The Madness Of King George | 1994
Stage director Nicholas Hytner’s film of Alan Bennett’s play, The Madness of George III, uses a slew of historic locations around southern England.
The opening concert is the sumptuous 17th century Double Cube Room of Wilton House, in the town of Wilton, two and a half miles west of Salisbury on the A30, Wiltshire. The house and grounds are open in summer.
A popular filming location, Wilton House can be seen (frequently as an interior for another location) in Stanley Kubrick’s hypnotically beautiful Barry Lyndon, as the venue for the court martial of Captain Bligh in Roger Donaldson's The Bounty, with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson (the exterior is Greenwich Naval College), as ‘Windsor Castle ’ in Mrs Brown, with Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, as the sumptuous mansion of Madame Von Meck in Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers (the exterior here is West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire) and in The Young Victoria among others.
Wilton House is standing in, this time, for the interior of ‘Windsor Castle’, the royal residence in Berkshire, which has been extensively remodelled since the reign of George III.
The exterior of 'Windsor' is supplied by Arundel Castle, Arundel, in West Sussex, the 12th century home of the Duke of Norfolk. The castle is open Sunday to Friday in summer. The entrance is on Lower Lodge Mill Road, Arundel, just north of the A27 between Worthing and Chichester. Arundel also appears as ‘Windsor Castle’ in 2009 period drama The Young Victoria, with Emily Blunt as the youthful monarch, and as the 'German High Command' infiltrated by Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman.
The ‘Palace of Westminster’ burned to the ground in 1834 to be replaced by the extraordinary Victorian Gothic landmark we're so familiar with today. For the former palace, the film substitutes the School Yard of Eton College, north of Windsor, Berkshire – coincidentally a stone’s throw from the real royal residence of Windsor Castle. The steps on which the royal family assembles can be found leading up to the north porch of College Chapel.
You can see the same yard in stacks of other films, including Oscars-winners Shakespeare In Love and Chariots of Fire, as well as Henry VIII and His Six Wives, the Steven Spielberg-produced fantasy Young Sherlock Holmes and The Fourth Protocol.
The public entrance to the school (it’s generally open from April to mid-October) is on Slough Road (admission charge).
The ‘House of Commons’ interior, with author Alan Bennett himself sneaking in a tiny cameo as an MP, used Convocation of Oxford University in Oxford, with the adjoining Divinity School standing in for the lobby. Both are part of the Bodleian Library complex on Catte Street, and are open to the public.
The distinctive vaulted ceiling of the 15th century Divinity School might be familiar to Harry Potter fans as ‘Hogwarts School’s Infirmary ’ in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
About ten miles east of Oxford is the location used for the palace at ‘Kew Gardens’, where the King is sent to be cured by strict Dr Willis (Ian Holm). It’s Thame Park, Thame Park Road, just southeast of the village of Thame. The Palladian mansion, built in the 1740s on the site of a 12th Century Cistercian abbey, was bought in the late 1990s with the intention of conversion into a hotel, but the plans fell through and now it is a private residence. The extensive grounds of Thame Park were used as the ‘French’ countryside in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.
The royal apartments of Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) are Broughton Castle, a moated 14th century Medieval castle which was much enlarged in 1550. The home of Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, it’s two miles southwest of Banbury, Oxfordshire, on the B40355 Shipston-on-Stour road.
Open to the public on various days during the summer, Broughton was another location seen in Shakespeare in Love, as the home of Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow), as well as becoming ‘Lowood School’ for the 2011 version of Jane Eyre, with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, the interior of the 'Scottish' castle in 2008 romcom Made Of Honor, and as the grand country house in Three Men and a Little Lady.
The lodgings of the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett) are part of Wilton House again, as well the Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, London SE10.
It’s in the lavish Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College that the royal family suffers through the handbell concert. In Christopher Wren’s building, until recently used as the dining room of the naval hospital, painter James Thornhill collaborated with architect Nicholas Hawksmoor for nineteen years on this trompe l’oeil extravaganza. It was here that the body of Lord Nelson lay in state.
The Painted Hall, also seen in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Quills, The Avengers, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, Michael Winner’s 1983 remake of The Wicked Lady and The Golden Compass, is open to the public.
The Long Gallery, in which the King sees Pitt, is at Syon House in Syon Park, on the north bank of the Thames between Brentford and Isleworth. The Prince of Wales’ breakfast room is also Syon House.
The house was previously seen in Joseph Losey’s Harold Pinter-scripted Accident, also in The Avengers, King Ralph, two Henry James adaptations: The Wings of the Dove and Merchant-Ivory’s The Golden Bowl, and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.
In the triumphant finale, the family assembles on the steps at the West Front of St Paul’s Cathedral, Ludgate Hill in the City of London EC4. Built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century after the old cathedral was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London, it was for centuries the tallest building in London, until the BT Tower was constructed in the Sixties.
The cathedral has previously featured in two David Lean films: Lawrence of Arabia (TE Lawrence's memorial service) and Great Expectations (Pip's arrival in London), as well as appearing in floodlit splendour in the 1950 film noir Night and the City and The Long Good Friday.