Victoria & Abdul filmed on Isle of Wight
The film tells the true story of the unlikely alliance formed between Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal’s Indian clerk Abdul Karim, who travelled to England in 1887 to help mark Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Osborne House was the monarch's summer residence and the film’s producers secured crucial permission to spend several weeks filming at the key location where much of the film’s story takes place.
The Victoria & Abdul team became the first large-scale feature to shoot in the house when English Heritage was supportive of the production, with some conditions.
“One stipulation was that we couldn’t close the house to the public, so a detailed schedule of where we wanted to be and when was drawn up,” says Adam Richards, the film’s supervising location manager, in comments to The Knowledge.
“Managing the ever-changing needs of a film crew and the needs of their visitors at one of English Heritage’s top tourist destinations wasn’t easy, but we managed it without losing face.
“The other issue was the fragility of some of the furniture. For authenticity, we wanted to use as many of the original furnishings as possible.”
English Heritage imposed a limit on how many people could use each piece of furniture. In scenes showing an audience with the Queen in Osborne House’s drawing room, most of the actors had to break with history and stay standing to avoid any damage.
Several other English Heritage sites stood in for different story settings. Popular London filming location The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich doubled for Windsor Castle interiors and Knebworth House north of the capital was used for locations in both Windsor Castle and Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish residence.
Production headed outside the UK briefly to India, with the producers feeling a real location shoot in the country was necessary to show their commitment to the story of Abdul Karim’s origins.
“We wanted to honour a culture and a history that have too often been minimised and rejected over the past century and a half,” says Beeban Kidron, one of the film’s producers.
“Filming in the city of Agra reaffirmed that we were bringing Abdul’s story out. He was from there, in every sense of the phrase.”
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