Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mrs Greville and Polesden Lady


I had the most wonderful experience over the weekend, 
I met Mrs Greville. 

Not the real Mrs Greville, she has been gone sometime (1863-1942) 
but I was introduced to her thru her beautiful home. 
I am certain this woman had spunk...she could hold her own with the best of them. 
Not always an endearing quality but in her case, certainly memorable.

I visited Polesden Lacey, a National Trust property 
and once the country home of the 'dynamic and ambitious' Margaret Greville.  
I ascertained that Mrs Greville was a woman to be reckoned with. 
This was a woman who knew what she liked and how things should be done. 
This was a woman you would not have wanted to cross. 
This was a woman of exceptional taste.

It was so much fun and I took so many pictures 
that I am going to have to break it up into a few posts. 
The house, the furniture, the painting, the details....all so lovely. 





But first, let's meet Mrs Greville 
as the curators of Polesden Lacey would like us to know her.

'Mrs Greville rose from obscure origins to attain political influence, great wealth and the friendship of royalty. An inveterate traveller and relentless celebrity-hunter, she could be both discreetly charitable and personally waspish.  
The natural daughter of William McEwan, a millionaire Scottish brewer and philanthropist, she declared 'I would rather be a beeress than a peeress.' She was one of the most influential hostesses in Europe for nearly four decades. Princes and maharajahs, viceroys and prime ministers, ambassadors and captains of industry enjoyed her lavish hospitality, but there was a price: she often aroused strong and contradictory reactions. The diarist, Chips Channon wrote that there was 'no-one on earth so skilfully malicious as old Maggie'. But when she died, the Queen Mother wrote wistfully to Osbert Sitwell, 'I shall miss her very much'.


The Duke and Duchess of York (later George VI and Queen Elizabeth) 
spent part of their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey in 1923

Under the watchful eye of it's demanding chatelaine, Polesden Lacey became the perfect setting for pleasure and leisure, for gossip, luxury and discreet dalliance among the upper classes. 'I never follow people into their bedrooms', remarked Mrs Greville.


Mrs Greville with Spencer Tracy and guest 

A drunken butler...
'Glorious as the setting was, Mrs Greville's staff would occasionally let her down. On one occasion, it was apparent that the butler was intoxicated. She wrote a surreptitious note saying, 'You are drunk; leave the room at once', summoned the butler and placed it on his salver. He bowed courteously, advanced to the guest of honour, Sir Austen Chamberlain, and presented the note to him. The eminent politician spent the rest of the meal in mystified silence. When she explained the misunderstanding, he replied that it was the first time he had ever been silenced by a drunken butler'.

A grand entrance...


Every evening, at 6pm, the footman would lay out drinks on the 17th-century refectory table, while the gramophone would play the latest hits by Noel Coward. When she was sure that all her guests were gathered attentively below, Mrs Greville would descend the staircase slowly, pausing at the landing for maximum impact before completing her entree among her visitors'.

Food for the famous...
'Attention to detail ensured that the food arrived piping hot, while the champagne chilled, a welcome novelty compared with many country house dinners. Mrs Greville was renowned for her french cuisine, which was described in the Daily Telegraph in 1930 as 'unsurpassed anywhere'.


The Polesden Lacey Dinner Book

If you were a guest of Mrs Greville, 
you would have enjoyed...

The Guest Room

The Library

The Billiard Room

Hooray for Mrs. Greville! 


images 5,9 and text references here
all other images~ me


18 comments:

  1. so glad you enjoyed your weekend.. i dont know what it is about you.. but i truly sense you are so genuine and darling... everytime i read one of your posts or see a comment you have left my heart is happy.
    xx pam

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  2. I loved this post! As always, you entice us to want more, more. Have a wonderful week, my friend. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for us.

