Cliveden House, a stately home that was once the residence of a duke’s mistress and where Megan Markle stayed on the eve of her royal wedding, is offering the Ultimate Platinum Jubilee Afternoon Tea to celebrate seventy years of Queen Elizabeth 11’s reign which began on February 6th, 1952.
Cliveden’s Executive Chef Christopher Hannon’s specially curated afternoon tea menu reintroduces the Astor Tea Service. Based on an original ribbon design, commissioned especially for Lady Astor; this fine bone China tea service has been crafted by William Edwards of Stoke-on-Trent and represents the finest quality workmanship.
The £45 tea comprises finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, pastries, and delicacies like her Majesty’s favorite chocolate biscuit cake and Coronation Sandwich. The Vegan menu features open roasted pepper, beetroot, horseradish, and rocket sandwiches, savory Coronation kohlrabi soft roll, and coriander, leek tart with whipped saffron cream, The Red Rose, a rose and lemon mousse with verbena shortbread, and Victoria Sponge with strawberry jam and coconut cream.
Twenty minutes from Heathrow Airport with grounds on one of the most scenic stretches of the river Thames, 376 acres, 47-room Cliveden House Hotel, on the Berkshire/ Buckinghamshire border, was used as Buckingham Palace in the 1965 Beatles film, “Help” and was the inspiration of Lady Penelope’s aristocratic residence in “Thunderbirds” (2004).
Cliveden has been two Dukes, an Earl, and the Viscounts Astore was the home of Virginia-born Nancy Astor, the first female M.P (1919-45). Cliveden was the setting for the notorious 1961 Profumo Scandal. In the 70s, it was leased to Stanford University. It has also been used as a wartime hospital.
Designed in 1851 by Charles Barry, also responsible for Houses of Parliament in Westminster, to replace a house previously destroyed by fire, the present three-story, 120m long Victorian, Roman cement rendered mansion house is a blend of the English Palladian and Roman Cinquecento styles. Windsor Castle can be seen from its balustraded roof.
Socialite Lady Astor, whose second husband was New York-born, Eton and Oxford-educated politician and newspaper proprietor William Waldorf Astor, paneled the ceilings and walls in oak with Corinthian columns and swags of carved flowers for decoration, by architect Frank Pearson. There is a sixteenth 16th-century fireplace that was brought from a Burgundian chateau and a portrait of Nancy, Lady Astor by American artists William Sargeant.
There are tapestries, suits of armor, the French Dining Room with its Rococo paneling (boiserie) from Louis XV, and Madame de Pompadour’s Chateau d’Asibniers hunting lodge near Paris. The cedar wood library was the cigar box.
The estate was bought in 1893, by American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor (1 st Viscount Astor). In 1942, the family donated Cliveden to the National Trust. The hotel, whose motto is “Nothing ordinary ever happened here, nor could it”, opened in 1984. It also leases the £225o a night riverside Spring Cottage, the former osteopath’s summerhouse which played a key role in the infamous Profumo scandal.
The gardens, which pioneered carpet-planting, have a 4-acre formal parterre which is one of the largest in Europe. The grounds also include an avenue of limes, clipped yew pyramids, a 172 step cliff-side you walk, topiary in the shape of peacocks and corkscrew-spirals, a Japanese-style Water Garden believed to be the first oriental-inspired garden in the country, an island pagoda from the Bagatelle in Paris, the largest section of Sequoia gigantea in Britain, an 1894 maze, a sculpture collection including American Thomas Waldo Story’s shell Fountain of Love made in Rome in1 897, two ancient Egyptian baboon sculptures, the seventeenth-century Travertine Borghese Balustrade from Rome, eight marble Roman sarcophagi and the 1735 Octagon temple converted into a family chapel. Three generations of Astors are buried at Cliveden.
The hotel now has a spa, a formal gourmet dining room, and an all-day Astor Grill. Rooms start at £800.
For over 350 years, with “the serpentine of the Thames” as described by the diarist Samuel Pepys, Cliveden in Maidenhead has been dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure and conspicuous consumption.