Cliveden House to star in a new TV show

A behind-the-scenes glimpse into the running of the luxury hotel

The impressive Palladian mansion graced Britain’s TV screens earlier this year as the Duchess of Sussex chose to spend the night before her nuptials at the country-house hotel. Now, Cliveden House is the focus of a new Channel 4 series, A Very British Country House.

For the first time in its 350-year history, the Grade I-listed stately home has opened its doors to cameras. In a four-part series airing on Sunday 25 November, viewers will get an exclusive insight into the upstairs-downstairs drama of running a luxury five-star hotel during a busy summer season. 

The butler Michael Chaloner discusses the importance of reading what guests want; the sommelier Sean Arthur leaves the wealth of the wine cellars to help co-ordinate the catering; and the business-development manager James Rogers invites the bloggers Ben and Katie, and their Pomeranian dog Pepi, to experience Cliveden.

Meanwhile, the wedding co-ordinator Lydia Kenny moves mountains for her guests, transforming the hotel to match the wishes of each and every couple, be it a sumptuous Indian affair or a traditional English country-house ceremony. While the end result may be a fairy-tale come true, getting there is something of a marathon. 

“I spend a lot of time running around like a psycho while still trying to maintain an air of calm in front of the bride so that she’s not panicking," Kenny told Town & Country. “I get home and lie with my legs up against the wall because my feet are burning!”

From creating seating plans at the 11th hour to battling with an immovable safe door, there is no hurdle the Cliveden staff cannot overcome. “I don’t think there’s anyone here that doesn’t give 100 per cent,” says Kenny. 

Built in the 17th century and conceived by Charles Barry, the architect credited with designing the Palace of Westminster, the manor house has long been a playground for the aristocracy, which has a colourful reputation for scandal.

Soon after it was first constructed, the house was bought by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, as a gift for his mistress. Just two years later, the Duke was wounded in a duel over the affair.

In 1893 the American businessman William Waldorf Astor bought the Cliveden estate. His son later married Nancy Shaw, who became the first woman elected to parliament in 1919. During the Astor years, Cliveden played host to many influential guests including Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt.

The hotel is perhaps best known as the backdrop to the Profumo Affair in 1961. The Conservative secretary of state John Profumo met the 19-year-old model Christine Keeler at Cliveden, and their resulting affair became a national scandal. 

The house was finally opened as a luxury hotel in 1985. The Lady Astor suite, which includes a private terrace with incredible views over the Parterre gardens and Thames, is available from £1,535 a night. 

'A Very British Country House' will air on 25 November at 9pm on Channel 4. 

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