Sitting regally amidst 400 acres of greenery, gardens trailing down to the river Thames, it is easy to see why Cliveden has become muse to so many writers, HG Wells, JM Barrie, George Bernard Shaw and Rudyard Kipling among them. In the eighteenth century Alexander Pope described the stately home as “the bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love” – a reference to its conception by the Duke of Buckingham as a love monument to his mistress, the Countess of Shrewsbury.
From its dawn in the 1660s Cliveden has been the setting of many dramas – tragic, scandalous and politically momentous – that have defined or destabilized the state of the nation.
Cliveden is synonymous with one of the most salacious sex scandals in British politics. 19 year-old Christine Keeler stepped naked from the swimming pool into the hungry eyes of John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, and their illicit love affair toppled the government. The Profumo Affair was only one of many historic turning points for which Cliveden has been the stage.
The location of the house – five miles from Windsor Castle and fewer than thirty miles from the Palace of Westminster in London – has been reflected in its role in British politics. After the Royal residence and the Houses of Parliament, Cliveden has served as a third point within an enduring triangle of power. It provided a base for Royal confidantes and parliamentary pioneers, a meeting place for cliques, cabals and counter-courts. Cliveden has hosted artistic premieres – in 1740 Rule Britannia! was performed for the first time in its gardens; been a sanctuary for monarchs – in the 19th century, it provided refuge for grieving Queen Victoria, and, under the guidance of Nancy Astor in the 20th century the Cliveden set became the heart of British society. Other eminent guests have included Charlie Chaplin, the Asquiths, Arthur Balfour, Lawrence of Arabia, the pioneer aviator Amy Johnson, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and FD Roosevelt.
When the Duke of Buckingham bought Cliveden in 1666, he transformed two modest hunting lodges into the magnificent Italianate mansion that stands here today, commanding majestic views high above its landscaped gardens down to the river.
Today the house operates as an award-winning hotel. Visit the website here