Marlborough House and grounds are, and always have been, Crown property, as we shall presently see; and it is somewhat remarkable to find Mr. John Timbs stating in his "Curiosities of London" (edition of 1885), that in the year 1817 the mansion was purchased by the Crown for the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold.

A Victorian

The Entrance and Approach from Pall Mall

The Offices - The Stables - The Grounds and Garden

#As the heavy gates at the entrance to Marlborough House swing back with much clatter to allow some vehicle to emerge into Pall Mall, passers-by naturally pause, in their desire to obtain a peep at the Prince of Wales' London residence. But all they can see is a narrow carriage-drive, apparently terminating a little way down near a plain red-brick building; a pavement on the left, edged with dwarf shrubs; and a solitary gas-lamp projecting from an angle of the lofty building adjoining. If quick to observe, they may also perceive that the roadway is bounded on the right by the rear of a low building, commonly supposed to be in some way connected with the German Chapel, or Marlborough House, but which is really independent of either, being the dwelling-place of the park gatekeeper, and the St. James' Palace turn-cock.

At the side of one of the sentry-boxes flanking the entrance gates, where all the year round the Queen's Guards keep watch and ward, is a door kept ajar by a leathern strap, and so ponderous that considerable dexterity is required to push it back and enter with any sort of dignity.

Once within, a gate-porter, clad in Royal livery — urbane, but befittingly conscious of his responsible position — issues from a curious little lodge behind the door, and asks the nature of your business; or, in the event of his temporary absence, one of the numerous policemen always on duty, comes forward and attends to you. Should you desire to enter your name in the Visitors' Book, you are politely shown into a small room close by, where, in a substantial volume lying open upon the table, you add your signature to that of many other callers. But, if bound for the Comptroller of the Household's department, you are at once directed to the plain red-brick building before mentioned. If you are a perfect stranger, however, you are probably ushered into the office of Police-sergeant Payn, by whom you are closely questioned, and — all being satisfactory — are permitted to proceed, when you quickly discover that the carriage-drive does not end as it appeared to do, but turning sharp to the left, passes a stone and brick screen, and, by way of a tolerably spacious quadrangle, terminates at the porte-cochere of Marlborough House.

This quadrangle is formed by the main building, its various offices, and the unsightly backs of sundry clubs in Pall Mall. Terra-cotta boxes of antique design filled with dwarf rhododendrons, mask the base of the walls, and five shapely bay trees in large wooden boxes stand like sentinels in front of the porch.

The business offices are arranged upon an excellent system, and are pervaded by a refined, reposeful atmosphere, only disturbed by a certain element of expectation on the part of the visitor, who knows that at any moment he may come across the Prince or some of the higher officials.

Two courteous messengers, Gwillim and Bruce, have charge of the ante-room, where several commissionaires are also in attendance. There the letters, telegrams and parcels constantly arriving and being despatched are dealt with, and all enquiries are first made.

A corridor with tesselated floor, and walls adorned with some fine engravings after Landseer — dogs and deer that can hardly be looked at without instantly recalling the soft breeze of the moors and the scent of the heather — overlooks, from its five windows, the courtyard, and gives access on the left to a small room, where Mr. E. Bryant, the junior clerk, has under his care one of Remington's improved type-writing machines, fitted to what is called a "drop cabinet," an arrangement enabling it to be lowered quite out of sight when not in use, and converted into a writing-desk.

Adjoining is a comfortable apartment furnished with every appliance for writing, where are many ponderous ledgers for the entry of departmental transactions. Along the walls are oaken presses, wherein documents of all kinds are carefully filed, while framed illuminated addresses to the Prince of Wales from various Masonic Lodges look down upon the person of Mr. G. D. Long, who, under Lord Suffield, has clerical charge of all pertaining to the Royal stables.

Then comes a cosy waiting-room, and beyond it — across the anteroom — the sanctum of Mr. F. Morgan Bryant, private secretary to Sir Dighton Probyn, and chief clerk in these offices, upon whom devolves the great responsibility of " keeping the books. And here I may remark that the oldest established City firm can hardly surpass the exactitude and method with which every transaction is recorded at Marlborough House. So well is the indexing arranged, that at a few minutes' notice any letter or paper relating to years back can be produced, and this is what few counting-houses with the best of systems can boast of. Behind Mr. Bryant's writing-table hanqs R. Caton Woodville's well-known Jubilee picture of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Everything is in absolute order, and should his Royal Highness make an unexpected descent into these regions, his clerical staff are ready for him.

