The popularity of Netflix’s The Crown (2016–) should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of writer Peter Morgan.
Morgan had previously had immense success with his feature film The Queen (2006), and his stage play The Audience (2013).
The combination of the expertly crafted dialogue and brilliant central performances has made the show an international hit, beloved by fans.
With the recent passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, fascination with The Crown’s dramatisation of the British monarchy’s 20th century is only likely to grow.
At John England Tours, we’ve been running a private walking tour in central London inspired by the drama for some time, but we thought we’d compile a handy reference guide for those who wish to visit some of the show’s filming locations in real life.
Many of the series’ beautiful shots of palaces, ballrooms, churches, and government buildings were filmed in London and other parts of the country. Below you’ll find a selection of our favourite places to visit inspired by The Crown.
And if we leave you itching to get out and start exploring, why not consider joining us for our Private Guided Royal Tour of London – marvel at many British Royal and political landmarks and hear personal accounts of meetings with members of the royal family.
Lancaster House, London
It might (or, perhaps, not!), surprise readers that The Crown’s creators did not get the chance to film on-site at the monarchy’s most famous residence, Buckingham Palace. Instead, the nearby Lancaster House was used.
Just a five-minute walk from Buckingham Palace, Lancaster House is a grand London mansion dating from the 1820s.
Located in the St. James district of the city, Lancaster House has been used as a filming location for many notable productions, such as The King’s Speech and Downton Abbey.
Lancaster House has been used during every season of The Crown as a stand-in for Buckingham Palace. On our Guided Tour of Royal London, we take in the splendour of both Buckingham Palace and Lancaster House during our walk.
Lancaster House cannot normally be entered by the public, though if you are lucky enough to be in London during the annual Open City event, you might just get inside.
Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace, the King’s official London residence, can be explored via alternative dedicated tours. Information can be found on the Buckingham Palace website.
Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
Another prominent setting within The Crown is London’s iconic Westminster Abbey. A holy site since the 960s, this Gothic abbey has long been associated with Britain’s royals. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were married there in 1947, as were Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.
Westminster Abbey is also famous for being the final resting place of many notable monarchs and other famous Britons.
Bookish visitors will want to visit Poets’ Corner, where numerous revered writers are interred, including Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, and John Keats. We admire the exterior of Westminster Abbey on our Private Royal Walking Tour.
However, The Crown’s Westminster Abbey scenes were not filmed on location but were instead created using an equally fascinating historic site – Ely Cathedral.
A wonder of medieval engineering, Ely Cathedral can trace its origins to 672 AD. The building as you see it today dates from 1083.
Receiving around 250,000 visitors each year, the cathedral is a major tourist attraction in the area. It is, though, still a fully-functioning Anglican church. Visit the Ely Cathedral website to plan your visit. Ely is located about two hours from London and is well-connected by public transport.
10 Downing Street, London
Although the exterior of 10 Downing Street that you see in The Crown is a set piece built at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, you can see the real 10 Downing Street easily during your London visit.
A short walk from Charing Cross or Westminster tube stations, visitors can walk to the gates of Downing Street for good views of the Prime Minister’s London residence – perfect for some holiday pictures!
Audley End House and Gardens, Essex
Audley End is one of England’s grandest mansions. Open to the public and maintained by English Heritage, a visit to Audley End House and Gardens is a fabulous day out for the entire family.
Learn what life would have been like as a working member of the household throughout its history, enjoy time in the site’s immaculate gardens, and discover the captivating story of how Polish resistance fighters were trained here during WW2.
The house possesses four centuries of fascinating history.
Known as a “palace in all but name,” Audley End was featured in season three of The Crown as a stand-in for the interior of Balmoral Castle & Estate.
Kensington Palace, London
The official royal home of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Kensington Palace is located in the picturesque Kensington Gardens, not far from Buckingham Palace.
A royal household since the 17th century, this was the birthplace of Queen Victoria. When you visit Kensington Palace today, you can explore the rooms designed to look as they would have during Queen Victoria’s youth.
You can also enjoy the ornate beauty of the King’s State Rooms and Queen’s State Rooms.
Kensington Palace features extensively in season four of The Crown as the residence of Princess Diana.
Kensington Gardens, including Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain, may be added as an extended version of our private walking tour.
Lyceum Theatre, London
Season one of The Crown depicted Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth dressed elegantly and enjoying an evening at London’s iconic Lyceum Theatre.
The royal family’s patronage of the arts, and British theatre particularly, is well known, and the Lyceum has hosted countless royal visits throughout its history.
Opened in 1834, the Lyceum has been at the heart of British performing arts for an impressively long time. At one time, the legendary British actor Sir Henry Irving was the director of the theatre, with Irish novelist Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) working as his business manager.
During Irving’s stewardship, the Lyceum regularly featured performances from Ellen Terry, one of Britain’s most legendary actresses. Terry’s great nephew Sir John Gielgud would direct a mesmerising production of Hamlet at the Lyceum in 1939.
Today the Lyceum Theatre is home to the long-running and magnificently successful stage adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King. It’s well worth attending a show, even just to enjoy the building’s historic interiors.
We walk by the Lyceum and discuss its illustrious history on our Private Royal Walking Tour of London.
FAQs About The Crown & the Royal Family
How True to Life is The Crown?
Now that we’ve run through some of the fascinating real-life locations featured in The Crown (and there are countless more across Britain) let’s briefly touch upon a question we’re often asked: How true to life is The Crown?
The simple answer is that The Crown is a work of fiction. The characterisations, dialogue, and events depicted in the series should all be thought of as having been inspired by real life.
There’s a lot of historical accuracy throughout the series, but as a work of fiction, we hear a retelling of events through the show’s writers. It is an interpretation, and another writing team would doubtless handle the material differently.
We’re history lovers at John England Tours and our hope for such series, whether it’s The Crown, The Tudors, or Wolf Hall, is that it stirs the curiosity of viewers and motivates more people to dive into the rewarding world of British history.
Has the Royal Family Approved The Crown?
The British royal family did not vet the show nor ask the production to inform them of what events would be depicted. As a work of drama, the writers used creative licence to tell the story as they saw fit.
However, rumours have circulated about who within the monarchy has watched the show, with some insiders revealing that Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had watched and enjoyed the show if finding it somewhat sensationalist.
Ultimately, the series is an expertly crafted drama inspired by the endlessly intriguing world of the royal family. Enjoy the first-class production for what it is, and let it be a gateway to exploring more royal history.
If you’d like to discover the story of England’s Tudor dynasty, consider joining us for our Private Tour of Hampton Court Palace or Private Tour to Glorious Hever Castle. We even deliver a private tour enabling our guests to visit both these historic places on the same day through our Private Tudor Day Tour.
If you have any questions about our tours or services, please contact us.
Disclaimer: Our tour and this article does not have, nor claim to have, any association with Netflix and/or its production of The Crown.