Netflix's royal drama The Crown is a design lovers dream. From the fantastic period costumes to the classic cars and the stately rooms owned by a variety of lords and ladies, the show is a feast for the eyes. Now we know how the series managed to re-create Buckingham Palace without being able to film there or even see the private rooms in the royal residence. And, according to the show's production designer, Martin Childs, it takes a lot of work.
I researched everything I could learn about Buckingham Palace, including visiting its state rooms as a tourist. One place you are never allowed to go, for obvious reasons, are the private apartments. There are, however, rough layouts available. . . . One thing common to a lot of buildings of the period is what's known as the enfilade --- it's the way rooms are connected to each other without the use of a corridor. So it's a great opportunity for composing shots. I combined this with the fact that Philip and Elizabeth's bedrooms are separated by dressing rooms for each of them. If I were to line up the beds within the framing of these doorways, then suddenly you have an architectural metaphor for a marriage. You can now compose and choreograph intimacy, distance, absence, isolation, and coming together.
Obviously, it would take a lot of research to try and make sure The Crown's version of Buckingham Palace is as close to the real one as possible, but, unfortunately for Martin Childs and the rest of the production team, quite a few scenes take place in the private apartments of the palace, so it wouldn't be realistic to have those rooms (which are strictly off-limits to the general public) look exactly like the real ones. So, Childs had to base the look of those areas on the layouts he found in his research and make a lot of it up as he went along.
What's good about this for viewers of The Crown, though, is that at least some of the architectural details Childs found in his research really lend themselves to telling the story in interesting ways. As fans will know, there are a lot of tensions in the marriage of Elizabeth and Phillip, with him frequently bristling at taking a backseat to his wife, her royal duties and royal protocol, and shots of them in their apartment in the palace usually show that very well just by how the space is designed and how physically far apart they are sometimes.
Childs also told Vulture how he and his team have been able to create the palace by using a bit of CGI, sets, some clever rentals of posh furniture and fixtures and real-world locations that they could substitute for parts of Buckingham Palace. He's even managed to make a clear plan of what locations lead into others to make up a whole palace.
I made a plan of how each of the palaces interconnect to make Buckingham Palace. For example, take a left off the landing of the queen's private apartments, take the stairs down, and you finish up in Lancaster House, where if you make a right in the hallway you wind up in Wilton House. After two seasons and five directors, the plan still pretty much holds!
Viewers might not know when we're actually seeing a set versus Wilton House or Lancaster House, but that's exactly the point. Everything combines to make a perfectly posh picture of Buckingham Palace, private apartments included. You can bathe in the gloriousness of Buckingham Palace on The Crown right now, as Seasons 1 and 2 are currently on Netflix. Be sure to check out our 2018 Netflix premiere guide and The Cord Cutter Podcast to see what else is coming to the streaming service in the new year!