Last updated on December 28th, 2023
Move over Henry VIII: you’ve had your day. There’s a new dawn at Hampton Court Palace, and it’s Queen Anne’s turn to be in the limelight. Thanks to Yorgos Lanthimos’s baroque tour de force: The Favourite, Queen Anne is finally, and deservedly, taking centre stage in British history. Winner of seven Baftas, a Golden Globe and a clutch of other independent awards, the film also bagged an Oscar for Olivia Colman who plays leading lady, Queen Anne. And as luck would have it, film and history buffs can walk in Queen Anne’s footsteps, and get up close and personal, with The Favourite costumes in a stylish exhibition.
Locations for The Favourite in Hampton Court
Queen Anne shared her time amongst her three main residences: Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace. Film locations for The Favourite include the Jacobean palace of Hatfield House, posing as Kensington Palace, Oxford’s Bodleain Library pretending to be Westminster, and Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s country pile in East Molesey, starring as itself.
When Abigal Masham tumbled into Hampton Court, face-down in the mud, little did she know Henry VIII’s kitchens would become her infernal home. It’s the setting for the famous lime scene when poor Abigail unknowingly puts her hand in the caustic mixture.
Disconcertingly for the Hampton Court staff, the film crew “moved” the location of the sun for the film, with sunlight pouring in from a window that never normally sees a ray. All of the kitchen filming was done at night – the daylight you see in the film was created artificially or with candles – of which there were 450.
The Fountain Court
Designed by Christopher Wren for William III, this 17th century garden provides the backdrop for the scene where Anne watches the young musicians playing and shouts for them to stop. The Queen and King’s state apartments and private rooms were located around Fountain Court.
The Cartoon Gallery
Designed by Christopher Wren, and the meeting-place for the Privy Council, the Cartoon Gallery would have been the most important room in Queen Anne’s day. The Raphael masterpieces, some of the greatest works of art in England, once lined its walls. The originals were moved by Queen Victoria to the Victoria and Albert Museum where they now reside.
Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) meets her husband here, and it’s the setting for one of the most famous scenes in the film, when a grumpy Queen Anne asks an attendant if he is staring at her. She also looks out to the Fountain Courtyard from a window seat, shouting at the young musicians below.
Costumes from the Favourite
In a film where the women take centre stage wearing girl power clothing, the men flounce around in over-powdered wigs, with heavy makeup and flamboyant dress. Three-time Oscar-nominated Sandy Powell is at the helm of this gender-bending costume design, which looks like Barry Lyndon on steroids. It’s clear who is in the saddle in this film.
Powell had a mere five weeks to fashion the wardrobe for The Favourite, and what we end up with is a punked-up version of a Baroque 18th century wardrobe. She created a black and white chessboard palette for the courtiers and replaced silk with vinyl. The servants scamper around in denim, a twentieth century fabric which works surprisingly well.
‘I had rather live in a cottage with you than reign empress of the world without you.’ Queen Anne to Lady Sarah Churchill, 1692
Lady Sarah Churchill was what you would call a social climber with some serious aspiration. She came from humble beginnings but would ascend to the top female rank in the country, second only to Queen Anne. Sandy Powell created this iconic à la Katherine Hepburn costume for Churchill’s character, played by Rachel Weisz.
Queen Anne was disabled for much of her life, suffering from acute gout. Abigal Masham would become the Queen’s dresser, helping her in and out of her clothes, and more often than not, the Queen would wear bedclothes during the day. Powell chose an old blanket from eBay for this robe, one of my favourite pieces from the exhibition.
Abigal Masham, played by Emma Stone, arrives at Hampton Court wearing this travelling outfit, and promptly falls into the mud. Things are about to get worse for her, but she climbs up the social ladder and eventually deposes her cousin, Churchill, becoming the Queen’s favourite.
Sandy Powell created costumes for the kitchen staff using modern materials, such as Emma Stone’s denim bodice, made from old jeans bought in a charity shop in Slough.
