Windsor Castle and Balmoral were tricky enough, but Osborne House is a whole other world that hasn’t really been seen on screen before – the colours are like Neapolitan ice creams and sorbets, and it was all about letting in light.’
A designer’s job, says Macdonald, is to reinforce the narrative tone of the film. ‘It’s not just creating rooms. Finding the location is a challenge, as is finding the furniture, or building a garden in Hampshire – but the real challenge is in creating this sort of jigsaw puzzle, putting all these pieces together, and reflecting some kind of psychological aspect of the story.’
English Heritage was happy to comply, because of the obvious benefits it will reap from tourism. But there were restrictions. ‘We had people from English Heritage saying, “Don’t step there; no, don’t sit there…”’ says Dench. ‘And if you wanted to move your glass slightly to the left, someone would have to put gloves on and move it for you.’
Some of the furniture was very delicate, says Macdonald. Too delicate to sit on. ‘So you might have a scene where 20 people are meant to be sitting in a room but only three people can sit down. So there’s a bit, for example, where Olivia Williams [Lady Churchill, Lady of the Bedchamber and friend to the Queen] looks as if she’s sitting on a chair but, in fact, it’s a sort of crate.’
One of Macdonald’s fav-ourite moments was during an outdoor tea-party scene in Scotland (filmed in a glen where some of The Queen was also shot), in which the Queen and senior members of her household were having a miserable formal picnic at a table buffeted by the wind. A car pulled up during the filming, the door opened and a high-heeled boot poked out. Eddie Izzard.
He wasn’t required on set that day but, says Izzard, he likes to be where the action is. ‘Film is my first love and it was one of the first scenes we shot, and I just wanted to be there – so I drove myself up.’ It was a cold windy day and Izzard lay down in the heather to keep warm.
He looks like Bertie. How did his casting come about? It was the casting director who suggested him, and Frears went to watch him do stand-up. ‘My character’s interesting – very damaged by his upbringing, and his mother blamed him for the death of Albert. But he was the only one who could tell her to f— off really.’
Bertie was one of Karim’s chief detractors. ‘Victoria was on her way out; she’s eating herself to death – she’s going to go in the next couple of years and the throne will be Bertie’s,’ says Izzard. ‘And then suddenly she gets a whole new lease of life; she’s got something to live for. So you can see that Bertie would be pissed off.’