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The locations in Elizabeth: The Golden Age provided the production with a tour of some of the most magnificent cathedrals in the country—as well as churches, stately homes and national parkland—and the opportunity to set the story against extraordinary backdrops, all of which have played their own parts in English history.

Location shooting began with Westminster Cathedral, the largest and most important Catholic Church in England and Wales. To stand in the center of the cathedral—the immense space that unfolds, uncluttered by supports or pillars—is simply awe-inspiring. This expansiveness is typical of the cathedral's exotic Byzantine style— favored by its architect, John Francis Bentley—which lent it so perfectly to standing in as Spain's El Escorial Palace, circa 1588, with few changes needed. Here, the production shot over two nights, capturing scenes featuring Philip II of Spain, the most powerful man in the world at that time.

Observes Kapur, "It was such a fantastic place in which to shoot. It was difficult, because it's so huge and you want to encompass all of it into the frame, but you have to be selective. Scale is the ability of the camera to move and keep moving. And to keep finding things.”

Production next traveled to Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, the home of the Marquess of Salisbury, and one of Britain's most famous stately homes. Here, the filmmakers dressed the North Entrance Hall and the Armoury, replacing the wood paneling with stone, and transforming it into Mary Queen of Scots' Private Quarters at Chartley Hall, where she was incarcerated for a time prior to her execution. The filmmakers also used parts of Hatfield House—specifically the Marble Hall, the Grand Staircase and the Long Gallery—for Walsingham's London house.

St. Bartholomew's Church is one of London's treasures and one of her best-kept secrets. The beautiful Norman Church is concealed by the narrow streets and passages of Smithfield, and here, production shot one of the pivotal moments in the film: the execution by beheading of Mary Queen of Scots (which actually took place at Fotheringhay Castle, razed in 1627). With a need to telescope the last three horrific but magnificent hours of Mary's life into just a few minutes of film, the filmmakers picked key moments from historical record and wove them into a master shot that sees Mary enter (ignoring the Protestant prayers of the Dean of Peterborough), mount the scaffold, disrobe to reveal a crimson shift (the color of Catholic martyrdom) beneath her black dress, grant her executioner forgiveness and, finally, place her head on the block.

Recalls historical researcher Justin Pollard: "The scene had a startling effect on both the crew and the 100-plus actors and extras in the room. Despite the lights and cameras, it felt as though we were actually witnessing the execution.” Adding to the effect of those present was the musical theme of the film's composers, Craig Armstrong and AR Rahman, which rose over the largely silent scene and echoed around the ancient walls of the church as Samantha Morton (as Mary) took her last steps.

On to Winchester Cathedral, a magnificent structure in the West of England, the building of which was begun in 1079, 13 years after William the Conqueror invaded England from Normandy. The east end of the Church was extended around 1200 and the Nave was completely remodeled around 1400. The production spent four days filming in Winchester Cathedral, which is seen in the film as St. Paul's Cathedral (the original St. Paul's was gutted in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then demolished to make way for the present cathedral).

With its huge vaulted ceilings and enormous stained-glass windows, Winchester is remarkably similar to what the old St. Paul's Cathedral would have looked like. The production used the Lady Cha


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