Mrs Greville and Polesden Lacey

I am doing a bit of reshuffling, reorganising and blogkeeping as I consolidate a few blogs. Mrs Greville has been a big part of my English life having spent many hours inside and out of this beautiful property. The following refers to a post I wrote at Collage of Life in June 2010.

I had the most wonderful experience, 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 what was oncer her home,  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 of exceptional taste. 

The curators of Polesden Lacey  had this to say about Mrs Greville...

An inveterate traveller...
'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

Discreet dalliances...
'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

Can you see why I am enchanted?
Feeling tempted to visit?
You can find out

More on Polesden Lacey
here and here.

images 5,9 and text references here

all other images~ me


  1. Wow! Such an elegant home with attention to all details! I'm sure it was a wonderful tour so thank you Jeanne, for sharing this interesting woman's home!!

  2. Oh Jeanne, what a fascinating post. My goodness, they did get up to some shenanigans in those days! Fabulous. J x

  3. When we visited PL, the house was closed. Drat. But how I enjoyed the sweeping views! I want to go back to see the house and tulip display this spring :) XOL

  4. I can definitely see why you were enchanted!

    Aren't the National Trust homes wonderful!! Oh, I just thought of a book you might like but cant think of the name. Will make a note and get back to you...