A royal honeymoon at the National Trust's Polesden Lacey - love stories with Mrs Greville
PUBLISHED: 12:06 13 February 2012 | UPDATED: 12:20 21 December 2014
Head behind the scenes of the National Trust's Polesden Lacey this Valentine's Day and discover some of the love stories that have unfolded there
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2011
If you’re looking for somewhere to take your loved one this Valentine’s Day, there can be few places more perfect for a hand-held stroll than the beautiful grounds of Polesden Lacey, the magnificent country mansion and estate near Dorking.
What better than dreamy walks in the woods, perhaps an unforgettable marriage proposal in the formal gardens and then a spot of lunch or afternoon ‘tea for two’?
What is more, what many people don’t realise is that the house has a romantic history all of its own – and every weekend in February, there will be a chance to find out more about this during one of the behind-the-scenes Sneak Peek tours taking place.
Providing a fascinating insight into the historical characters that once frequented the house, and a few of the love stories that ensued, the tours will also provide the chance to see inside the private apartments of the Edwardian hostess Mrs Margaret Greville for the very first time.
So, with love in the air this month, here we bring you three of the endearing tales connected to Polesden Lacey.
The hostess’ story
Born in London in 1863, rumours persisted throughout Margaret Greville’s life that her natural father was Edinburgh brewer William McEwan, who fell in love with her mother, Helen Anderson. The pair married in 1885. Margaret herself also married for love, to Irish aristocrat, Hon Ronald Greville, in 1891.
She adored both her husband and her father, and it was Ronald’s social connections and her father’s wealth that enabled her to become one of the foremost hostesses in Edwardian society.
Noted for her caustic wit, royal connections and impressive art collection, Margaret entertained many influential friends at Polesden Lacey in the 1920s and 30s, bequeathing the property to the National Trust in memory of William McEwan on her death in 1942.
A strict but fair employer, Margaret Greville had about 70 staff between her homes at Polesden Lacey and London. On one occasion, she facilitated a London maid’s romance with one of the country gardeners, by asking the maid to look after her dogs at Polesden Lacey.
A royal honeymoon
Using her position and the charms of Polesden Lacey, with its luxurious house and extensive grounds, Margaret impressed British royalty during four monarchies: Edward VII and Alexandra; George V and Mary; Edward VIII; and George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother).
During her time in Great Bookham, she played host to several members of the Royal family along with their friends and favoured members of court, and played her part in a few royal romances, too.
For instance, the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) were frequent guests, enjoying each other’s company both at Margaret’s London residence and in Surrey. In fact, she even offered the couple the exclusive use of Polesden Lacey for the royal honeymoon in May 1923, and her butler, Frank Bole, visited Buckingham Palace to confirm the arrangements.
With that in mind, the National Trust hopes to welcome many more couples this Valentine’s Day and hopes their own love stories will flourish at this historic home.
- Need to know: Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey RH5 6BD: 01372 458203. Events for Valentine’s Day and half-term are listed at www.nationaltrust.org.uk