It was back to work with a bang for me last week, following the Christmas holidays, with quite a busy few days filming our TV series ‘Fit To Rule?’ as well as going to the office. I thought a photo diary might be an interesting way of showing you what we got up to. First up, notice the TIME, top right in that picture above? Yep, at six minutes to six on Sunday morning I am just on the point of leaving home!
We had to leave early so as to be at Claremont House, our location, as soon as it got light at 7.30 am. Clearly we can’t take original documents out into the mist/rain/mud with us, so our researcher, Daniel, spends a lot of his time tracking down and arranging reproductions of the documents we want to talk about. Here are copies of letters written by today’s subject, the tragic Princess Charlotte, who died in 1817 at the age of 21.
A real document this time – our excellent expert contributor Alexandra Loske is having her finger filmed while she points to the words ‘black uterine discharge’ in Sir James Croft’s blow-by-blow account of Princess Charlotte’s terrible labour, after which she died.
Alexandra and I pose with a lock of Princess Charlotte’s hair. I think we were both fascinated and moved during the few minutes we spent in the room where she died, having briefly sneaked away from the rest of the crew. We didn’t actually film in Charlotte’s bedroom because it’s used as – and looks like – a classroom.
I got home at about 7.45 pm, and at 6.30 on Monday morning I was on my way to Yorkshire. When I arrive at Fountains Abbey, the crew have already set up enormous, suspended portraits of various monarchs, printed on fabric, which will introduce and link the various sections of the film.
The art department, Charlie and Martin, turn on the smoke machine…
… and I practice my lines in my trusty white down coat until everything is ready.
This is what you’ll see on screen, me all by my myself …
… but looking the other way, behind the camera, I can see Paul (sound recordist), Emma (executive producer), Paul (one of our directors) and Dewald (camera).
On the second day at Fountains Abbey, Emma and I escape to the visitor centre for an hour to get warm. Emma’s crossing off from her list the shots we’ve already completed, to make sure that nothing gets missed out. As usual, it’s a terrific race to get it all done before dark. I reach home relatively early, around 8.30 pm.
Wednesday and Thursday I spend at the office – no less interesting, but a little less visually stimulating, so no pictures. On Friday, at 6.45 am, I’m at a deserted King’s Cross Station, catching a train to Grantham…
… and by half eight we’re filming at Belton House.
Inside, we examine the visitors’ book in which both Edward (then the Prince of Wales) and Wallis Simpson signed their names. Today is all about the Abdication.
Then it’s upstairs to the library, where left to right we have Paul (sound), Eleanor (another of our directors), Dewald (camera), Daniel (researcher, sorting out the reproduction documents once again: this time a letter from Edward VIII to Freda Dudley Ward, another of his mistresses) and D.J. Taylor (our superb expert contributor).
As well as directing, the multi-talented Eleanor also has to hold the reflector.
It’s our fourth lunch of the week at a National Trust cafe, then we drive to the Kinema in the Woods beyond Lincoln, where we will watch/film some footage of Edward VIII’s 1924 tour of the USA. En route we stop briefly to do a piece-to-camera that has to take place in a wet field at dusk (it is about Prince Albert’s catching cold while telling off his son Bertie during a rainy country walk). Appropriately, it’s 2 degrees C, with a biting wind.
Having driven back to Grantham, Daniel and I catch the train, and I finally reach home at 9.30. I don’t think you can blame me for having a snooze under my white down coat. After all I have worked a seventy-hour week!