The crown is back. Netflix’s long-awaited royal hit that dramatizes the british royal family Narrative is back for its fifth season, premiering November 9 with new feuds, new fashion moments (we’re all waiting for the revenge sartorial moment) and, most impressively, over 400 new sets designing porn on steroids. Now set in 90s Britain, the saga takes us to the royal Buckingham Palace transformed by a pop culture-savvy princess, aboard the 23 piece sailboatand in the upscale hamlet of Malibu, California, which princess diana seems ready to live together.
Beyond beauty for beauty’s sake, this new installment draws heavy parallels between this great architecture and the humans who inhabit them, suggesting that time can diminish the relevance of people as well as places. True alchemists behind the curtain of this period show, set designer Martin Childs and set designer Alison Harvey explained to us how the magic happened.
The royal yacht Brittany
Location: The actual yacht and various sound stages
The series opens with a festive public unveiling of the HMY Brittanythe 4,000 tons Former cruise ship of the British royal family, what Queen Elizabeth says in a speech she hopes “like your newest queen, will prove reliable and steady, able to weather any storm”. The ship was decommissioned in 1997 after 44 years of service. Today the royal yacht, which spans 412ft and seats 250 guests, is permanently moored in Edinburgh as a tourist attraction. Tourist season logistics aside, how has the big ship been translated to the big screen?
Turns out, building the magnificent world of the royal family from the ground up isn’t for the unsuspecting. Built on three distinct sound stages, the backlot (John Brown’s yard in Clydeside) and a real ship, bringing the Brittany to life in the show was a colossal undertaking. “That was our biggest challenge,” Childs says. “You think it’s only a few sails, but in fact it’s a huge ship.” About 5% of the series was filmed on the lower decks of the real ship. Everything else was built from scratch. “Because it was spread across so many soundstages, the trick was finding ways to tie all of these things together,” adds Childs.
Location: Balmoral Castle
Kinloch Laggan, Inverness-shire in Scotland
Consistent with previous seasonsArdverikie Estate acts as a stand-in for Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s summer residence. First we get a bird’s eye view of the stately 19th century Gothic estate as the Queen arrives with her entourage. Bagpipes blare against the backdrop of Loch Laggan in the Scottish Highlands. This seigneurial house with the appearance of a castle and equipped with pepperbox turrets extends over 15,000 hectares of wild nature. Inside we get a glimpse of the castle as the Queen works in the library and later when she converses with the Prime Minister in the drawing room. Of course, checkered lampshades can be seen, alongside the quaint equestrian prints. For Harvey, sourcing these parts offered endless possibilities. “If you think about the number of letters in an alphabet and the number of words you can make, it’s the same with decorating,” she says. “It’s endless. You can reimagine about a million combinations of things.
Location: Balmoral Castle
This country house is another proxy for Balmoral Castle, its Great Hall perfectly resembling the original setting of the Royal Family’s famous Ghillies Ball. While the house is located in the civil parish of Knebworth in Hertfordshire about nine hours away, its Scottish Gothic-looking interiors make it an ideal replacement for Balmoral. But there’s more than meets the eye though The crown the scenes are everything you’ve seen from Knebworth.
Having been the home of the Lytton family for 19 generations and having seen three major renovations, Knebworth is a fascinating glimpse into 500 years of British history. Past the house’s romantic exterior turrets, real-life domes and gargoyles, one will find a Victorian watchtower, a majestic armory staircase and breathtaking interiors that are their own rulebook for maximalism. One of the most filmed houses in England, its interiors have featured in everything from Batman at haunted honeymoon at The King’s Speech. Not to mention the backdrop for the epic rock concerts at the Knebworth Festival.
