The history of Cliveden

For more than 300 years Cliveden was home to dukes, earls, viscounts and for a while a prince. A glittering hub of society, Cliveden hosted exclusive parties and political gatherings, later becoming infamously associated with the Profumo Affair.

An aerial view of the Parterre at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

A brief history of Cliveden 

For over 300 years Cliveden was an exceptional home to some extraordinary characters. Discover how each family left their mark on the house and gardens, creating a glittering hub of society, famed for exclusive parties and political gatherings.

A carving of the Duke of Buckingham and the Duchess of Shrewsbury at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

The building of Cliveden 

In the mid-seventeenth century, the Duke of Buckingham purchased Cliff-dene and built the first great house on this site. A favourite of Charles II, Buckingham created a grand estate to entertain his friends and mistress in style.

Detail of one of the three Orkney tapestries that hang at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

Georgian Cliveden 

In the eighteenth century, under the ownership of the Orkney family, the foundations of today's gardens were laid. But disaster also struck when, in 1795, the house caught fire.

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham KG, PC, FRS, (1628-1687) after Sir Peter Lely

Criminal or minister: who was George Villiers? 

George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham (1628-1687), was a powerful courtier and politician during the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). It was during Charles’ reign that he acquired the Cliveden estate and built a mansion, part of which remains standing today.

Painting of the Duchess of Sutherland

Victorian Cliveden 

The nineteenth century saw Cliveden become a hub of high society with even Queen Victoria visiting the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland's new home and redesigned gardens.

Painting of William Waldorf Astor by Sir Hubert von Herkomer

The Astors 

With the arrival of the American Astor dynasty in 1893, Cliveden's star rose again. A new period of parties, politics and plenty brought together parliamentary and literary figures of the age, whilst the Astor's wealth added collections and curiosities to the House and gardens.

An aerial view of the Parterre at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

The National Trust years 

Since Cliveden was given to the Trust in 1942, time certainly hasn't stood still. Today we're restoring the gardens and grounds whilst the mansion houses one of the most luxurious hotels in the country.