The Buckinghamshire locations with royal connections
PUBLISHED: 11:13 15 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:13 15 May 2018
Hugh Mothersole HP10 8DU UK
They may be busy with Prince Harry’s wedding in Berkshire, but regal visitors have been making the most of Buckinghamshire’s beauty for centuries
In terms of regal titles, Buckinghamshire can’t compete with its southern neighbour where, decades ago, the presence of royal residence, Windsor Castle, culminated in official recognition as the Royal County of Berkshire. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy our fair share of visits and influences, historic and present, from earlier royal dynasties to the House of Windsor. Far from it. So join me on a journey around the county and prepare to feast on our numerous royal connections.
After its completion in 1883, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild welcomed many of his social circle, including the then Prince of Wales (who became Edward VII), to this magnificent property. Queen Victoria visited in 1890 and was apparently much taken with the electric chandeliers fitted with simulated candles. But she declined to use a small lift he had installed for her visit, not trusting in electricity to carry her up and down.
Since then royal calls have continued. When Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall were guests their influence was twofold. After planting a variegated sycamore the artistic heir celebrated his label design – a watercolour depicting the Cap d’Antibes to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale – on the 2004 vintage of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. King Edward VII, of whom Charles is a direct descendant, played a crucial role in this historic alliance during the First World War.
With hospitality high on the Rothschilds’ agenda, not surprisingly they own many dinner services including a 400 piece set, a gift from King Louis XI to an Austrian Prince. And amongst beautifully crafted furniture is a desk made for Queen Marie Antoinette and a carpet from the chapel in the Palace of Versailles.
An atlas cedar, planted in the grounds by Queen Elizabeth in 1995, replaced an earlier tree, originally planted by Queen Victoria but lost during the Great Storm over 30 years ago.
Chenies Manor House
It’s hard to get away from Queen Elizabeth I – like her father, King Henry VIII, she loved hunting and was particularly known for her habit of touring the country in every summer, in what were known as ‘royal progresses’. Her chosen hosts would be both honoured and faced with great expense in lavishly entertaining the royal party. Of course it also gave the popular queen a chance to be lauded by ordinary people who delighted in her processions of carriages passing through their towns and villages – a precursor of the ‘Royal walkabout’!
At Chenies there is the Queen Elizabeth Oak, so named because it is said that the royal visitor lost some jewellery beneath it while staying at the Manor House. While it’s true that a couple of aglets, small enamelled blue gold fastenings, are recorded as going missing from a queenly gown during a visit to Chenies, there’s no real evidence that fell off close to the tree.
In favouring Chenies, Elizabeth was following in the footsteps of her father. King Henry VIII stayed there with his fifth wife, the unfortunate Catherine Howard, who lasted just 16 months before being beheaded. At that time Chenies was owned by John Russell, who had been created Earl of Bedford, and Woburn Abbey would later become the principal family seat.
The Empress of India, however, was more of a regular at Hughenden Manor. Home to Disraeli, the Queen’s favourite Prime Minister, her comfort during dinner was assured when a dining chair, still on view today, had its legs lowered to accommodate her modest stature.
Just before Christmas in 1877, Victoria and her daughter Princess Beatrice, together with the necessary entourage, took the train from Windsor to High Wycombe to visit Hughenden. The journey lasted around 45 minutes as you could then access the line to Wycombe via Maidenhead.
Today we are talking just under an hour and 40 minutes (on a good day!) as you’d have to change trains three times, including using the Underground from Paddington to Marylebone, to make the same rail journey. Disraeli met the royal party at High Wycombe station and during the afternoon out both the Queen and princess planted trees at Hughenden following lunch. She was back home in Windsor by 4pm, following another swift train trip.
There was a poignant return to Hughenden at the end of April 1881. Disraeli had died and Victoria arrived from Windsor to see his flower-covered coffin in an open vault. A portrait of herself that she had given Disraeli was still on display in the drawing room. She took tea in the library before leaving for the last time.
