Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey is an elegant 19th century Regency mansion redesigned greatly for Captain and Mrs Ronald Greville, who bought it in 1906.  Mrs Greville was an illegitimate daughter of McEwans, beer empire owner. She was described by many a social-climbing woman but also as a perfect hostess; the house hosted numerous famous guests: writers, artists, politicians and most important, royalty! As well as the mansion, the 1400 acre estate includes two farms, an Edwardian formal garden of some 30 acres, plus woodland and Ranmore Common to the South. So, should I write how opulent the Edwardian interior with fine collection of Old Masters paintings is or what a variety of walks there are in elegant gardens and landscaped park or perhaps how spectacular are the sweeping valley views across the North Downs? No, let’s talk about money, big money indeed!  The Lady of the House was described by many in not-so-nice terms as “greedy, snobbish old toad who watered her chops at the sight of royalty” and “slug filled with venom”. OK, so we know she was snobbish, had a waspish tongue and craved social prestige. Is this all a result of her insecurities as she was born to a simple housekeeper mother? If it is indeed, she did everything to change her stance. She has found herself a rich and honourable husband, Ronald, she had plenty of money, developed fabulous property and thanks to her flamboyant personality, gathered around herself plenty of rich and influential friends (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother spend their honeymoon here, Edward VII with his favourite mistress Alice Keppel, great-grandmother of Camilla, Prince Charles’s wife, were frequent visitors here as well). When Mrs Greville died, her estate was valued (in today’s money) at over 200 million pounds! On Mrs Greville death in 1942, she bequeathed Polesden and her art collections to the National Trust, with the stipulation that it should be open to the public. Her fabulous jewellery was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother (close friend) and nowadays, not only Queen Elizabeth but Camilla can be seen wearing incredible pieces like Boucheron tiara or Marie Antoinette necklace that belonged to this influential socialite!  Mrs Greville was also very generous to her staff, all of them were remembered in her will; most were given seven years wages, some annuity for life, some cars and some an equivalent of 150 thousand pounds – so she couldn’t have been that bad! Bad or not, I am very happy indeed to visit the place and admire the views.

  1. JoannaJoanna09-16-2012

    Beata, if you come across the shop selling time you mentioned a couple of days ago, please, let me know straight away or, even better, save me a place in the queue.:) Holidays are over, school has just begun, but this time it is not just another school year but also another reform in our system of education and, consequently, all the tension and extra work that usually come along with revolutionary changes. But I don’t want to complain, I love being a teacher and I am sure I’ll soon get used to the innovations.
    Anyway, I still find time for reading your compelling stories, they just keep me alive. The one about Mrs Greville sounds like a fairy tale. Please, don’t stop writing.

  2. adminadmin09-18-2012

    Joanna, still searching for the shop, but will let you know when I find it! Not all changes are good, but I am sure your teaching passion will always shine! Wish you have plenty of good pupils this year! This week I will be slow with my blogs, but plenty moore to come soon!

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