Ragley wins starring role in The Crown
IT'S a wintry morning in the middle of January 2020 when Prince Charles arrives by car to the Ragley Estate. There Sarah Spencer eagerly awaits his arrival. As Charles steps into the hall with Sarah, he meets her younger sister Diana dressed in costume for a rehearsal of her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream…
Don’t be confused by the location and timeline of this scenario – here the royals are portrayed by actors Josh O’Connor, Emma Corrin and Isobel Eadie and they were filming at Ragley for The Crown Season 4.
The Crown producers were forced to find a substitute for the Spencer family seat at Althorp after Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, refused to let them film there. Speaking to Alan Titchmarsh on ITV’s Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh, the earl said: “The Crown asked if they could film at Althorp and I said obviously not. The worry for me is that people see a programme like that and they forget that it is fiction."
The new series of drama begins at Ragley’s impressive Great Hall, doubling up as Althorp – the location of the first encounter between Charles and Diana. In this scene Diana defies her family’s orders to not be visible during the prince’s visit and although she tries to appear nonchalant she is keen to catch his eye. Whilst dressed as a 'mad tree', Diana apologises for making herself visible before quickly dashing through the shrubbery to the opposite end of the hall, where she engages in conversation with an intrigued Prince Charles about their mutual enjoyment of the Shakespeare play. The scene ends with Diana watching Charles and Sarah ride off on horseback from the window of Ragley's family dining room.
Ragley can also be seen again in episode three of the series when Ragley’s vaulted hallway received a dramatic makeover to become Buckingham Palace’s kitchen.
Over the years, the Ragley Estate has played location to a variety of filming projects from being a stately setting for The Scarlett Pimpernel starring Ian McKellen to mirroring the Palace of Versailles in Doctor Who, which saw the Estate welcome David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. Ragley also became the home of Lady Cremone in BBC Two Drama Dancing on The Edge. The Crown crew spent a total of two days filming in January at Ragley, which head of events Sophie Stelling said was a great way to start the year. She said: “Having such an esteemed production at Ragley was fantastic. It was amazing to see the concept come to life from initial meetings with the production team and first set design sketches, and then being able to watch the final delivered scenes. It has been a hugely positive experience to be a part of this year.”