Owners of Cliveden have been a politician, diplomat, poet, playwright, amateur chemist, gambler, satanist, adulterer and a murderer. And that is just one of them, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham who first had a 'house' built here beginning in 1666 (Year of the Great Beast and the Great Fire of London). It has close connections to Scotland and to monarchy, especially the Stewarts. Cliveden is pronounced Cleave-den. Purportedly it is named from the chalk cliffs that hang over the River Thames (Thames means Time - Cronos - Satan -Old Father Thames) at that spot. Clive means cliff. Why don't they pronounce it like it's spelt, Clive-den? If we look at the El-ite pronounciation we extract Cleave-den. Cleave = Cloven and Den = a lair, a hideaway, a place of crime. Lair of the Cloven? This is only a thought, but it seems very appropriate to a number of the owners of this large, oppressive feeling, and secluded manor.
Duke of Buckingham
Buckingham owed his title to his father being a fancy-man of James 1st (6th of Scotland). He married Mary, daughter of Lord Fairfax (1) ( the middle name of former West Australian premier, Richard Fairfax Court and the surname of John Fairfax, the Australian media baron) but took a mistress, Anna Brudenell, the Countess of Shrewsbury whose husband Buckingham later 'ran through' in a duel near Putney. Buckingham, (real name George Villiers) had a son with the Countess, though how that is known is hard to tell because she was well known for 'putting it about'. Anyway Buckingham died on the 16th April 1687 without an heir. (2) Buckingham was brought up with the children of Charles 1st (Stewart-Stuart) after his father, the 1st Duke, was offed by lieutenant John Felton at Portsmouth. He fought for the Royalists during the Civil War, had his lands confiscated and returned (twice) and twice fled to Holland. In 1650 he joined Charles II in Scotland and rode with the Scottish army to the Battle of Worcester where they were routed. Buckingham legged it back to the Netherlands, returning 7 years later after falling out with Charles and after he thought the dust had settled. It hadn't and he was banged up in the Tower for a year and a bit. Only earthworks around the grounds can be ascribed to Villiers time. According to the National Trust: ' There are no surviving papers to shed light on the Duke's building works at Cliveden.' Buckingham died in his brother-in-law's house at Kirkbymoorside, Yorkshire in 1687. After flogging his horse to exhaustion he fell orff, dropped asleep in the wet grass and caught his death - a fever.
(1) In 1660 Lord Fairfax head-hunted Charles II to take up the job of future sacrificial sun-king after his father's executioner, Cromwell had died.
(2) Lady Shrewsbury was an altogether nasty piece of work. Whilst Buckingham dispatched her husband she stood by holding Buckingham's horse.
After the duel Pepys wrote: 'This will make the world think that the king hath good councillors about him, when the Duke of Buckingham, the greatest man about him, is a fellow of no more sobriety than to fight about a whore.'
On another occassion she issued a contract to kill a former lover, Harry Killigrew. Although Killigrew just about survived his man-servant was not as fortunate.
Lord George Hamilton
The next owner of Cliveden was a career soldier who the same year (1696) had been created the Earl of Orkney. George Hamilton, son of the 1st Earl of Selkirk (this one didn't have a sun tan) had been born the same year that Buckingham had commenced building Cliveden in 1666 (year of the Great Beast 666). Hamilton had married a cousin of Buckingham's, Elizabeth Villiers who had been a bedmate of the puppet-king, William of Orange. Whereupon he had advanced his career and status.(3) Lady Orkney's reviews are a mixed bunch. The author, Jonathan Swift remarked that she squinteth like a dragon but apart from that she was the wisest (snakeist?) person he knew. The Lord High Chancellor, Francis Godolphin said she was extremely meddlesome in state affairs and that between her and another gossip, Lord Shrewsbury 'tis hard to determine which is the greater politician..' The most cutting comments though come from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was a Hell-Fire Club priestess: 'She exposed behind a mixture of fat and wrinkles, and before a considerable pair of bubbies a good deal withered, a great belly that preceded her; add to this the inimitable roll of her eyes and her grey hair which by good fortune stood directly upright, and 'tis impossible to imagine a more delightful spectacle.' (4) During Hamilton's time at Cliveden he lowered the height of the house from 4 storeys to 3 and added wings to the east and the west. The garden was landscaped to include what was said to be Blenheim battle positions and an octagonal temple was erected on the Thames river bank in the south-west of the rear garden. In 1714 George I appointed Lord Orkney governor of Virginia; a post he held until his death in 1737 even though he never set foot in the place. After his death he was succeeded by his daughter, Anne but as she already had a home Cliveden was let to Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales who was the son of George II and the father of George III.
(3) Hamilton became second in command to the Duke of Marlborough at the famous victory over the French at Blenheim. (After which Marlborough was given Blenheim Palace 'a gift from a grateful nation'.)
(4) Letter to Lady Mar, October 1727, in Robert Halsband, ed., The Selected Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, London, 1986,p.152. Lady Mar's husband was a prominent Jacobite and Freemason.
It appears that little was done to the house during the prince's tenure. Mainly, the house was used as his country retreat where he made himself useful by playing cards and cricket, drinking, listening to music and entertaining. The prince was a freemason and a close friend of another freemason and satanist, Sir Francis Dashwood. (5)
At Cliveden during his tenancy the famous British chest thumper 'Rule Britannia' was played in public for the first time which must have made his Hanoverian heart swell with pride.
When Britain first at Heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sung this strain:
'Rule Britannia, rule the waves;
Britons never will be slaves.'
Unless of course the refrain doesn't really refer to Britain the country. There is enough symbolic language for it to apply to someone and somewhere completely different; from out of this world in fact. Fred was born 1707 in Hanover, came to England in 1728, moved to Cliveden in 1737 and remained until 1751 when he was bowled out at 44. A cricket ball hit him on the head. Following the 'return to base' of Prince Frederick, the Countess of Orkney resumed Cliveden but only lived in it sporadically. She died in 1756 and her husband died in 1777. Their deaf and dumb daughter Mary inherited their estate until she died in 1791.
(5) The Hellfire Club (The Monks of Medenham) was only a short carriage ride away on Sir Francis Dashwood's estate at Wycombe.
On 20th May 1795 the house burned down - supposedly after a servant knocked a candle over. At the time the widowed 3rd Countess of Orkney was living at Cliveden. The mansion was destroyed except for the two wings. Though Lady Orkney contemplated rebuilding, the main house remained derelict for 26 years. The Grand Pile (of rubble) was eventually purchased in 1821 by Sir George Warrender.
Sir George Warrender
Warrender's purchase of Cliveden (For 39,500 quid) could not be completed until 1824 due to legalities. Sir George was a Member of Parliament and heir to an Edinburgh fortune. Edinburgh architect, William Burn was the man chosen to square up the new mansion - His design being dictated by the remaining two wings and the foundations. The new house had only two storeys and was used mostly for entertaining. In 1849 Sir George died and the house was again placed on the market. The next two owners of Cliveden were really the same family under different names, so interlocked through marriage were they. The Sutherlands and the Grosvenors were at the time the two richest families in the country. Both had vast interests in Scotland and of course England. Stafford House in St James and Grosvenor House in Park Lane were the London Headquarters of the Sutherlands and the Grosvenors respectively. The first of these El-ite families to purchase Cliveden was the Sutherlands.
© Ellis Taylor 2001