Cliveden is the magnificent English country house with a unique and extraordinary history of politics and intrigue, aristocracy and espionage, sex and scandal. Time and again, Cliveden itself has become a character in the story of these isles. Ever since 1666, the house has also been known for its literary salon, helping to inspire writers from Alexander Pope and George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift and Lord Tennyson to Sir Winston Churchill. The Cliveden Literary Festival will evoke the spirit of the great writers and potentates who stayed here and continue the tradition of the house as a sanctuary for lovers of literature.
The festival’s themes – high politics and low scandal; the influence of brilliant women and the role of history in the movies; the Munich crisis to the Russian revolutions and the rise of Zionism – reflect Cliveden’s own story as a political-literary salon.
As do its influential chatelaines, from the scheming Elizabeth Villiers, to the glittering society hostess, Harriet Duchess of Sutherland, who provoked a constitutional crisis for Queen Victoria. From the beautiful but much maligned courtesan Anna Maria, Countess of Shrewsbury and the muse for Alexander Pope – to Britain’s first female MP and arch-appeaser Nancy Astor, who hosted famous guests from Asquith to Gandhi. Most recently of course Cliveden became notorious as the setting for the Profumo Affair, the sex-and-espionage scandal that brought down a government.