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Best royal films set in the British countryside

Celebrate the Platinum Jubilee and the country's kings and queens with these regal films showcasing Britain's majestic estates and landscapes

Published: June 1st, 2022 at 4:10 pm
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In honour of the Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of the reign of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, celebrate our majestic landscapes with one of these regal films, capturing Britain's grand houses and the powerful drama of the monarchy. If you feel inspired, you can visit the mighty castles of Northumberland, as seen in Elizabeth, or the opulent environs of Hertfordshire's Hatfield House, showcased in The Favourite. Or just enjoy a procession through these noble locations from the comfort of your own home.

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Billy Connolly as John Brown and Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown / Alamy

Mrs Brown (1997)

Director: John Madden

A few years after her husband’s tragic death in 1861, Queen Victoria forms a strong attachment to John Brown, one of Prince Albert’s Scottish servants, causing no small degree of scandal and dismay at the time, both politically and within the Royal Family. Queen Victoria’s seclusion in Balmoral and her relationship with Brown added fuel to a wave of republicanism at the time. This discreet and toned-down portrayal of their relationship rightly earned Judi Dench a best-actress BAFTA, while Connolly is delightful as Brown. Expect brooding Perth and Kinross vistas, standing in for the grounds of Balmoral, and walks in the leafy grounds of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Reviewer, Margaret Bartlett

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Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria and Rupert Friend as Prince Albert in The Young Victoria / Alamy

The Young Victoria (2009)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Following the love story between the young Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt) and her German suitor Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg (Rupert Friend), the film features the house and grounds of several grand estates, including Ham House, Blenheim Palace, Lancaster House and Ditchley Park, as well as Hampton Court Palace, Arundel Castle, Wilton House, Balls Park and Belvoir Castle. The locations help convey the impressive weight on Victoria’s shoulders, the history and heritage of the crown, and the oppressive atmosphere that such grandeur can produce. Blunt portrays the young queen as strong and spirited, while also conveying her inexperience and uncertainty. Friend is charming and plausible as the loyal Albert, destined to win the queen’s heart and trust. Reviewer, Maria Hodson

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Keira Knightley holding a baby by water
Keira Knightley stars as Debo, Duchess of Devonshire in The Duchess / Alamy

The Duchess (2008)

Director: Saul Dibb

This moving portrait of 18th-century political hostess Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire, played beautifully by Keira Knightley, is a visual feast with sumptuous costumes and breathtaking country-house sets. Shot in a series of elegant stately homes and their sweeping parks and enchanting gardens, there is plenty of thoroughly English landscape to enjoy. Standing in for Althorp – the Spencer family’s estate – is Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, while the candle-lit wedding of the Duke (Ralph Fiennes) and Duchess was shot in gorgeous Chatsworth House. Norfolk’s Holkham Hall stands in for the grand marble entrance hall of Devonshire House, and Georgiana has a passionate scene with Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) beside the lake in the sweeping grounds of West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire. MB

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Nigel Hawthorne as King George III and Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George / Getty

The Madness of King George (1994)

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Based on the play by Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George tells the story of King George III's ailing health, as he is afflicted by an illness affecting his cognitive capacity. Suffering rages and delusions, the king (Nigel Hawthorne) is subjected to a range of bizarre remedies by his doctors, who prove ill-equipped to tackle his poorly understood illness. Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) and William Pitt the Younger (Julian Wadham) attempt to fend off challenges to his reign, led by the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett). The film deftly conveys the national problems of a capricious monarch and the personal sadness of such mental confusion, creating a tale that is, by turns, warm, humorous, thoughtful and grave. It is rich with period detail and showcases many of Britain's great estates; locations include Syon House, West Sussex's Arundel Castle, Broughton Castle and Thame house (both Oxfordshire) and Wilton House in Wiltshire, as well as Eton College in Berkshire. MH

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Olivia Colman as Queen Anne
Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne in The Favourite / Alamy

The Favourite (2018)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Another tale of capricious royal rule, The Favourite follows the fortunes of an ailing Queen Anne, as she battles gout, loneliness and lust. Olivia Colman is superb as the volatile monarch, while Rachel Weisz is brilliantly steely as her friend and usurped lover, Lady Sarah, and Emma Stone excels as ambitious Abigail. Set in 1711 during Britain's war with France, this entertaining black comedy delights in absurdity and privilege, as courtiers conduct conversations about warfare while ducks race and the Queen plays with her 17 rabbits. The historical accuracy is slapdash; director Lanthimos was more interested in creating a particular atmosphere in the piece, of "lonely characters in a huge space". Principal photography took place at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, providing a beautiful backdrop of austere grandeur, with Hampton Court Palace also making an appearance. MH

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Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother in The Queen / Alamy

The Queen (2006)

Director: Stephen Frears

Helen Mirren deservedly won an Oscar for her portrait of our current monarch, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in this biopic charting the tumult of the period following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Michael Sheen also rightly won acclaim for his depiction of Tony Blair. Peter Morgan's script handles this time of national anguish sensitively, with wit and empathy, as the Queen navigates an unprecedented emotional outpouring from the people. Filming locations features a range of grand estates, including the National Trust's Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire and in Scotland at Balmoral Castle, Castle Fraser and Cluny Castle in Aberdeenshire, and Blairquhan Castle and Culzean Castle in South Ayrshire. MH

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The coronation of Queen Elizabeth I
Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I during the coronation scene, filmed at Durham Cathedral / Alamy

Elizabeth (1998)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Set in the early years of Elizabeth I, this eponymous film examines the life of the young queen as she learns the craft of royal rule and resists offers of marriage. Cate Blanchett is superb is the fiery monarch, growing in strength and steel. Some historical accuracy may have been sacrificed for artistic effect but the result is a sumptuous visual feast, with a vast list of locations for this ambitious production: Alnwick Castle, Aydon Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, Leeds Castle in Kent, York Minster, Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire, Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, Durham Cathedral and Raby Castle in County Durham. A rich delight. MH

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Authors

Maria Hodson is production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine, alongside Margaret Bartlett. Since moving to Bristol in 2014, Maria has made every effort to escape into nature and loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking. Her adventure highlight in recent years was sea kayaking around remote St Kilda, off the coast north-west Scotland, in 2016. Most weekends, however, are spent exploring the great outdoors with her small child and doing accessible walks. Favourite family adventures are bird-watching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre and exploring the Forest of Dean, as well as an annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration on the Somerset Levels.

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