Following in Queen Anne’s Footsteps at Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court is a tale of two palaces: Cardinal Wolsey’s Tudor Palace on one side, robbed by Henry VIII in 1529 and enlarged under his reign, and Christopher Wren’s Baroque Palace at the back, intended by William III to rival Louis IV’s Versailles.
Queen Anne occupied the King’s apartments at Hampton Court, making some substantial changes. She installed a Drawing Room for her husband (referred to as Queen’s Drawing Room) and commissioned a new altar backdrop in the Chapel Royal where Henry had once wed Katherine Parr. The magnificent yews that grace the Great Fountain Garden were planted during her reign (see more below).
Queen Anne’s State Bed
A jewel in the Royal Collection, Queen Anne’s Bed is not on display to the public. It’s layered with 11 Princess in the Pea-style mattresses and stuffed with horsehair and silk. With the exception of the Raphael Tapestries from the Cartoon Gallery, Queen Anne’s bed is one of the Royal Collection’s most valued items. It sits in a dark, temperature-controlled room in Hampton Court, seemingly in mourning for its lost mistress, but it was unwrapped from its protective layers of tissue paper for a few moments so that I could take a look at it. And in that little moment, I felt as if I had seen something of the real Anne: someone with great taste and design flair commissioned this regal masterpiece. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Note: You can witness the “waking of the bed” on some private tours.
Queen Anne’s Loo
William III was here first, but Queen Anne’s royal bottom also graced this velvet throne.
Queen Anne’s dressing room
William III built this room as his Study, but Queen Anne converted into an intimate dressing room. Due to her acute physical ailments, namely gout, Queen Anne did not perform the public “levée,” a morning ritual whereby monarchs would ready themselves in front of courtiers. Abigail Masham first came to court as a bedchamber woman, and she would have been responsible for getting the Queen dressed in this room. Part of the Queen’s morning ritual was to drink chocolate, located just beneath the Queen’s Bedroom apartments.
The Queen’s Private Staircase
The all-powerful Lady Sarah Churchill held the keys to all the palace gates, eventually passing them down, reluctantly I imagine, to Abigail Masham. The Queen’s private staircase led directly to her Dressing Room, so Anne’s favourites had full control as who has access to the stairs – and to the Queen’s ear. This would have included Whig and Tory politicians, keen to bend the Queen’s favour in their direction.
Some Fun Facts about Hampton Court and The Favourite
- All the organic materials used on set, including clothing and all furniture containing keratin, had to be frozen in advance of being introduced into the historic palace. This process ensured no new parasites were introduced into the environment.
- Queen Anne was a chocoholic – she would buy in about eight kilograms of chocolate a month, enough to make 3 pints of cocoa per day.
- Queen Anne’s only son to survive infancy, Prince William, was born in Hampton Court in 1689. He died when he was 11. Poor Anne had a total of 18 children, none of whom survived (represented by the rabbits in the film).
- The marvellous yew trees of the Great Fountain garden were planted under Queen Anne. Capability Brown, who became historic hardener at Hampton Court in 1764, stopped pruning them, so we have him to thank for the glorious toadstool-like shape of the trees today.
- You may recognise the yews when you seem them: they were used as a backdrop in Mamma Mia 2: Here we go Again. Who needs Les Tuileries when you can have Queen Anne’s whimsical yews instead?
- Other films shot at Hampton Court include Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Disney’s Cinderella and the BBC’s Little Dorrit.
Harry, you’ll always be one of our most-loved monarchs, but this year, Queen Anne might just be the favourite. You can catch her in all her glory at Hampton Court Palace. Costumes from The Favourite at Hampton Court Palace are on display until 10 March.
Thank you to Matthew Storey (Curator), Kerron Harris (Conservator), and Richard Fitch (Manager of the Historic Kitchens) at Hampton Court Palace, for making me fall in love with Queen Anne.
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