I mean it when I say that I was staying across the river from the Cliveden estate.
A visit to Cliveden was on my agenda long before it was announced that the new Duchess of Sussex would be spending her final night as a single woman at Cliveden. Nancy Astor, the first woman elected to Parliament to take her seat, was American, a Virginian, from Danville, near the North Carolina border.
The weather was fabulous. Sunny. 80+ degrees.
The house is now a private five-star hotel. The house and grounds are owned by the National Trust. Annually, Cliveden is one of the top most visited National Trust properties. There are tours of the house on Thursdays.
You have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the restaurants although one can make reservations in advance. Or you can peek your head into an open door, casually walk in, ask if you can look around and take a few pictures. Yes. Okay. That would be me.
I asked if I could order a cup of tea. No. Quick thinking. Could I have a glass of water? Yes. I take the glass and sit down in a very nice chair. I also ask where is the Sargent portrait of Nancy Astor. It is in the next room. Could I see it? Yes.
Score. I get to see the painting, take a few pictures, sit down on a sofa, take a few deep breaths and then get up to go back outside.
I took a cab back to Maidenhead to get my bags, then a cab back to the train station, where I caught a train back to London. I check back into the Grand Royale for one more night. Took a final walk to Kensington Palace.
Cliveden was commissioned in about 1666 by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. In 1706, the house is bought by the Earl of Orkney, who has the house redesigned and major gardens were planted. The house was visited by George I and George II. After the death of Lord Orkney in 1737, Cliveden is lent to Frederick, the Prince of Wales, the eldest son of George II and the father of George III.
It was at Cliveden where the Prince of Wales was struck by a cricket ball while playing with his children on the Parterre. He died at Leicester House in 1751.
In 1795, the house was largely gutted by fire and was bought at auction in 1821 by Sir George Warrender. The house and estate are sold in 1849 to the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. The house suffers another major fire and was rebuilt. In 1868, after the death of Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland, her son-in-law, Earl Grosvenor (later Duke of Westminster) buys Cliveden. William Waldorf Astor (1st Viscount Astor) purchases Cliveden in 1893. Four years later, Astor gives the house to his son, Waldorf Astor and his wife, Nancy.
Meghan Markle stayed in a suite in the East wing.
In 1942, the Astors gave Cliveden to the National Trust but the family remained in the house until the 3rd Lord Astor's death in 1966. He was Waldorf and Nancy's eldest son.
Cliveden was where the Secretary of War John Profumo met Christine Keeler at a pool party in 1961. At the time, she was also having an affair with a Soviet diplomat. Two years later, the Profumo scandal broke and brought down the Macmillan government.
|174 steps ...UP walking on the side of the stairs was easier|
|1974 stairs ... up|
|I made it to the top!!|
|the chapel where the Astors, including Nancy Astor, are buried. It was open, but no photos inside/|
|I got in|
|the Singer Sargent portrait of Nancy Astor.|
|My glass of water|
|Unfortunately, they were out of the Waldorf Salad|
|Back in London Kensington Gardens|