Apartheid, an assassination, an avalanche, the Falklands War, and a palace break-in are just a few of the historical storylines in season four of Netflix Emmy-winning series The Crown—not to mention the long-awaited introduction of Princess Diana and the U.K.’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The Crown’s original production designer Martin Childs creates his magic once again for this installment spanning from the late 1970s through 1990, turning soundstages and country estates into Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral, Mustique, and the HMY Royal Britannia. The Oscar- and Emmy-winning designer and his set decorators Sophie Coombes, Alison Harvey, and Carolyn Boult also designed the Prime Minister’s digs at 10 Downing Street, the Spencer family estate Althorp House, and a royal tour through Australia and New Zealand. The production team worked on some 400 sets for the 10 new episodes (on Netflix now) and found it essential they did not all look the same. “Designing the historical sets is more of an interpretation because you have to make them all look very different from each other; that is the aim. If you follow the research, they will all look alike,” Childs tells AD.

The Buckingham Palace sets stay the same stylistically, and the designer says the other sets don’t necessarily keep up with the times. “Just as the ’60s didn’t suddenly go Austin Powers, we didn’t go Dynasty,” he says.

Below, Childs walks us through a few historic moments in this season’s The Crown.

Charles and Diana’s First Meeting

While this scene wasn’t filmed at the actual Spencer family home, where it happened, “ours went one better because the Great Hall inspired a kind of courtship dance” between Prince Charles (pictured) and the future Princess Diana, says Childs.

Photo: Des Willie

The Great Hall of the Spencer family estate, known as Althorp House, sets the scene for Prince Charles’s (John O’Connor) impromptu meeting with a 16-year-old Diana (Emma Corrin) while he is courting her sister Lady Sarah. Hiding behind a large potted plant and dressed as a tree (she was in rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream), she captures the prince’s attention, and the rest is history.

“[The house we used for Althorp] was a bull’s-eye with both its fantastic interior and exterior, and looked like the real thing. I walked into the Great Hall and saw it needed almost no dressing, and all we added was four pedestals in each corner and filled it with flower arrangements that looked like Diana’s tree costume,” explains Childs. “Outside, all the house needed was a more emphatic sense of arrival, so we created a stonework gateway out of plaster for Charles to drive through.”



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