Blog - News

March 8, 2024

By Joely Ellis

New Sky drama, Mary & George, is the outrageous true story about mother and son, Mary & George Villiers, the Countess and 1st Duke of Buckingham in the 1600’s.  The story follows Mary Villiers (Julianne Moore), who moulded her beautiful and charismatic second son, George Villiers (Nicholas Galitzine) to seduce King James VI of Scotland and I of England (Tony Curran) to become his lover for her own political benefit.

Mary & George is adapted from the non-fiction book “The King’s Assassin” by Benjamin Woolley, that details “the conspiracy to kill King James I by his handsome lover, the Duke of Buckingham.”

Mary & George © Sky UK

The production filmed at some iconic English locations across the East and South East of England showcasing a whole array of stunning backdrops.

Mary & George filmed at multiple locations across Hertfordshire.  They filmed at Ashridge Estate, owned by the National Trust who took over the Estate in 1926. Since then, they’ve welcomed many high profile film and TV productions.

Emma Clarke-Bolton, Filming and Locations Officer at the National Trust, Our colleagues at Ashridge have a long history of welcoming major feature film and TV productions, many which arrive with a smorgasbord of vehicles, animals, set builds and the odd stagecoach – they work hard to ensure productions get the most out of the location whist ensuring conservation requirements are always upheld. The team did sterling work helping to bring Mary and George to the Estate for several days of shooting, including a period in a particularly cold weather which always presents additional logistical challenges for both crew and property staff (thankfully thermal clothing has evolved since the reign of James I!).

The production team took advantage of the Ashridge Estate’s rambling woodlands and undulating hills for several scenes set in the English landscape of the 1600s, with many of these scenes being set on horseback. During the technical recce it was very interesting to listen to how intricate scenes involving horses roving through the woods would be carefully coordinated with the production’s horse suppliers, maximising the most out of the tangle-wood backdrop whilst keeping the actors and animals safe – I’m very much looking forward to seeing these dramatic scenes play out on screen.”

Mary & George © Sky UK

Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, with its Jacobean style, was used for scenes of cavorting, including a masque play, ballroom dancing and the King’s banquet. The House was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James giving it a direct link to the time of the series.

Rothamsted Manor is found in rural Harpenden in Hertfordshire, a Grade 1 listed manor house that dates back to the 17th Century. The house is used for scenes to double as Compton Manor in Warwickshire where Mary weds her final husband, Sir Thomas Compton.

Pippa Cawdron, Hertfordshire Film Office Manager said, “The establishment of the Hertfordshire Film Office underscores our commitment to facilitating seamless cross-district film production throughout the region. The project ‘Mary and George’ exemplifies the critical need for streamlined processes, highlighting the value of a central service hub that caters to the needs of production, including access to facilities and locations, ensuring effortless filming transitions across Hertfordshire. With its renowned historic estates and picturesque landscapes, we anticipate that these features of Hertfordshire will be prominently displayed in the production, offering viewers a glimpse into the county’s unique charm.”

Mary & George © Sky UK

Norfolk is known for its unspoiled, stunning coastal landscapes so there was no surprise to hear the production shot on Old Hunstanton Beach. With its famous red and white striped cliffs and dunes this beach was the perfect location.

Claire Chapman, Managing Director at Norfolk Screen said, “As a region with stunning locations, talented crew and film friendly facilities and services we at Norfolk Screen were thrilled to welcome the Mary & George production to Norfolk and help facilitate their shoot on Hunstanton beach – signposting them to all the relevant organisations and offer our support in to ensure this shoot ran as smoothly as possible. It was a great production to work on.”

Mary & George © Sky UK

It wasn’t uncommon in James I’s reign for people to be sent to the Tower of London for imprisonment or to unfortunately… be axed. The production were unable to shoot in the Tower of London so instead they found themselves in Kent, doubling Dover Castle for the Tower on the South East coast of Kent.

Another Kent location that sits within Kent’s last medieval deer park, the Knole estate, another National Trust owned property, was used for interior shots of King James’ palace.

Emma Clarke-Bolton, Filming and Locations Officer at the National Trust, Knole in Sevenoaks was used for more courtly scenes. The house was intentionally designed from 1603 onwards to exude wealth and status, and many of these lavish features survive today both inside and out. It was wonderful to see costumed ladies and gentlemen walking and conversing in Knole’s courtyards; it felt like an authentic step back in time. Jacobean splendour on the scale that Knole offers is a rare find for location manager when compared to the periods’ later architectural counterparts. Because many of the property’s assets are at least as old as King James’s reign, our colleagues at the property assembled a large team of conservators and staff members and spent time ensuring a protection plan for these irreplaceable items. This included ensuring that rooms did not become overcrowded, padding the woodwork on staircase, and moving some very delicate pieces of furniture and art to other rooms to ensure their safety.”

Mary & George © Sky UK

Mary & George stayed in the South East for a while heading to Crowhurst in Surrey. Crowhurst House in rural Surrey was used as Mary’s residence, doubling for London. The production also headed down to Hampden House in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. They used Hampden House for scenes set in the Privy Council Chamber and Coke’s legal chambers.

Joely Ellis, Production Liaison Manager at Creative England said, “Our team helped support this production with finding locations. The production came to us on the hunt for Tudor and Jacobean houses and buildings of all sizes and they also asked us to send options for film friendly forests. It’s great to see which iconic locations they chose across the English regions. We hope this production will ultimately bring more filming and more screen tourism to these areas.”

For more information on our Filming Partners featured in this blog follow these links: National Trust, Hertfordshire Film Office & Norfolk Screen.

To search Filming in England’s National Directories for England’s film-friendly, diverse locations, skilled crew and professional suppliers please follow the links here – LocationsCrew and Suppliers.