BBC2 drama King Charles III imagines a future where Prince Charles (the late Tim Pigott-Smith) becomes King and causes havoc when he won’t sign a crucial bill, with the majority of the action taking place in a Buckingham Palace that becomes increasingly besieged by outside forces.
However, despite appearances, the adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s play didn’t shoot at the real Palace, with a handful of stately homes standing in around the North of England instead.
“We have split Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace across a number of houses,” producer Simon Maloney explained on set for the one-off 90-minute TV film.
“We’ve used Newby Hall up in Ripon, in North Yorkshire and we’ve used Harewood House [near Leeds] and then we’ve used Wentworth Woodhouse [in Rotherham, near Sheffield], so they are our main three houses to shoot the palace across.”
Newby Hall, North Yorkshire
Notably, each of these houses has a bit of history in film and TV. Both the TV and film versions of Brideshead Revisited shot at Harewood House (as has parts of Emmerdale since 1996); Newby Hall has hosted productions including the 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park; Wentworth Woodhouse has been used for the likes of Victoria, Mr Turner and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (coincidentally starring King Charles III’s Charlotte Riley) over the years, with the latter house used for the bulk of Buckingham Palace filming.
“[Wentworth] is very much Buckingham Palace.” Maloney said. “We’re using very oblique angles because obviously Buckingham Palace is so distinctive, it’s quite difficult. So I think what we’ll end up doing is using stock footage for exteriors of Buckingham Palace and then cut within our houses to create our world.
“Wentworth is great because the majority of the rooms are empty; it’s like a playground you can come in and dress. Then for the opulence of Kensington and the other side of Buckingham the houses like Newby and Harewood are great because you’re effectively walking into dress sets with priceless Chippendale furniture, things we just couldn’t do.”
Harewood House, West Yorkshire
“There’s a scene where William (Oliver Chris) has a visitor in the night, and we shot that in a room which I think is the only room in Europe which has priceless Chippendale furniture and matching tapestries. You can’t do that on any budget, so having that as an existing room that you can already walk into is pretty special.
“We all had to wear paper suits while we were in there to make sure we didn’t touch or scrape anything.”
And it wasn’t just the palaces that these stately homes doubled for, with a nightclub scene featuring Richard Goulding’s Prince Harry actually shot in the same building (Wentworth Woodhouse) as the Buckingham Palace scenes.
“We turned it into a kind of Sloane, Chelsea townhouse rather than a banging members club. It’s kind of an upmarket posh thing,” Maloney explained.
A close-up of Wentworth Woodhouse, near Sheffield
An interior of Wentworth Woodhouse used in King Charles III
“There are a couple of rooms on the ground floor here which lent themselves to that; we put a street lamp outside of the window to suggest it was in Mayfair and then we dressed it with all of Yorkshire’s finest and most beautiful party people and we had a good party in there!”
Other London nightlife scenes were shot in nearby Leeds, while Beverley Minster cathedral in East Riding, Yorkshire, stood in for the real Westminster Abbey when it came to the all-important funeral and coronation sequences.
“Beverley Minster’s a great double for Westminster Abbey,” Maloney said. “And there’s a real pool of talent crew-wise up here in the North West. It’s nice to utilise that as well.”
Beverley Minster in King Charles III
Still, Maloney admitted there was also other reasons for the production’s presence in the North of England apart from the wealth of talent and locations; regional funding that made the whole project that bit easier to get running, along with the presence of privately-owned stately homes that were more available for filming.
“It was regional funding so [we had to go] outside of the M2,” Maloney said.
“And the abundance of housing is amazing; plus there’s a couple of privately owned houses which are sometimes easier to manage than the National Trust properties, just in terms of availability because they’re willing to shut for you.
“The National Trust are incredibly welcoming, but at certain times of the year they have Christmas markets and things, so they’re less willing to give you availability.
“So Yorkshire just felt like the right place to come. We looked in Cheshire, we looked all over the place, but it was the houses that brought us here.”
This article was originally published on 7 June 2017
King Charles III airs on PBS Masterpiece on Sunday 24 March at 9/8c