Cliveden: A house of royal connections

Meghan Markle leaves Cliveden for Windsor, with her mother, having spent the eve of her wedding in the Cliveden House Hotel on the National Trust’s Cliveden Estate.

The Duchess of Sussex spent the night ahead of her wedding at the Cliveden House Hotel on the National Trust’s Cliveden Estate. Set high above the Thames with far-reaching views, Cliveden’s impressive gardens and majestic woodlands capture the grandeur of a bygone age.

Frequented by dukes, earls and royalty the estate was gifted to the National Trust in 1942 by the American businessman, William Waldorf Astor, whose wife Nancy Astor was the first women MP to take her seat.

It was while they lived here during the first half of the twentieth century that Cliveden became famous for its lavish hospitality and glamorous guests, though the estate had always been a centre of high-society activity. The Astors entertained an unlikely mix of people from Lloyd George and Winston Churchill to George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Ghandi and Henry Ford.

Cliveden House
Cliveden House
Cliveden House

Cliveden has long had connections to royalty. It was, for a while, in the 18th century the home of Prince Frederick of Wales and it was visited by Queen Victoria in the 19th. In the 20th century King George V was a guest of the Astors.

Enjoying a commanding position on a chalk cliff, the name Cliff-dene was given to the estate in the 1660s when the first house was built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Successive owners sculpted the gardens and landscape, sparing no expense to create a magnificent summer retreat.

The current Grade 1 listed house owes its elegant architecture to Sir Charles Barry, who is best known for designing the Palace of Westminster. His Italianate masterpiece was built for the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland in the 1850s and is the third house here, the other two having burned down.

The Japanese Water Garden at Cliveden.
The oriental inspired Water Garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
The Japanese Water Garden at Cliveden.

The Cliveden Estate has long been associated with powerful and inspiring females in the public realm, from slavery abolitionist campaigners to Nancy Astor MP. If you want to know more about the four women who have defined Cliveden’s history they are celebrated in our Women and Power programme.

Cliveden today is one the most visited National Trust properties, enjoyed by over half a million visitors each year.  Of its 376 acres, almost 100 are laid out as formal grounds, looked after by around 100 staff and over 300 volunteers. Throughout the year, visitors can explore a series of gardens, each with their own special charm. From the formality of the Parterre with its vibrant floral displays to the quirky statuary and topiary in the Long Garden. 

Barry’s beautiful house is owned by the National Trust and is leased as a luxury hotel. There are bookable guided tours on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from March to end of October (timed ticket required). House tours will not be running week commencing Monday 14 May, for one week.