The fourth season of The Crown made its way onto screens on November 15 like a returning hero, arriving just in time for the UK’s second lockdown.
With Prince Charles and Diana now leading the plot, flitting between a glut of beautiful destinations, it’s safe to say the nation is gripped. And the good news is that once travel resumes it will be eminently possible to visit the many glorious backdrops seen in the series.
Set between 1979 and 1990, the filming locations of this series range from South Georgia, as the setting for the Falkland Islands, to Australia, for one of the Princess of Wales early tours. Princess Margaret’s favoured beaches of Mustique, of course, gets revisited, as does the misty grandeur of Balmoral Castle.
Around 90 destinations were used for filming season four – here, we cherry-pick the best of them.
A grand total of eight Royal residences feature in The Crown: Buckingham Palace, Balmoral, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, Sandringham, Highgrove, Clarence House, and Gatcombe Park. A line-up of stunning country houses, parks and heritage buildings were used to replicate them.
Balmoral Castle, a large estate house situated in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, has been a residency for the Royal family since 1852. A combination of three country piles were used to depict the stunning Scottish property: Ardverikie Estate, the tiny village of Kinloch Laggan in Newtonmore Inverness-shire and Knebworth House.
Knebworth (knebworthhouse.com) and Ardverikie (ardverikie.com) both welcome visitors. The latter, described as ‘the ultimate expression of Victorian Gothic splendour’, has been owned by the same family for the past 150 years, and has a number of spectacularly-located self-catered cottages on the grounds, including a lodge with a hot tub that sleeps eight.
“Ardverikie Estate, to which we returned to shoot Balmoral interiors and exteriors […] is remarkably similar to the real thing and offers fantastic views of the surrounding rolling hills and mountains,” said Mark Walledge, supervising locations manager for The Crown. “The estate itself offers a multitude of Lochs and forestry, perfect for the scripted hunting and fishing scenes.”
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen, and is, unsurprisingly, a deeply important part of the series, playing home to numerous key scenes – this season, it also saw Emma Corrin as Diana dancing, roller skating and departing in her wedding dress.
“In terms of the major locations on Season four, we of course returned to our established Royal Houses,” said Walledge, “including, for interiors of Buckingham Palace, Lancaster House, Wilton House, Goldsmiths Hall and Wrotham Park.”
Lancaster House, a Grade I mansion in the St James’s district managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is unfortunately rarely open to the public, but Wilton House (wiltonhouse.co.uk) is. Built on the site of a 9th century nunnery, the 16th century property is owned by the Earl and Countess of Pembroke – a family who have managed the estate since 1544, when the buildings and land were granted by Henry VIII. The house and grounds are closed until Easter 2021 due to Covid, but once open, visitors will be able to peruse the 21 acres of landscaped parkland and parts of the house at leisure.
The oldest working castle in the world, Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror and is now used by the Queen as her weekend home. Usually, Belvoir Castle is used as the stand-in for this important property, but explained Walledge, the team was “unable to make the schedule work for our usual Windsor visits [to Belvoir Castle] and had to seek an alternative.”
The alternative? Burghley House (burghley.co.uk). It’s “not too far from Belvoir Castle, situated in Stamford and they were very keen to be involved with the show,” continued Walledge. “The interior frescos at Burghley were actually painted by the same artist as those at Windsor and once Martin Childs [production designer] visited he loved the house and the next step was to convince production that this would be our next Windsor. It soon became everybody’s new favourite location.”
The house is currently closed until March 2021 due to the pandemic, but once open, visitors will be welcomed back. Accommodation is also available on the estate, including luxury glamping.
Located in Norfolk, Sandringham is the private home of the royals and where they traditionally celebrate Christmas. Previously shot at Englefield House, again, a new location had to be found this season: Somerleyton Hall (somerleyton.co.uk). This worked out well. “Martin Childs welcomed the opportunity to look for something a bit more like Sandringham architecturally,” explained Walledge, “and our search took us to the Suffolk borders where we found Somerleyton House.”
The privately owned house does open up to the public for a short season each year, but its stint on The Crown is its first major filming. “Once again, the architecture and grounds are more similar in style to the real Sandringham and geographically quite close,” said Walledge, while actress Olivia Coleman, who plays the Queen, added that “Somerleyton Hall was a new addition this year that we all adored.”
