regency-era residence has been the setting for other scenes such as the Queen and her entourage watching the news on television. The gardens of Culzean Castle, in Maybole, hosted the filming of the scenes that were supposed to take place in the gardens of Balmoral, when Her Majesty walks with the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms).
The hunting sequences also warranted a trip to Fraser Castle in Aberdeenshire.
Stephen Frears also filmed the Queen’s speech, in reaction to the disappearance of the Princess, from the drawing room of Goldsmith’s Hall in Foster Lane in the heart of London. Waddesdon Manor was also used to film other sequences inside the sovereign’s apartments at Buckingham Palace.
The Crown (2016)
The most expensive series produced by Netflix, The Crown tells the life of Elizabeth II since her coronation. Directed by Peter Morgan, the show did not have, like other films about the British royal family, access to the real key places of the monarchy as the country residence of Balmoral in Scotland or of course Buckingham Palace. In the first season, when the Queen is played by Claire Foy, the action takes place at the Old Royal Naval College for all the sequences taking place in the palace courtyard. The scene in which King George VI (Jared Harris) undergoes surgery was produced at Goldsmith’s Hall, while the real operation also took place at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen’s wedding to Prince Philip Mountbatten (Matt Smith) was filmed in Southwark Cathedral, a sublime Gothic building where William Shakespeare and other prestigious men of letters are buried. Lancaster House, a recurring film location in the history of cinema, also used in The Queen, was used as a backdrop for the scenes supposedly taking place inside the palace. The Wilton House was also used for some interior shots. Finally, only the façade of the real palace appears on the screen. Some passages also justified the use of computer-generated imagery to place the action in its true historical context and create a perfect illusion on the screen.
Subsequently, in subsequent seasons, including season 3 and season 4, where Elizabeth II is played by Olivia Colman, the production took place in other prestigious monuments, such as Belvoir Castle. Located in Leicestershire, this building has “doubled” Windsor Castle with a certain presence. Plans were also made in Burghley House, a stately home from the 1600s.
What about Balmoral Castle? Peter Morgan actually shot in Adrverikie House, another prestigious mansion located in the Scottish Highlands. This is where the hunting party Diana Spencer (Emma Corin) takes part in in episode 2 of season 4.
Elizabeth II, a cinematic monarch
The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)
Telling the story of George VI’s (Colin Firth) rise to power after the abdication of his older brother, The King’s Speech is not really about Elizabeth II, who is still a child. The latter appears under the features of the young Freya Wilson.
Multi-awarded and awarded the Oscar for best film, The King’s Speech was filmed in England, in places such as Wembley stadium or Battersea power station, made famous by the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals album. This is where the BBC radio room has been reconstructed. The Royal House, once located at 145 Picadily, but destroyed in the Blitz, was fashioned at 33 Portland Place. This is where the Sierra Leonean embassy was once located. This 1775 house was designed by Robert Adam. Funnily enough, this is also where the designers created the office of Dr. Logue (Geoffrey Rush), the specialist the King consults to overcome his stutter. This is also where Amy Winehouse filmed the video for her hit Rehab.
The coronation of the king was shot in Ely Cathedral, not in Westminster Abbey, where the real George VI became sovereign. The Old Royal Naval College has been used to recreate period London streets. Guy Ritchie did the same for his Sherlock Holmes.
Unavoidable, Buckingham Palace appears in The King’s Speech without actually being in it. Stephen Frears shot in two locations, Englefield House in Berkshire and Lancaster House in London. Englefield was also the location for the filming of Match Point and X-Men: First Class.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (David Zucker, 1988)
In a different, much more comical vein, David Zucker’s The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! by David Zucker, placed Queen Elizabeth II at the center of a parody-like police plot. A hilarious film in which the sovereign of the United Kingdom travels to Los Angeles on an official visit before being targeted by terrorists. The queen, here played by British actress Jeannette Charles, goes to a gala dinner that is also attended by Detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen). A scene shot at the former Ambassador Hotel, once located at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, still in Los Angeles. This prestigious institution has since been replaced by the NOW Academy, whose building retains some of the architectural elements of its illustrious predecessor.
THE QUEEN: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: A Royal Biography
At some point, when they reach their mid-sixties, most people will accept the ravages of later middle age and gracefully, often gratefully, ease themselves into retirement. Not so the Queen.
At 91 years, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II continues to work hard at her numerous duties for the nation and Commonwealth.Having held the throne for 65 years, she continues to demonstrate her commitment to fulfilling her various roles – Head of State, figurehead of many charities, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, upholder of the faith for the Church of Scotland.
At the end of the film, the Queen is attending a baseball game when Frank Drebin narrowly avoids the worst of it by posing as an opera singer. A most comical conclusion filmed in Anaheim Stadium, now renamed Angel Stadium and located at 2000 Gene Autrey in Orange County. The interior shots, however, were shot at Dodger Stadium in North Central Los Angeles. Fun fact: because of her great resemblance to Elizabeth II, Jeanne Charles has played the same role several times in movies and on television, in films like National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Austin Powers in Goldmember and series like Tatort, Big Brother and even the legendary Saturday Night Live. She is logically the actress who has played the most the queen on screen.
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