London’s Top Royal Attractions
‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too.’
Which actress would not give her ring finger for the chance to deliver this speech? Elizabeth I has been played by dozens of screen greats, from Bette Davis in 1939 to Glenda Jackson in 1971 and Cate Blanchett in 1998 and 2007, plus Miranda Richardson’s hilariously childish Queenie in Blackadder. Helen Mirren hasn’t just played Elizabeth I but Elizabeth II, too, winning an Oscar for The Queen.
The Virgin Queen’s father, Henry VIII, is equally attractive to actors: Charles Laughton, Richard Burton, Robert Shaw, Ray Winstone, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Damian Lewis are just a few of those to play the axe-happy antihero. And the royal TV series just keep coming: The Tudors was racy, Wolf Hall award-winningly cerebral while Liz Hurley’s E! series The Royals was flat-out bonkers. Channel 4 launched its own sitcom, The Windsors, too.
As some of the UK’s castles and palaces are lived in by the royal family, they don’t all welcome film crews, so other historic buildings act as stand-ins. Here are Britain’s top royal attractions, along with their ‘stunt doubles’.
Buckingham Palace - The office and official residence to the Queen is opened to the public from July to early October. Tour the lavish State Rooms and garden and see Old Masters in the Royal Collection of art.
Seen on screen: Countless appearances of the exterior, though the interior is usually doubled by other homes, including Cliveden House and Englefield House in Berkshire and Lancaster House and Osterley Manor in London.
- This is where every monarch since 1066 has been crowned, including William the Conqueror and Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Catherine Middleton) were married here in 2011. The site is also the burial site of famous names such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Seen on screen: Feature films use stand-ins such as Lincoln Cathedral in The Da Vinci Code, Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire in The King’s Speech and St Nicholas Church in Dunsany Castle in Braveheart.
Kensington Palace - Visit the magnificent King’s and Queen’s State Apartments in this former home of Queen Victoria and Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park. The current exhibition is Fashion Rules Restyled.
Seen on screen: In The Young Victoria, Ham House in Richmond replaced Kensington Palace.
Windsor Castle - This is the Queen’s favourite residence, and the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Visit the sumptuous State Apartments, St George’s Chapel and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.
Seen on screen: My Week with Marilyn was briefly shot outside the castle, but Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne’s library visit actually took place in Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
Hampton Court Palace
- Tudor times are recreated by costumed characters in Henry VIII’s favourite residence; don’t miss the maze and beautiful gardens.
Seen on screen: In recent years, Hampton Court has become one of Britain’s biggest film ‘stars’, appearing in The Young Victoria, Jack the Giant Slayer, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Theory of Everything, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Terrence Malick’s The New World.
Tower of London
- This 900-year-old guarded fortress by Tower Bridge contains the Crown Jewels.
Seen on screen: Tom Cruise filmed Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation here, though the café he eats at does not exist in real life; but even his star power was upstaged by the wedding of Kermit and Miss Piggy in Muppets: Most Wanted.