There are clerks and clerks! — from the highly-favoured official at the Treasury or Foreign Office, who sits in a gorgeous apartment overlooking the park — the Clarence Bulbul of Thackeray's imagining — rejoicing in a salary of £2,000 a year and residing at South Kensington or Belgravia, down to the City drudge at £1 a week, living at Camberwell or Hoxton. But the clerks at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Marlborough House are a class by themselves. The utmost discretion and fidelity are required of them, and never do they betray their trust. Facts and circumstances of the highest moment pass to their knowledge, most inadvisable to disclose or even hint at; and, in spite of the "pumping" to which they are subjected by relatives and friends, they steadfastly resist the temptation to talk of the sayings and doings of Royalty. Their periods of service are always long as, once duly installed, they seldom or never leave save from failing health. Thus, Mr. Baskcomb, who lately retired, had been twenty-one years at Marlborough House, while Mr. Bryant took office in 1879.

Sir Francis Knollys' room is next to Mr. Bryant's, and just across the passage, by way of the corridor in the main building, is the apartment where the Comptroller of the Household reigns supreme. It is some 30 ft. in length, and not unlike the "parlour" of a first-class bank. From its windows can be easily noted the arrivals and departures at the main entrance, and its occupant is in instant communication not only with the office by means of a labyrinth of speaking-tubes, but with His Royal Highness, who has in his sitting-room a moveable frame about a foot long, containing six or eight electric buttons, with the names of such personages as the Comptroller, etc., etc., inscribed thereon, whom he can summon in an instant. This convenient arrangement can be carried from one part of the room to another and the Princess is provided with a similar apparatus. Marlborough House is now connected with the general system of Post Office telephones — a great convenience; and the rooms of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Sir Dighton Probyn, Sir F. Knollys, and the House-Steward, are also in direct communication one with another by means of the switch-board in the messengers' room.

To the Comptroller's room the Prince often comes to discuss important matters with Sir Francis Knollys and Sir Dighton Probyn. It is par excellence the business - room of Marlborough House, and if its walls could speak, their revelations would be of deepest interest. Like the other offices, it is comfortably furnished, for use and not for show.

A large block of plain bricks and mortar facing the offices across the quadrangle, is devoted to the domestic department of Marlborough House, where first in size and importance comes the lofty kitchen — 35x25 feet — fitted with every modern appliance and convenience. There is only one kitchen, conveniently situated, however; in this respect, unlike the culina at Buckingham Palace, whence the various dishes have to be conveyed a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile before they arrive at the Queen's private apartment on the north side, necessitating the use of charcoal-heated hot-closets, which are placed outside Her Majesty's dining- room.

At Marlborough House it is highly interesting to take a peep at the culinary department when some grand banquet is in course of preparation. Passing from the main building down a flight of steps and through swinging glass doors, the kitchen is reached, where at the farther end is a large fire-place with spits whose capacity for holding joints seems unlimited. On one side of the range is a huge oven, and on the other a splendid gas-grill with bars that, by means of a lever, can instantly be raised or lowered. Occupying the centre of the room is a spacious oaken table, whereon one sees sundry saddles of lamb being prepared for the ordeal by fire. In another apartment are arranged the most tempting-looking dainties — chaudfroid of ortolans, quails, filets de truite, etc., etc.; and in the confectionery room, some -lovely composition in sugar, clear as crystal, and pervaded by an exquisite shade of green, reminding one of some beautiful production of Salviati.

At the rear of the kitchen, the domestic offices extend eastward, and afford space for several larders, china and confectionery rooms, steward's offices, etc., in short, for every convenience required in the running of a large establishment.

Separated by a narrow passage leading into the garden, are the stables. They were built by Messrs. G. Smith and Co. from Sir James Pennethorne's design, in the year 1S59, at a cost of £25,000, under one of the provisions of the Act of Settlement of Marlborough House upon the Prince of Wales in 1S50, whereby it was enacted that Her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods and Forests should — subject to the direction of the Treasury — provide suitable coach-houses and stables on ground belonging to Marlborough House, and for that purpose should apply out of the proceeds, arising from the sale of the old stables and coach-houses formerly belonging to Carlton Palace, a sum not exceeding £5,000.

Considerable correspondence passed between the Treasury, the Woods and Forests, and the Prince's representative, as to the exact disposal of these old materials. But eventually, as this proposed arrangement proved inconvenient, the sum of £2,100 was paid over to the Prince of Wales in lieu, and accepted in full satisfaction, of his claim under the Act.

These stables stood at the back of the present County Council offices in Spring Gardens, in what was called Carlton Ride, and were not pulled down until the year 1862, the southern boundary wall of the ride, and a porter's lodge on the south side of it, remaining until 1865.

