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The Festival

Established in 2017 and now in its seventh year, Cliveden Literary Festival will take place from 21st – 22nd September.

Hosted at the iconic Cliveden House in Berkshire, the 2023 festival heard Zadie Smith and Maggie O’Farrell explain their magical literary craft and broader discussions of the future of literary fiction; Mary Beard and Tom Holland describe the power of history-making from Ancient Rome to the present day, podcasts and all; and panels on matters as urgent as Middle Eastern warfare with Peter Frankopan and modern espionage with ex-MI6 chief Alex Younger; the salvation of the British economy with Emma Walmsley, or the likelihood of a Labour election triumph with Michael Gove and David Lammy. From politics and warfare domestic and global, to the meaning of imagination and creativity will play in a role of AI, and much, much more, the most urgent and stimulating questions of our age were discussed.

Renowned as a forum for lively discussion, innovative ideas, and political debate, Cliveden Literary Festival has been described by Ian McEwan as ‘probably the world’s best small literary festival,’ and by Alain de Botton as ‘the most dignified and beautiful literary festival on the planet’.

Run by a committee of writers and historians – Andrew Roberts, Natalie Livingstone, Catherine Ostler and Simon Sebag Montefiore – Cliveden Literary Festival draws on Cliveden House’s unique history as a literary salon frequented by writers and thinkers including Alexander Pope, Alfred Lord Tennyson, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift and Sir Winston Churchill.

A sell-out success every year, tickets will go on sale in July 2024.  Please sign up to our newsletter to be notified when tickets go on sale.

Cliveden Literary Festival Committee

Lord (Andrew) Roberts

Natalie Livingstone

Catherine Ostler

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Tina Brown
Honorary Chairman, US


Sitting regally amid 400 acres of greenery, gardens trailing down to the River Thames, it is easy to see why Cliveden has provided such an inspiring setting for so many writers.

In the 18th 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 inception in the 1660s, Cliveden has been the setting of many dramas – tragic, scandalous and politically momentous – that have defined or destabilised the state of the nation. In 2018, Cliveden was the subject of international interest when Meghan Markle stayed on the night before her wedding to Prince Harry.

When the Duke of Buckingham bought Cliveden in 1666, he transformed two modest hunting lodges into a magnificent mansion commanding majestic views high above its landscaped gardens down to the river.

The location of the house – five miles from Windsor Castle and fewer than 30 miles from the Palace of Westminster – 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 in an enduring triangle of power. It has 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 here in its gardens – and it has been a sanctuary for monarchs, providing refuge for the grieving Queen Victoria. Under the guidance of Nancy Astor in the 20th century, the Cliveden Set became the heart of British society, with eminent guests including Charlie Chaplin, the Asquiths, Arthur Balfour, Lawrence of Arabia, the pioneer aviator Amy Johnson, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and FD Roosevelt. And, of course, Cliveden is synonymous with one of the most salacious sex scandals in British politics. Nineteen year-old Christine Keeler stepped naked from the swimming pool before the hungry eyes of John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, and their illicit love affair toppled the government. The Profumo Affair is just one of many historic turning points for which Cliveden has been the stage.

With the Festival, which gathers together writers and intellectuals from around the world for a weekend every year, the spirit of Cliveden is renewed.