Tucked away in the countryside of Berkshire, not even an hour away from London, is Cliveden House. What was once built to be a romantic getaway for Buckingham’s 2nd Duke and his mistress is now a five-star hotel on nearly 400 acres of sprawling countryside near the Thames. The estate is so prized as a wedding venue that it has to be booked years in advance.
The 350-year-old manor has all of the beauty and extravagance you would expect to find in a hotel by renowned Relais & Chateau; however, despite the perfectly manicured grounds, the rare antiques, and the original artworks, the fresh-pressed linens hide this property’s dirty royal laundry.
Buckingham’s 2nd Duke had the property custom-made as a monument for his mistress, Anna Maria, the Countess of Shrewsbury, late in the 1600s. Even though both the Duke and Anna Maria were married to other people at the time, the Duke could not contain his passion for Anna Maria. He conceived Cliveden House as their private Garden of Eden, away from their spouses, where they could love each other as they would, go hunting together through the sprawling acreage, and even entertain company.
However, Buckingham lacked the requisite discretion to keep something of this magnitude under wraps for long, and when Lord Shrewsbury found out, he challenged the Duke in a duel. Lord Shrewsbury was not the victor, and he passed away from his wounds a few months later.
Although it would appear that the Duke had won, the King would have no part in this type of irreverence. The King required by rule of law that the Duke no longer see the Countess – otherwise, he was forbidden to lay even one brick at Cliveden. He obliged the King, and began the construction of Cliveden without the one for whom he was building it.
Today, Cliveden is a 5-star luxury hotel. There are 38 rooms, of which each one’s décor was inspired by someone stately or famous who was once a visitor at Cliveden.