Venue: Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s residence, is the quintessential visual needed to showcase the wealth, history and unique family culture that make up the inner life of the British Royal Family. And few have a glimpse of this space, including Netflix. “Buckingham Palace is spread over three sets on different steps and stages, two sets on the backlot and around 11 different pitches,” says Childs. “Part of the trick is putting all these pieces together so they feel like they’re in [Buckingham Palace] just by juxtaposing with other pieces. What building could become the one and only Buckingham Palace, you ask? Lancastrian House.
A stone’s throw from Buckingham on Pall Mall in the heart of the British capital, this lavishly decorated townhouse has been a key filming location for the Royal House of London in all That of the Crown seasons (as well as Sherlock Holmes, King’s Speech and National Treasure, to name a few). This historic house, built in the 1820s, is one of the last surviving examples of the extravagant palaces that were the center of London’s high society in the 19th century. Similar to Buckingham Palace, the interiors feature a variety of Baroque, Rococo, and 19th-century finishes, all distinguished by the famous neoclassical columns, geometric elements, and uniform patterns.
Location: Windsor Castle
Perhaps the most extreme visual of the series is the haunting image of an inconsolable Queen Elizabeth IIstanding in the charred remains of Windsor Castle after what came to be known as great fire at windsor castle. “That was perhaps the biggest metaphor of all,” Childs says. “And that was the one we had to reproduce in detail.”
Childs and his team first had to figure out which room they were going to burn, eventually landing on Burghley House Great Hall, which replaces Windsor Castle. You may remember it as the room where the Queen and Philip gave Diana and Charles a reprimand about allowing their marriage to fail. It was also the backdrop when Philip and Charles discussed fatherhood after Mountbatten’s death. “There was a tremendous amount of emotional investment in this room, and it happened to be the largest room we used at Windsor Castle,” says Childs. “We weren’t just burning something, we were burning something that people know about.”
Burghley House is one of the greatest examples of the great Elizabethan “wonder” houses. Built by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, in the 16th century (and still inhabited by the Cecil family), its Great Hall has an ornate Tudor fireplace and a double hammerbeam ceiling that was painful to see burned down (although we know that the room is okay). So how was the haunting postblaze scene created for The crown universe?
Disclaimer: No historic castles were damaged in the making of this series. In fact, the film crew reconstructed the room on a soundstage in a burnt state. “It had really good architectural detail but wouldn’t have completely burned out, so people could recognize the pieces we reproduced in a blacked-out state,” says Childs.
Location: Hotel Ritz in Paris
The magnificent French Renaissance-style castle that masquerades as the lavish Parisian Ritz hotel is located in England, surprisingly, at Waddesdon Manor. The Ritz graces the third episode of the series, after Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the failing hotel for $30 million, restoring it to its original splendor with another $250 million. The lavish exterior (the current Ritz) is just the tip of the iceberg, cutting into a series of opulent interiors that transport you straight to upper-class Paris.
The legendary history of Waddesdon Manor dates back to 1874, when Ferdinand de Rothschild purchased “a fine plot of land” in the Vale of Aylesbury, where he wanted to build his own French country house. Inspired by the castles of the Valois, Ferdinand employed Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur to begin what was to take almost seven years. The mansion’s luxurious interiors are worthy of a Ritz, built in a similar Renaissance Revival style that’s a grand treasure trove of art…with a price tag to match, we’re guessing.
Dodi’s Paradise Cove Home
Location: Dodi’s Paradise Cove Home
“I think I found it,” Dodi Al Fayed told her father, Mohamed, over the phone. “The perfect house…I have to put down a deposit today, or I’ll lose it to Michael Douglas.” He talks about the lavish 7,500 square foot villa based in Malibu, Calif. (the work of architect Don Wilson) that was beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest oligarchs, let alone today. While the series only gives us a glimpse of the (village, rather) home’s lavish interiors (did we spot a five-person jetted tub against limestone walls?), it’s clear that as we learn more about Diana’s potential love interest (and her potential lodging, as the tabloids claim), this dreamy beach mat may appear in future seasons.
Rachel Silva, Associate Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends and all things haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal and Citywire.