On the site of the present mews stood a fine riding-school belonging to George, Duke of Marlborough, which, in apian of 1784 attached to the surveyor's report on Marlborough House, appears as standing at right angles to the present kitchen wing, and extending to the north-east 231 feet. It was 43 feet wide — commodious as the one at Buckingham Palace.

Although on a scale necessarily inferior to Her Majesty's stables in London or Windsor, those of the Prince are fairly spacious, considering the area available. About forty or fifty horses are kept here during the season, with perhaps a dozen or more at Mason's Yard, Duke Street. Space being restricted, most of the animals have to be accommodated on a floor above the coach-houses, to which access is easily obtained by an inclined roadway. There are, of course, permanent quarters for the coachmen, grooms, etc., where all that can add to their health and comfort is considered.

In front of the building is a quadrangle covered over with glass, shaded in summer by striped awnings, where the various carriages are got ready for use, and undergo a thorough cleaning after their excursions in town. Coming and going as they are throughout the day, and often far into the night, neither men nor horses have much idle time on their hands.

The state-coach, used only on the grandest occasions, has a compartment to itself, and is almost exactly like the Queen's, except that the arms emblazoned thereon are those of the Prince of Wales and not of the Sovereign. It has nearly the same amount of gilding and rich fringe on the hammer-cloth, which said "bravery," if wetted by a shower of rain, entails no little labour upon the cleaners.

Amongst the most interesting carriages is the "Russian," a gift from the late Czar. Somewhat resembling a sociable, it is roomy and comfortable, and lined with dark blue morocco. It is rather a favourite vehicle at Marlborough House, and has sometimes been seen in the Park. Then there is the Prince's brougham — a skilful production of Hooper's — facsimile of one of Paris manufacture formerly used by His Royal Highness and given by him to the Duke of York after the death of the Duke of Clarence. In its way the British-built brougham is quite a gem, lined with dark blue — as are most of the carriages, either in cloth, morocco, or silk rep — and contains a small clock, as well as every convenience that the heart of the most confirmed smoker could desire. It has a simple and effective means of communicating with the driver, superseding a somewhat complicated electrical apparatus which the Prince did not care about; and incandescent lamps are used for illuminating purposes. Not to be overlooked is the pretty Victoria once so frequently observed in the "drive," its two greys, Chelsea and Brief, together with a supplementary pair of the same colour, but older, being upstairs.

Several roomy fourgons stand in the courtyard ready for service; also two large private omnibuses, and a plain brougham devoid of arms or crest, in fact, so commonplace - looking as to attract no attention in the streets; wherefore, it is occasionally used by the Princess, when shopping, etc.

There are, in all, some forty-five stalls and twelve loose boxes in the building, the names of the horses — mostly bays — being inscribed on enamel tablets overhead. All the fittings are up to date, and in perfect order. The ventilation is very good, and, needless to say, everything about the place is spotlessly clean and scrupulously neat, including the inevitable plaited straw bordering.

Emperor, a fine black charger, ridden by the Prince at the trooping of the colours, is, perhaps, the handsomest horse in the stable.

Birkenham draws the Princess's brougham. Marky, a chesnut, used to be ridden by Her Royal Highness; but horse exercise, she has for some time past left to her daughters.

With great regularity, every animal in the stables is taken out for exercise early in the morning; and as they are used in turn for carriage-work, they seldom get frisky, so that an accident such as happened some years ago to the young Princesses — of which the following is the correct account — occasioning much alarm at the time, is not likely to occur again.

Accompanied by Mademoiselle Vauthier, their governess, the three Princesses were out driving on the afternoon of July 11th, 1881, when just as they had passed through the Arch, something startled Westminster, one of the fine bays attached to the landau, and he commenced to kick; in so doing he hit his companion, Servia, severely on the stifle, considerably upsetting his nerves, and without a moment's warning the pair began to gallop furiously down Constitution Hill. Luckily, George Osborne, the coachman, kept his presence of mind and concentrated all his energy towards the keeping clear of obstructions. In this he was only partially successfull, for as they tore along the Mall, a slight collision took place with Colonel Wilbraham's brougham. With great pluck the footman somehow contrived to get down from the box, and, jumping into a hansom cab, followed, in order to be in readiness when the end came. The young Princesses, though much alarmed, maintained an admirable composure, the absence of which might have complicated their serious position. Osborne would have continued along The Mall, and so on to the Horse Guards Parade, but there was something in the way, and he had to attempt the sharp turn through Marlborough Gate. This was safely accomplished, and as the horses evinced some signs of slackening speed, there seemed a chance of being piloted safely into Pall Mall, or — failing that — into St. James' Street, where the ascent must have stopped the runaways. But such was not to be. As the traffic in Pall Mall was too dense to admit of turning to the right, Osborne went up St. James' Street, where, in trying to avoid a cab, the projecting splinter-bar caught in the lamp-post almost opposite to the entrance of the Thatched House Club, and brought everything to a standstill without overturning the landau. "We were all well, though frightened," says Mademoiselle Vauthier (now Mrs. Johnson), "were lifted out of the carriage, went into the club, Sir Dighton Probyn was sent for, and we all walked back to Marlborough House".

