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The Marlborough House – From Royalty to Commonwealth Secretariat

The Marlborough House:

Marlborough House as The Royal Mansion

The Marlborough House is located in the city of Westminster, Inner London. This Grade I listed mansion is an uncrowned royalty of London.

The Marlborough House, London

Currently, the mansion houses the Commonwealth Secretariat and is the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations.

When was Marlborough House built?

The Marlborough House was built as a gift for Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. She was said to be the closest confidante of Queen Anne.

 Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

The plan was laid as per the Duchess’s requirements by architect Sir Christopher Wren and his son. Duchess Sarah wanted her new house to be strong and plain. The foundation was laid in 1709 and the project was completed in 1711.

Which Royals lived in Marlborough House?

Though the Marlborough House was not initially planned to house the British royalties, it eventually did. The early residents were the Dukes of Marlborough who resided there for almost a century. History has that, the mansion has seen 5 Dukes and Duchesses.

The Crown took back the Marlborough House in 1817 after which it was used to house the Royalties. After the reclaim, the House became the residence of Princess Charlotte of Wales and her husband, Prince Leopold.

King Edward VII, First Son of Queen Victoria

Tragically Princess Charlotte died later that year and Prince Leopold became the king of the Belgians. Thus the House came under King William IV and his Queen Adelaide. After the accession of King William IV, the Marlborough house was given to his Queen in 1830, who lived there until her death.

After Queen Adelaide’s death in 1849, Prince Albert gave the House to National Art Training School (later Royal College of Arts) for the period of 1853 to 1861.

Later the Marlborough House was renovated by the architect, Sir James Pennethorne, by adding extra rooms and a deep porch. The renovation was done for the Prince of Wales and his Queen Alexandra.

Marlborough House Pall Mall

Also, the entrance, which was originally in the Pall Mall, was moved to the Marlborough road. The royal couple had their second son in the Marlborough house in 1865. Later they moved to Buckingham Palace following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

Queen Alexandra came home to Marlborough house after the death of her husband. Following suit, Queen Mary, the widow of Queen Alexandra’s son made Marlborough House her residence in 1936.

What Scandals are Associated with Marlborough House?

Royalties have always been in the thick of scandals from time immeasurable. This royal mansion too became a part of scandals after Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) married Alexandra, Princess of Denmark. Prince Albert did hold have Victorianism in him. He loved balls, socializing and gambling.

Red Drawing Room, Marlborough House

As a result, the Marlborough house was the seat of some major scandals. Prince Albert did not give much importance to class and surrounded himself with a crowd which had title and money and was always ready for a game. As a result, the gates of the royal mansion were opened for the public. This served as a catalyst in breaking the class barrier system of Britain.

Underrated House

Though the Marlborough House has a rich history to boast about, it has often come under the harsh criticisms of history enthusiasts. The probable reason being it lacks an appealing exterior.

What the Marlborough-House lacks in exterior extravagance, it compensates in the interior decoration. The grand mansion holds an exquisite collection of murals, paintings, and tapestries.

Marlborough House Interiors

Even with a plain design, the house forms a splendid sight. But the House has always received harsh comments from critics.  The book ‘Great Houses of London’ described the mansion as a ‘sorry sight’. It is said that Duchess Sarah Churchill did not want her house to be ostentatious.

Marlborough House - Interior (Hall)

This inspired the architect Sir Christopher Wren to design a mansion which was completely different from the then famous Palladian style. It is also said that the red bricks were imported from Holland through ships, which were initially used to carry the Duke of Marlborough’s troop to Holland.

Commonwealth of Nations

Queen Elizabeth II, in 1959, gave the house to the British Government. The Marlborough mansion has been functioning as the headquarters of Common Wealth of Nations to date. Commonwealth usually arranges tours of the House. Also, the public is allowed to tour during the annual London Open House Weekend.

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