Queen Victoria was said to be jealous of the magnificence of Stowe, but showing off to her didn’t help the spendthrift 2nd Duke of Buckingham. In an effort to impress her during a royal visit he spent a fortune on furniture. Within a few years the estate was seized by bailiffs and most of the finery was sold cheaply at auction.
Designed by Sir William Chambers, with the help of King George III and Queen Charlotte, Hedsor would become the home of the Dowager Princess of Wales, the monarch’s mother.
As a result it was a favourite spot for Royal visitors, including Queen Victoria, a frequent guest who would come for tea from nearby Windsor.
Aylesbury and Wendover
Henry VIII is to have stayed at the King’s Head while wooing Anne Boleyn, and also made Aylesbury the county town over Buckingham simply to impress her father, who had inherited the area in 1529. The ‘royal history’ of the King’s Head goes back even further, Henry VI and Queen Margaret stayed there during a tour of his kingdom. It was owned by the Verneys, who until this day have their family seat at Claydon House in Aylesbury Vale.
The Thatched Cottage at Stoke Mandeville is, according to local folklore, one of places Anne entertained Henry before their doomed marriage.
A few miles away Anne Boleyn cottages are a familiar feature in the picturesque village of Wendover. This row of thatched, black and white dwellings is reputed to have been part of her dowry to Henry VIII.
The present day
Accompanying the Queen on her official duties to Buckinghamshire is the High Sheriff. Professor Ruth Farwell, the current incumbent, talks excitedly about this role which, at over 1,000 years old, is the oldest continuous Office under the Crown. “I feel truly honoured to have been nominated as High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire for 2018-19 and am looking forward to a rewarding, and busy year of service to the county.”
Of course, the presence of other members of the Royal Family continues in earnest. Recently HRH The Princess Royal, as the organisation’s Royal Patron, opened a new Welcome Centre at Saunderton’s Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Such charity involvement is a major duty for many royals and none more so than The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. When visiting Child Bereavement UK’s headquarters in Saunderton, they witnessed groups the organisation runs for bereaved children, young people and parents. On another occasion the Duke joined in the celebrations marking Milton Keynes’ Fiftieth Anniversary.
His uncle, The Earl of Wessex, last year toured Bletchley Park’s Off Duty: High Spirits in Low Times exhibition. His mother has also been to this iconic venue, as well as The Duchess of Cambridge whose grandmother, Valerie Glassborow, worked as part of the codebreaking operation.
After such hectic schedules, every royal must welcome going home to a good night’s sleep. Thanks to Hypnos, that is exactly what they are guaranteed. Not only is this company run by the fifth generation of the Keen family, they have also held a Royal Warrant since 1929. This highly prized accolade demonstrates the highest standards in excellence, quality and service. No wonder this Princes Risborough business supplies all the royal residences. It undertakes bespoke upholstery commissions, too, which has included the banquet seating for Buckingham Palace’s Ballroom.
The small market town’s historic royal links date back even further, to the 1400s, when it was a location for a royal stud. The Manor passed to Edward, the Black Prince, and later Henry VIII granted a charter for a weekly market and two annual fairs which remain as popular as ever with locals.
Within a short walk is one of many pubs in Buckinghamshire bearing royal monikers, The King and Queen. Along with Penn’s The Old Queens Head and The Crown at Gawcott, this traditional hostelry offers old fashioned hospitality complemented by seasonal, tasty food. But if you’re nearer to Amersham The Kings Arms Hotel also oozes character, hence its TV and film location status, most notably Four Weddings and a Funeral. Although as we’re on the subject of royalty, let’s not dwell on the fact that Oliver Cromwell was once a guest.
So there you have it, Buckinghamshire may not claim any inkling of royalty in its name, but nevertheless the county attracts a wealth of majestic attention and patronage.
• A look inside the Royal Wedding venue: St George’s Chapel - ‘The Romance of St George’s Chapel’. That’s the title of a 1933 book by King George V’s chaplain, Harry Blackburne. Our ‘visit’ is naturally less detailed, but still an intriguing read!