Some days after this occurrence, George Osborne was presented by the Prince and Princess of Wales with a valuable scarf-pin and other articles 01 jewellery, in recognition of his plucky conduct, and received their cordial thanks, accompanied by a hearty hand-shake from each member of the family. A short time ago, Osborne should in the ordinary course have retired from active service on a pension but the Princess would not hear of it, and he is now permanently installed as Her Royal Highness's own special coachman, a post of honour he well deserves, and bears with becoming modesty.

Generally smoking a cigar or cigarette, and attended by Lord Suffield or one of the equerries, the Prince of Wales sometimes strolls into the stables after breakfast to inspect any new purchase that may have been made, when he is sure to notice, though slow to remark upon, anything in the slightest degree out of order in his equine establishment.

In a room with black and white tiled floor is an interesting display of harness. That used on state occasions hangs up in glass cases, and is most elaborately adorned with gilt bearing the Prince's well-known crest. Similarly protected from damp, are other and plainer sets, all beautifully blacked and polished. A few remarkable-looking saddles — one of crimson velvet upon a frame of solid silver, another of blue velvet, and others specially made for the Princess — some whips with handles exquisitely chased in gold and silver, and sundry hunting-horns around which family associations still linger, complete the list of objects most worth looking at.

By the kindness of the Prince, accredited persons furnished with tickets of admission from the superintendent, are permitted to go over the stables, the best time being the afternoon, when the necessary cleaning-up is completed.

In the first lease granted to the Duchess of Marlborough, it was expressly stipulated that the garden of the old Friary should not be built upon; and to this is probably due the fact that, situated as it is almost in the heart of London, it is still so spacious and convenient. With good judgment, the Prince has elected to eschew elaborate flower-beds and other obstructions; and but for a handsome bordering of geraniums, etc., which duly makes its appearance along the raised terrace-walks, and some groups of flowers filling up the stone vases here and there, together with the circular bed exactly in front of the "garden-entrance" to the house, nothing is to be seen but "flat lawn," delightfully shaded by elms, chesnuts, and evergreen oaks of quite respectable age, thus giving plenty of room for numerous guests to roam about. Here, "the dust and din and steam of town" is almost forgotten, and in this safe retreat wood-pigeons securely nest, starlings fly about intent on providing for their offspring, and the song of the thrush is often heard. The grounds are almost entirely protected from the vulgar gaze by trees on every side; so, too, is the house, except on the south or Park side, whence in summer a peep of the upper rooms may be obtained. But towards the end of October, when the trees are bare of leaves, an observer looking northwards across the ornamental water in St. James' Park, can obtain a capital view of Marlborough House, backed by the ornate roof and flagstaff of the new Oxford and Cambridge Club.

On each side of the garden entrance stands a small field-piece bearing the following inscription: "Brass-mounted gun rifled on the 'La Hitte' principle, taken September 13th, 1882, mounted on the right of the entrenchments Tel-el-Kebir presented to H. R. H. the Prince of Wales by Admiral Lord Alcester, G.C.B."

Here, also, as on the north side of the house, bay-trees in boxes give variety to the frontage.

When the Marlborough Gate road was designed and made through the Palace precincts from Pall Mall to St. James' Park, by the Board of Works in 1856, a strip of land remained over and above the requirements of the new thoroughfare; so it was assigned to the garden of Marlborough House, adding to its western boundary a piece of land 272 feet long by 83 in width, and the old wall was then brought into its present line.

In this portion of the grounds is an artificial hillock approached by a slightly winding path, on whose summit, a little above the level of the wall, is a kind of platform provided with chairs and benches, appropriately called the Princess's Mound. Here, after the Trooping of the Colours at the Horse Guards on the Queen's birthday, the Princess of Wales and other members of the Royal family, listen to the massed bands of the Grenadiers, Scots Guards, and Coldstreams in Friary Court, before the dejeuner at Marlborough House. When "God save the Queen" is played, the Royal party rise from their seats, and little Prince Edward of York's cap is gravely removed from his head. 'Tis a pretty sight.


