Some of the sumptuousness of Netflix’s biggest-ever show Bridgerton, streamed by 82 million households worldwide in its first 28 days, can be found right here in south west London, at its filming location of Hampton Court Palace.
Opening scenes from the Regency-era romp, with carriages carrying debutantes to Queen Charlotte’s Ball sweeping into a magnificent courtyard, were filmed at Hampton Court Palace in East Molesey.
Laura Hutchinson, head of media and PR at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that cares for Hampton Court Palace, said: “We always enjoy having film crews at the palace.
“When we have hundreds of extras in costume in our gardens or courtyards, it’s very easy to imagine you’ve actually stepped back in time!”
In Bridgerton, Hampton Court Palace stands in for the exterior of St James’s Palace, which was the official royal residence for most of King George III’s reign – although Buckingham House (not yet a palace) was Queen Charlotte’s preferred home.
With more than 1,390 rooms, and grounds covering 750 acres, this 500-year-old royal residence is most associated with its extravagant Tudor owner King Henry VIII, who inherited the palace from his favourite, Cardinal Wolsey, following Wolsey’s fall from grace in 1529.
Due to its opulence and heritage, Hampton Court Palace has been a popular filming location for around 90 years.
It has starred as itself, as well as stood in for everything from Buckingham Palace and the House of Commons, to King’s College, Cambridge.
One of the earliest films to use Hampton Court Palace was 1933’s The Private Life of Henry VIII, which used shots of the Great Gatehouse in its opening scene.
Its lead, Charles Loughton, went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
Other film and TV productions filmed at Hampton Court Palace include Belgravia, The Libertine, Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella and The Tudors.
In 2017, Oscar-winning film The Favourite, about Queen Anne’s Court, shot in multiple locations at Hampton Court Palace, including Henry VIII’s Kitchens, the Cartoon Gallery and Fountain Court.
Queen Anne was actually responsible for improvements at the palace, most notably Sir Christopher Wren’s interior remodelling of the Chapel Royal, which can still be admired today.
Hutchinson stressed the importance of looking after Hampton Court Palace during filming.
She said: “The crucial thing for us is that the film crews we work with are able to work sensitively in our historic environments. Protecting the palace, its contents, and our gardens is our utmost priority.
“Our brilliant conservation team provide lots of helpful advice and guidance to make sure we’re protected.”
Hampton Court Palace receives a lot of interest each year from location scouts and productions.
Hutchinson explained: “We are a go-to location for history documentaries and can film as many as 30 of those a year.
“Larger scale productions are more complex and, in any normal year, the palace has a busy schedule we need to work around.
“Usually, we manage two or three.”
According to the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit, 2019 saw the highest-ever spend on film and television production in the UK, reaching £13.6billion, which is a 16% increase on 2018.
Shooting on location in London also means a cash injection for nearby businesses.
In 2018, Film London research showed that filming in London generates an annual turnover of £168million.
Additionally, for every pound spent on local authority fees, a further £2.76 is generated for the economy of that borough, £1.79 of which goes to businesses like cafés, shops and hotels, while the other 97p passes into local supply chains.
However, COVID-19 has impacted everything, including at Hampton Court Palace, which had to close its doors to both film crews and the public.
Filming on location is vital to the palace’s revenue.
Hutchinson explained: “We raise all our own funds and then invest them in the conservation of the remarkable buildings in our care.
“Our finances have been very badly hit by the pandemic, so income from film productions is more important than ever.”
As Hampton Court Palace waits to re-open to the public, here are films and TV shows available to watch on streaming platforms that filmed on location there:
The Favourite (Starring as parts of Queen Anne’s Court, at Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace) – Disney+ from Feb 23
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Starring as Tuileries Gardens, Paris) – Prime
The Theory of Everything (Starring as Buckingham Palace’s gardens) – Prime
John Adams (Starring as St James’s Palace) – NOW TV
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Starring as King’s College, Cambridge) – Prime
The Young Victoria (Starring as Buckingham Palace’s gardens) – Netflix
Little Dorrit (Starring as the Marshalsea) – BritBox
Amazing Grace (Starring as the House of Commons’ exterior) – Prime
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Starring as St. James’ Palace) – Disney+
Featured image credit: Historic Royal Palaces