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  3. It was so lovely so see you enjoying a place that is ingrained in my own family history! When my husband and i were courting we used to go for long walks at polsden lacey and then as my four children came along it was a lovely place to take them for walks and picnics and to throw a penny in the well for luck! we have many many family photographs of our family at all different stages of life in and around the grounds and hope it well become a special place for you too! p.s. have you been to petersham nursery yet? go - you will love it!

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  4. Short on time today...but long on feeling exceptionally lucky to have 'met' you and to have this fabulous blog as part of my daily life. Ditto, ditto to Red Ticking's comment! You always bring us your wonderful adventures-and this one was pretty grand! I think a Lifescape for Ms. H would be pretty terrific!

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  5. Dear Jeanne,
    I think that I would have loved to have stayed for the weekend at Mrs. Greville's place !! Gorgeous house, wonderful food and a whole lot of fun, I'll be bound. I have never been to Polesden Lacey so it is now on my list of places to visit. I look forward to Part 2. XXXX

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  6. What a wonderful post. She certainly does sound like the most fascinating figure, and those photographs are utterly beautiful - opulent, grand and elegant, an recipe for perfection indeed. I loved the story about the intoxicated butler handing Mrs. Grenville's note to Austen Chamberlain; that really made me laugh :D

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  7. What a beautiful post (I read it twice, trying to absorb as much as possible, lost in time each time, ahhh). Ohhhh how fortunate you are to enjoy such a place. I didn't know much about Mrs. G but, after your most interesting post, am eager to learn more so will google around her. And that story of the drunk butler is priceless, LOL.

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  8. So glad you had a wonderful weekend. Mrs Greville sounds like a character, I adore the drunken butler story.
    XX

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  9. Oh Jeanne, I would have loved to have visited this one with you - it looks so interesting. What a character Mrs Greville must have been. She makes our lives feel so mundane.

    I look forward to hearing more.
    Sharon

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  10. I loved this post, and how nice to find your blog! What an unreal life Mrs Greville led. I would loved to spend a weekend at Polesdon Lacey - even if it were as a fly on the wall! Thanks for the story.

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  11. A monumental post! It was really fun to enter such an extravagant world. Loved the drunken butler story. Thanks!!!

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  12. Thanks for dropping by, Jeanne, and your good wishes. Hub and I are excited about the trip, this time next week we'll be getting ready to go to the airport, yay. Jeanne, I hope you can visit some of theh blogs I listed. You have a lovely writing voice. This post particularly captivates. When we travel, we Yanks are quick to buy books around where we're going. I guess what I'm saying is there's a market for your very pleasing writing voice and your knowledge of history. Have you thought about expanding into this arena? What's really interesting about these writers' blogs (other than tips on how to hone skills) is the ins and outs of getting published. I've learned there's a UK press called Lyrical Press that doesn't require an agent, accepts e-mail submissions and looks for fresh talent. Perhaps you could send them this post. It's that good!!!

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  13. Bonjour Jeanne,
    Mrs. Greville sounds fascinating. You took some great images, English style with a dash of French decor.
    Yes I agree with Red Ticking as well, you are genuine - a real treasure to find! Thanks for yet another fabulous post!
    Mimi

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  14. What a great post - if I can't visit in person, I feel like I've just had a first-hand look at this gorgeous home. Absolutely fabulous as usual! K xx

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  15. I love touring country houses when I go to the England. I haven't been to Polesden Lacey but it looks like one I would really enjoy. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I've just signed up for the fabulour lifescape giveaway.

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  16. I just love the colors in the Billiard Room! Oh, and that image of the guest room is do lovely, too.

    What a fascinating character Mrs. Greville was.

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  17. Hi all...I just want to thank you for your very kind comments. I am touched. I have to admit this article is pretty much the writing of the curator or writer of the brochure. I just picked out what I liked, arranged it and added my photos. But...thanks for your comments..they have made my week!!

    Jeanne:)

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  18. What an incredible house - the entry way has me entralled!

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Can I just say....that I so enjoy what YOU have to say. If you would like to write to me directly, I would love to hear from you... jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

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