Along with some new locations for older palaces and castles, this series saw two of the royal children’s own properties as they grew up and started families of their own. Highgrove is home to The Prince of Wales, and is depicted as the first home the Prince and Diana moved into.
Located in the county of Gloucestershire, the estate is well known for its gardens, with New Forest’s Somerley House (somerley.com) chosen to depict the poetically beautiful grounds. Guests to the house can stay in one of nine bedrooms, and enjoy an array of ‘leisure pursuits’ from clay shooting to a private wine tasting with owner, Lord Somerton.
Prince Charles’ sister, Princess Anne, was shown living in her country residence of Gatcombe Park, too. Also located within Gloucestershire, it’s a scant six miles from Highgrove House. Wrotham Park (wrothampark.com), a country house with 300 acres of parkland, was used as the filming location, and saw Princess Anne and the Queen take a picnic lunch on its grounds.
Unfortunately, the house is not open to the public, but can be hired out for private events, like weddings.
As well as being a favoured location for the royal family, Scotland also played host to The Crown as a dupe for a number of different locations. “We spent the first few weeks of this season in Scotland, recreating various hunting, shooting and fishing scenes,” said Walledge.
After Ardverikie, the team moved to the far North East coast of Scotland to film in locations that doubled for Iceland, Ireland and The Falklands – a 10-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom took place there in 1982, and was covered this season.
“The bleak landscapes of the Dunbeath Estate (dunbeath.co.uk) offered us Iceland, with the small fishing ports of Keiss and Lybster becoming Ireland and Georgia in the Falklands respectively,” explained Walledge. Scotland’s otherworldly landscapes are often compared to further flung destinations, and make for an excellent staycation choice.
“I think we all enjoyed our weeks filming in Scotland more than any others,” said Coleman of her time in the country. “It was so breathtakingly beautiful, so friendly, filming outside by those lochs and on those hills was thrilling. I normally start to fade by 3pm, but there I never had that feeling.”
One of the biggest additions to the cast this year was Princess Diana, played by Emma Corrin. And with her came a host of new destinations, thanks to the many tours undertaken by the ‘people’s princess’. The first one shown in the series is Diana and Charles’ trip to Australia – though the crew didn’t go all the way down under to film its depiction. Instead, Spain was used as a stand-in.
“Spain offered a great deal in terms of architecture that we could call Australian,” said production director Martin Childs of the choice. Using a relatively ‘small triangle’ of the country, The Crown created the illusion of not just an Australian tour, but also Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and New Zealand.
“Mix Spain with our English locations that also played Australia, New Zealand and Nassau, and we only needed the Spanish light to compensate for a somewhat greyer England for the illusion to be complete,” added Childs.
Amazingly, somewhere even closer to home was used to recreate New York, the site of another Princess Diana trip: Manchester.
“Art director James Wakefield took control here and did a complete transformation of four different locations,” said Childs. “The brick colour, the concrete, the levels, the scale, were perfect. What was gratifying was that almost all of our efforts went into embellishing, creating, very little into disguising.”
Manchester, like the rest of the UK, is currently under lockdown. Once this is lifted and it becomes safe to travel, however, the city makes for an excellent domestic city break.
Aside from Princess Diana, another hotly anticipated female character to grace the show was Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first female prime minister. “This season saw the introduction of the Thatcher years,” said Walledge. “The script focused on the events surrounding Michael Fagan and his eventual visit to Buckingham Palace. The background to his world and the events of those times required a suitable 80s vision.”
How was that 80s vision created? “Given the constant redevelopment of London’s inner city estates we were quite limited in terms of establishing his world,” elaborated Walledge. “Luckily for us, the Aylesbury Estate and surrounds, in South London, whilst awaiting demolition, provided some perfect locations.” The setting proved one of the trickier parts of season four’s filming locations, with residents associations reluctant to be involved in filming, due to the frequent negative depiction of estates by UK media.
“Eventually we were able to establish a method of working within the boundaries set out by the residents’ representatives and the council. The Design Team were then presented with a perfect backdrop within which they could create the required 80s feel.”
Touring a London estate isn’t recommended, for obvious reasons – respect for residents being one – but South London itself is a beautiful part of the capital often overlooked by tourists. When lockdown lifts, those planning a jaunt to the capital will be well rewarded should they choose to do a The Crown-inspired trip to the boroughs like Lambeth and Southwark,