Inside the grand estates cast as Russia’s Winter Palace in ‘The Great’

Elle Fanning in The Great which airs on Channel 4 this January

Ollie Upton / Hulu

The Great is a series as mad as they come, never lacking in drama, hilarity and acts of savage brutality (that one rather worryingly grows quite immune to). It’s as slapstick as it is clever – a theatre of words, costumes and some truly resplendent sets. It effortlessly conjures icy, barren – but mind-bogglingly lavish (at least at the heart of the Royal Court) – Russia. Interestingly, none of the series is actually filmed in Russia, instead at a mix of of some of Britain’s grandest stately homes – spanning Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and Leicestershire – and the frankly humongous Royal Palace of Caserta in Southern Italy (that accurately reflects the scale of the lofty Winter Palace of St Petersburg, the official residence of Russian Emperors from 1732 to 1917). Let Tatler reveal where Hulu’s The Great – currently being broadcast on Channel 4 – is filmed.

  • Royal Palace of Caserta (La Reggia di Caserta), Italy

    This former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy, really takes the biscuit. It is the centrepiece of The Great, as grand as it is vast, so grand as to practically be a character in this zany ‘occasionally true’ adaptation, taking the lead as stand-in for the mighty Winter Palace. It was built by the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies as their main residence as kings of Naples and wears the crown as the largest royal residence in the world, spanning an area of more than 500,000 sq ft. It was modelled on the Palace of Versailles and is thought to bear the greatest resemblance – of all imitations – to the original model. Now, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in its nomination it was described as ‘the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque’. It is a recurring feature in the film, serving as the mesmerising interior courtyard (which is a marble Baroque feast, no detail too grandiose, depicted clearly below), the verdant, carefully manicured Baroque gardens (also inspired by Versailles), the very many fountains (La Reggia has five in total) and its endless, epic façade.

  • The Baroque interior courtyard of the Royal Palace of Caserta

  • Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

    This Jacobean wonder has starred in many a film – very recently Rebecca, but also in The Favourite, written by Yorgos Lanthismos and Tony McNamara (the mastermind behind The Great). Australian McNamara enjoyably said of his research: ‘I read a lot early on and then forgot it all.’ Hatfield, the childhood home of Elizabeth I, is most noticeable in the Long Gallery (pictured below) – where you frequently observe Catherine (played impeccably by Elle Fanning) and her husband, Peter III (played by Nicholas Hoult), scheming japes. The Marble Hall – home to the famous Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I – also serves as the (oft barbaric) council room of Peter III and the feasts take place in the Old Banqueting Hall, pictured above.

  • The Long Gallery of Hatfield House, a recurring location in The Great

  • Castle Howard, North Yorkshire

    Sir John Vanbrugh’s Baroque masterpiece is featured as the impressive backdrop in a handful of scenes. When Catherine is introduced to the ladies of court throwing ‘balls’ – a fun activity, much like bowles – the Atlas Fountain can be spied in the background. The castle’s Antique Passage, lined with classical busts and heads, can also be seen during the series.

  • Hever Castle’s Loggia Terrace, Kent

    Anyone who has been to Hever, the perfectly-sized childhood home of Anne Boleyn, later bought by New York millionaire William Waldorf Astor, will have immediately recognised the Italian Loggia in episode eight (‘Meatballs at the Dacha’) of the series. It is the setting for the episode where the Emperor and Empress travel to meet the King and Queen and Sweden (who, it would seem, are much like Peter and Catherine). The Italian Loggia stone sculpture embellished with century-old nymphs beautifully frames one end of the 38-acre lake at Hever and was inspired by Rome’s world-famous Trevi Fountain. It proves an effective change of scene to reflect the change of country, as Peter and Catherine are taken by boat to meet their fellow royals.

  • The Italian Loggia at Hever Castle

  • Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Leicestershire

    The Regent’s Gallery of Belvoir, an elegant 17th century drawing room, stars as a room for the ladies of the court, as well as a room where the Emperor and Empress take breakfast in the series.

  • Belvoir Castle’s exterior

  • Ham House, Richmond

    The beautifully preserved 17th century home in Richmond was also used as a location in the series. Other period dramas filmed there include Anna Karenina (2012) and The Young Victoria (2009).


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