Beer to Champagne: the rise of a sparkling socialite

A young socialite poses

This autumn our seasonal programme Beer to Champagne: the rise of a sparkling socialite returns. We’re celebrating Maggie Greville’s astonishing social rise from quiet beginnings as the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish beer baron and her transformation into the darling of the Edwardian social scene.

Meet Maggie’s men

Beer to Champagne: the rise of a sparkling socialite explores Maggie’s relationships with the three most important men in her life.   

Her father, William McEwan, was a self-made millionaire. Quiet but fiercely ambitious, he built a business empire out of working man’s ale with exports travelling as far as Australia.

Despite her illegitimate birth, McEwan supported Maggie throughout her life, equipping her with all the trappings a socialite would need, including Polesden Lacey – her lavish country retreat and party house.   

McEwan's Fountains Brewery in Edinburgh
A black and white illustration of men, barrels and carthorses in a paved courtyard

Her husband, Captain Ronald Greville, was quite a catch. With friends in high places, like King Edward VII and the inner circle on the Marlborough House Set, he had just the sort of address book an up-and-coming socialite would need to build a star-studded guest list for the perfect Edwardian houseparty. That’s not to mention his rather fetching moustache…  

The ideal husband: well connected
A sepia portrait of Ronnie Greville wearing a hat

Her king, His Majesty King Edward VII, was originally Ronnie’s friend. But after Ronnie’s death in 1908, he attended Maggie’s first house party at Polesden Lacey in 1909, thus cementing her place in Edwardian high society.  

Unlocking Polesden

Until last year, visitors had never seen William McEwan’s bedroom – also known as the Red Bedroom. It was the first space to be restored as part of our ‘Unlocking Polesden’ project, and you can find out more by clicking here. 

Key aspects of the bedroom’s original look were restored; most notably, the striking red hue of the walls and carpet. 

William McEwan's distinctive red bedroom
A marble bust of William McEwan in the red bedroom.

A taste of Scotland

You’ll discover more stories about Maggie and her men through the house, the gardens, the Granary Café and the gift shop.

Why not try the three Scots-inspired spirit of place dishes that our chefs have cooked up in honour of Maggie’s Scottish heritage. Choose from Scots sausage roast, a haggis and sausage roll, or a slice of chocolate and ale cake. 

Or head to the gift shop to take home and try a taste of the golden ale that saw Mr McEwan become an international entrepreneur and a self-made millionaire.

Take home a taste of McEwan's ale
Bottles of ale lined up

Discover more stories about the men who stood behind Maggie as she rose to become a sparkling socialite and society’s best hostess by visiting Polesden this autumn.

Beer to Champagne: the rise of a sparkling socialite runs from 8 September to 30 November 2017. The house will be open every day with tours running on weekdays from 11am – 12:30pm followed by free flow exploration in the afternoons and at weekends.