Since access to the real royal palaces was impossible, the creative team behind the ITV series had to come up with substitutes and since the show is largely filmed in Church Fenton Studios, near Leeds, in Yorkshire, there were plenty stately homes available in the surrounding areas.
Harewood House, near Leeds, West Yorkshire, is home to the Lascelles family who are descendants of Queen Victoria in the female line. In 1922, Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, married Mary, Princess Royal, the only daughter of George V, and they had two sons. Queen Victoria stayed at Harewood House in 1835 when she was still a princess and she slept in the State Bedroom.
Designed in the Palladian style by architects John Carr and Robert Adam, work on Harewood House began in 1759 and was completed in 1771, while the landscaping was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. The house was expanded in the 1840s by Henry Lascelles, 3rd Earl of Harewood, to accommodate his thirteen children. The house is now cared for by the Harewood House Trust and is open to the public for the majority of the year.
Harewood House substitutes as Buckingham Palace on the television series and the crew used much of the State Floor, Below Stairs and parts of the Estate. Harewood has also been lucky enough to showcase an exhibition of the costumes used on the show which were featured alongside some of Queen Victoria’s real possessions. It also substitutes for the apartments of the Duchess of Kent at Kensington Palace.
Castle Howard, near York, is no stranger to television productions as it is instantly recognisable as the setting for Brideshead Revisited and numerous other period dramas. Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, wanted to build an extravagant baroque mansion and work began in 1699 but the earl was long dead by the time it was completed as it took 100 years. When the earl died, the west wing had yet to be completed and Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, decided to go with a more Palladian style which meant the two wings were disjointed. The difference in the two wings was later remedied by the addition of a Long Gallery and attic pavilions.
Castle Howard was almost destroyed in 1940 when a massive fire broke out in the south-east corner of the South Front, and swept westerly through the building. As the fire spread, many rooms on the basement, principal and upper levels were destroyed and the dome collapsed into the Great Hall. While the castle was hastily repaired, the real restoration work didn’t commence until the 1960s when the dome was rebuilt and work was started in the various rooms. The renovations continue to this day and are paid for by the revenue the castle earns as a film venue and tourist attraction.
In October 2015, Castle Howard was used as a substitute for Kensington Palace in the extended first episode and several interior rooms were used, such as the Castle Howard Dressing Room, Castle Howard Bedroom, Long Gallery, Museum Room, South Front Corridor and the Great Hall.
Beverley Minster in East Yorkshire is one of the largest parish churches in Britain and its two great towers formed the inspiration for the present west towers of Westminster Abbey. Beverley Minster substitutes as Westminster Abbey on the show and was where the coronation and wedding scenes were filmed.
Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is an impressive Georgian mansion which has the longest front in Britain. The mansion was originally built for Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham, and is actually two grand houses lying back-to-back. The house was inherited by William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, in July 1782 and he became one of the greatest landowners in the country with 14,000 acres of land.
The Fitzwilliam family owned the estate until 1979, however it was in such a bad state of repair it was sold to a local businessmen who intended to restore it. The renovations were stalled when the house was repossessed by a Swiss bank and put up for sale once again. Wentworth Woodhouse was purchased by architect Clifford Newbold who intended to restore the place, however the estimated cost was around £40 million.
When Newbold died the house was sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7 million who received a significant grant from the government to being repair work. The restoration of Wentworth Woodhouse is a massive project which will take years to complete, however the Trust works hard to earn revenue from guided tours, weddings, corporate events and donations. The mansion has also been used as a film location for television shows, music videos and fashion photography shoots.
On the show, Wentworth Woodhouse substitutes for Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, and was even used to represent a brothel.
Allerton Castle is a Victorian Gothic house in North Yorkshire which was rebuilt by architect George Martin. The house has a royal connection in that is was bought in 1786 by Frederick, Duke of York, second son of George III and brother of George IV, however he sold it shortly afterwards in 1789. The Georgian house Frederick had built was destroyed in 1843 and replaced with the present Gothic style.
The estate is now run by the Gerald Arthur Rolph Foundation for Historic Preservation and Education, and rooms are available to hire for corporate events and weddings. The castle was used to represent Rosenau, Prince Albert’s childhood home.
Queen Victoria stayed in Blair Castle in 1844 and the cast followed in her footsteps by filming there for the second season episode: King Over The Water. The cast filmed there for two weeks and the Drawing Room was used for the tedious recitation scenes. However, the castle the queen stayed in was vastly different to how it looks now as it underwent extensive remodelling from the 1870s.
Blair Castle is the ancestral home of the Clan Murray and the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl, however the present duke resides in South Africa. Before his death in 1996, Iain Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl, placed Blair Castle and most of the estates in a charitable trust, leaving them under Scottish control, as his heir had no desire to leave his native South Africa. The castle has been open to the public since 1936 and many generations of Clan Murray possessions are on display.
Harlaxton Manor, Lincolnshire, combines elements of Jacobean and Elizabethan styles with symmetrical Baroque massing, however it has had a varied history. The original house was torn down in 1857 to make for the building of the current house between 1837 and 1845 but was allowed to fall into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. The mansion was purchased in 1937 by Violet Van der Elst, who made her money from developing the first brushless shaving cream, and she refurbished the house. The house was then requisitioned by the RAF during the Second World War and used to house a company of the 1st Airborne Division.
After the war ended, the mansion was owned by The Society of Jesus who used it as a training centre, however it was then sold to Stanford University in 1965 who used it as a British campus. Harlaxton is currently owned by The University of Evansville, operating as Harlaxton College, and hosts their study abroad programme. In Season Two of Victoria, the mansion was used to portray France and substitutes for the Chateau d’Eu.
Carlton Towers is a Victoria gothic country house which is the Yorkshire home of the 18th Duke of Norfolk, however it is occupied by Lord Gerald Fitzalan-Howard, the duke’s younger brother, and his family. The house was originally owned by the Beaumont family, however it passed into the Fitzalan family through the marriage of Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, 3rd Baron Howard of Glossop, to Mona, 11th Baroness Beaumont, who inherited the estates as an infant. The estate substitutes as Windsor Castle which has only appeared in the first episode so far.