Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Posh Bird at Cliveden

Last night I was whisked away for a surprise by Posh Geezer to Cliveden. One of Britain's most beautiful stately homes, it now belongs to the National Trust and von Essen hotels but gained infamy as the setting for the Profumo Scandal. It was given by William Waldorf Astor to his son and daughter-in-law, Nancy Astor, for their wedding present in 1906. Nancy became famous as a society hostess and as one of the country's first women MPs when she successfully won her husband's seat after he was forced to give it up on gaining a place in the House of Lords. They gave the house to the National Trust in 1942 but she lived there until her death in 1964.

It is astonishingly beautiful - there are dining rooms of a grandeur matched only by the interiors of a Venetian palazzo. We were hugely lucky to be staying in what was Lady Astor's bedroom - a vast, high-ceilinged room with 8 tall windows and a terrace big enough for a birthday party. White panels hid the doors to the wardrobe and bathroom. There was a plump sofa, a white, ornately carved tall mantelpiece and the bed...Oh! Them were the days. The most comfortable I've ever slept in - one sort of sank in and was firmly held all at once. No modern duvet nonsense either - just soft white sheets, pure merino wool blankets and a heavy cover.

We had drinks and a vicious game of Scrabble in the Great Hall (where the 1908 portrait of Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent hangs) and then a delicious supper in a long red dining room.

All totally heavenly and totally posh. It was a different world in which the very rich and powerful were entertained there 100 years ago. But as Cliveden even then had a reputation for excellent staff, good food and general spoilingness; and as the feeling even now is of staying at someone's house, I think the only difference now is that the guests write a cheque when they leave.

PS You know it's a truly posh hotel not by the liveried staff or the linen napkins, but because they welcome dogs. Woof to that, I say.

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