22 February 2014

The Musketeers: Locations Revealed

The BBC series The Musketeers got off to a shaky start, review wise, but audiences and critics alike have warmed to the show as it has got properly underway. Viewing figures are healthy and a second series has already been commissioned. The Musketeers is quickly garnering a huge fan base. Something which has come in for praise has been the locations chosen to portray the Paris of the seventeenth century. Yet if you want to see them for yourself, don’t go dashing off to the French capital – you won’t find them there. Instead head for Prague - the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic.

 Why the Czech Republic rather than France? It seems that Paris has just become too built up and modern for filming to be done there without anachronisms popping up all over the place. Strangely, Dublin was also considered before the production team settled on Prague which has weathered the centuries (not to mention the Second World War) extremely well. Plus the city’s environs has some of the most beautiful period chateaus in Europe, including Dobris (above). Situated about 40km from Prague this gorgeous chateau was given to the German House of Mansfeld in 1630, who had it rebuilt in a Rococo style from 1745.

This time period made it a great as a backdrop to the king’s palace and the grounds are used extensively in episode three, five and seven of season one (left you can see Cardinal Richelieu discussing the Court of Miracles with King Louis from episode 5).

One of the chateau’s large state rooms is also used in episode nine. Its rightly famous French Gardens surround the chateau - perfect for exteriors.

Venture a little further from Prague (55km) and you will find Ploskovice (above). Again, the grounds were used (you see King Louis shooting pigeons here). Thanks to Duchess Anna Maria Franziska who inherited the castle in the late 1600s and renovated it in to what you see today.

The castle was used during the shooting of season one for numerous interior and exterior shots – the castle stood in for the Louvre palace.

It was also used extensively in episode two (the one in which Vadim, played by Jason Flemyng plans to assassinate the king and queen and instigate a revolution).

The tunnels of Terezín (above) were also used in the same episode to stand in for the tunnels under the Louvre palace where D’Artagnan is kept prisoner by Vadim.

Although ideal for the ‘role’ shooting here had to be particularly delicately done.

Terezin served during the Second World War as a holding camp where Jewish people were detained before they were deported to their fates in the concentration camps of Eastern Europe.

The Kroměříž Archbishop's Palace (above) was the location farthest away from Prague – at a distance of 289km. It is a three hour drive from the capital. It was featured heavily in episode four, when Marsac (played by JJ Feild), an ex- musketeer, comes to Paris to assassinate the Duke of Savoy (Vincent Regan) whom he holds responsible for the deaths of 20 musketeers.

Part of the episode sees the duke insist on having a sword fight with Athos (Tom Burke).

The sword fight was choreographed and filmed in the grand hall of the Archbishop’s palace.

Needless to say, Athos triumphs, much to the duke's chagrin.

Zvíkov Castle (above) was used for episode seven when Cardinal Richelieu accuses a woman of witchcraft and demands that she is bunt at the stake. The castle often referred to as the king of Czech castles is 80km from Prague. Although it looks original it was abandoned for a long period and rebuilt in 1902 (it was confiscated from its owners by the communists in 1947).

Finally, the one interior location that has everyone asking where it is – and it takes us to the very center of Prague.

The amazing library which appears from the first episode onwards belongs to the Strahov Monastery (above).

 It is for the discussions between Richelieu and the King and as a reception room for the Duke of Savoy in episode four.

The crew had to take particular care when filming in this gorgeous room which contains hundreds of centuries old books. Special foot protectors were worn so that the floor was not marked and the crew were under express orders not to touch anything. However, Strahov Monastery (and its library) is open to the public and you can visit these very rooms. All of the other locations featured here are also open throughout the year.

Season Two promises even greater location delights and the Czech Republic is to be host to cast and crew again. One thing is for sure, however – Peter Capaldi will not be among them. While filming the first season he received the news that he was to play the next incarnation of Doctor Who. It would be great to think he heard the news in the antique, gorgeous and ornate library of Prahov – it seems a wonderfully fitting place to receive such tidings!