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How Malaga became Australia in The Crown

Charles and Diana's tour of Adelaide was filmed in Malaga's La Concepción botanical gardens.
Charles and Diana's tour of Adelaide was filmed in Malaga's La Concepción botanical gardens.
  • The tempestuous relationship between the Prince and Princess of Wales becomes a crisis in the fourth season, where scenes that took place in Australia were actually filmed on the Costa del Sol

The sixth episode is the one to look out for. One of the most keenly awaited moments in the fourth season of the Netflix series The Crown is when the people's princess, Lady Diana Spencer, arrives on the scene.

It has to be said that the scriptwriters didn't hold back when portraying her role in the royal family or her stormy relationship with Prince Charles, especially when she rapidly became more popular than her husband and even Her Gracious Majesty, Elizabeth II.

Crowds in Brisbane - Hotel Malaga Palacio and Calle Molina Lario.

Crowds in Brisbane - Hotel Malaga Palacio and Calle Molina Lario.

This mixture of heaven and hell became especially obvious during the couple's four-week visit to Australia in 1983 which, according to the series, led to the definitive separation of Their Royal Highnesses after an attempted reconciliation.

All this is shown in episode six, Terra Nullius (nobody's land); but actually that land does belong to somebody, because in the scenes representing their stay in Sydney and Canberra there are some familiar locations in Malaga. You do have to look carefully to spot them, though, because staging and digital retouching make them look very different on screen.

Diana arrives at a party - filmed on the steps of a Malaga military residence.

Diana arrives at a party - filmed on the steps of a Malaga military residence.

"The most spectacular location was the Malaga Palacio hotel and Calle Molina Lario, because we placed a remote [camera] head on a crane on the hotel terrace and the result was brilliant," said the locations manager in Spain, Tate Aráez, who is himself from Malaga and who also selected locations in the province for the previous season. On that occasion actress Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret) 'landed' at the Palacio de Congresos in Torremolinos, acting as Los Angeles airport.

Visit to Darwin - Cártama's iconic iron bridge.

Visit to Darwin - Cártama's iconic iron bridge.

Aráez, who won an Oscar for his Game of Thrones locations, led a team from the firm A Film Location, who scouted for settings for this fourth season of The Crown. Almeria became the Australian desert and the famous Mount Uluru; and the crowds when the Waleses visited Brisbane were actually in Malaga city centre. The Australian city of skyscrapers was filmed from the 15-story Malaga Palacio hotel with hundreds of extras thronging the streets to cheer.

Charles's speech in Sydney was filmed in Malaga's open-air auditorium.

Charles's speech in Sydney was filmed in Malaga's open-air auditorium.

"Once we decided to use the hotel, we had to be very careful that the other settings fitted in with the script," said Aráez, adding that during the week that Emma Corrin (Diana) and Josh O'Connor (Charles) spent in Malaga they also went to La Concepción botanical gardens to film the couple's supposed car tour through Adelaide.

The iconic Puente de Hierro (iron bridge) in Cártama is Darwin in the series; a polo match was filmed at the local sports complex; and a meeting at the Canberra residence of Australian prime minister, Bob Hawke, was actually shot at the Palacio Monte Miramar.

Charles and Bob Hawke - Malaga's Monte Miramar palace became the PM's Canberra residence.

Charles and Bob Hawke - Malaga's Monte Miramar palace became the PM's Canberra residence.

Many of these scenes worked perfectly and needed no digital retouching. For example three scenes which were filmed at the Castañón de Mena military residence: the pool is where Diana met a swimming team; her visit to a hospital in Sydney was filmed at the building's rear entrance; and the front steps were used for the couple's arrival at a party.

In others, though, digital effects have worked 'magic' and nobody would realise this was Malaga, although the visionary Tate Aráez confirms that the Cortijo de Torres open-air auditorium was the setting for Charles' speech at the Sydney Opera House, which was added post-production.

The subsequent visual is sublime, as Charles compliments his charming wife in public. Although later his pompous words sounded as false as this trick of film production. It seems real, but it is actually fiction.