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Unspoiled medieval buildings gave Belgium edge for BBC drama

12:09 10/06/2013

The White Queen, the BBC's new flagship drama about the Wars of the Roses, was filmed in Belgium because, producers claim, England lacks unspoiled medieval buildings, writes the Daily Telegraph’s Claire Duffin. The film crew moved to Belgium, where the architecture is as enticing as the tax breaks. The country was on a list of possible locations for filming because the financial deals were not available in Britain at the time. The White Queen tells the story of the women caught up in the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster, with scenes set in Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and Bosworth Field. Each will be represented by locations in Belgium. The producers said that too many of England's medieval buildings have been covered in satellite dishes, CCTV cameras and television aerials. Many other 15th century buildings were now in ruins, while the Belgians have maintained and restored theirs. Max Irons, who plays King Edward IV, said: “The great thing about Belgium is that they really take care of their architecture, whereas, we in England have a tendency to stick CCTV cameras on classic buildings and paint the streets with white and yellow lines.” John Griffin, the executive producer, said: “I would not like to say Britain does not look after its historical buildings, it’s just they do not tend to put stuff all over them in Belgium.” Among the locations used are St Martin's Cathedral in Ypres, which doubled as Westminster Abbey and Bruges town hall which served as the interior of the Palace of Westminster. The original palace was destroyed by fire in the 19th century, with only Westminster Hall left. The 10-part series starting next Sunday is based on Philippa Gregory’s bestselling historical novel series, The Cousins’ War.

Filming in Belgium started in September and lasted six months. In total, 250 sets were made to depict three weddings, two coronations and 12 state banquets over 20 years. The decision to film in Belgium comes after ITV’s successful period drama Downton Abbey was criticised by eagle-eyed viewers who spotted television aerials, street signs and yellow lines in scenes supposedly depicting the early part of the last century. Historical groups and residents have also long complained about growing “street clutter” and in 2010, ministers worried about the damage to the character of urban spaces urged members of the public to report unnecessary items.

Written by The Bulletin