And now, how did Marlborough House come into the possession of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales?

Marlborough House and grounds are, and always have been, Crown property, as we shall presently see; and it is somewhat remarkable to find Mr. John Timbs stating in his "Curiosities of London" (edition of 1885), that in the year 1817 the mansion was purchased by the Crown for the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold.

On Friday, July 26th, 1850, the then Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, appeared at the bar of the House of Commons with a message from the Crown. Having been called upon by the Speaker, his lordship advanced to the table and said: "Her Majesty, being desirous that the mansion called Marlborough House should be appropriated as the residence of H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, after he shall have attained eighteen years of age, has recommended to her faithful Commons, to enable her to make such provision as may most effectually accomplish the said purpose. "In pursuance of Her Majesty's most gracious message, I propose that the House shall resolve itself into a Committee on Monday next to take it into consideration."

In the House of Lords, on the 29th of the same month, the Marquis of Lansdowne read a similar message from Her Majesty, but rather differently worded, recommending the House to concur with her in making the settlement. On the following day, their Lordships duly took into consideration the Queen's communication, and the noble Marquis, in moving that the address to the Crown in reply should be unanimously adopted, observed, "that it was only necessary for him to explain that the object of this arrangement was to secure in a suitable part of the metropolis, a fitting residence at a future period for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. It might be asked why it was necessary to secure such a residence at present? The fact was it had occurred to the Members of Her Majesty's Government, and the suggestion had met with the approbation of Her Majesty herself, that it might be desirable to appropriate Marlborough House, which had been vacant by the unfortunate death of the late Queen Dowager, to the object of displaying the collection of pictures which by the munificence of the late Mr. Vernon had recently become the property of the country. There was a general desire that that collection should be placed in a situation where it could be seen with advantage, and Her Majesty's Government thought that until a National building could be provided for it, Marlborough House might be appropriated for that purpose. But as that was not the ultimate object to which the Crown proposed to devote Marlborough House, it became expedient to secure it by express provision for the future residence of the Prince of Wales. That was the main reason for making this arrangement, but economical considerations which were of great importance at the present moment were also in favour of it."

After a few remarks from Lords Brougham and Redesdale, the Address was put and agreed to, nem. con.

On the previous evening, however, the 29th, the proceedings in the Commons were not so uniformly pleasant. The House resolved itself into a Committee to consider the Royal message, and after the Chairman had put the question, a discussion followed in which the financial economist, Mr. Joseph Hume, took a prominent part. He argued that it was premature to make any such arrangement, as the Prince was only nine years old, and that many years must elapse before the Mansion could be used by him. He denied that Marlborough House belonged to the Crown, maintaining that it was originally built for the Duke of Marlborough by the nation, and that it therefore reverted to the nation, and not to the Crown.

Mr. John Bright was of opinion that no necessity had been shown for settling the question at that particular time.

Lord Seymour explained that the public revenue would benefit to the extent of £800 per annum by the removal of the old stables and the extension of Carlton Terrace. And the Chancellor of the Exchequer argued that the proposed arrangements would be most advantageous to the public, at which remark Colonel Sibthorp exclaimed amidst much laughter, "Oh dear!' A division followed in a thin House. Sixty-eight voted for the resolution, and fifty-six against it, giving the Government the small majority of twenty-two, wherewith to send up the faithful Commons' address to their Sovereign.

All this time the little Prince was quietly pursuing his early studies to the best of his abilities, and was probably unconscious of the business being transacted for his special benefit.

The Act of Parliament, 13 & 14 Vict. Chapter 78, is dated August 14, 1850, and it was thereby made lawful for Her Majesty by Letters Patent under the Great Seal, "to grant, settle, and assure all that Capital Messuage, or Mansion, called Marlborough House, situate near the Palace of St. James' in the county of Middlesex, late in the occupation of Her late Majesty Adelaide, the Queen Dowager, and all out-houses and other buildings, Courts, Yards, Gardens, Grounds, and Appurtenances to the said Capital Messuage, or Mansion, belonging or appertaining, to or in trust for His Royal Highness, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, in such manner that he may have and enjoy the same immediately after he shall have attained the age of eighteen years, and thence-forth, during the Term of the joint lives of Her Majesty and his said Royal Highness."

The Act — a very short one — proceeds in its final clause to provide for the erection of suitable coach-houses and stables; and for this purpose, empowered the Commissioners of Works to expend a sum not exceeding ,£5,000, to be derived, if possible, from the sale of the material of the old stables and coach-houses, formerly attached to Carlton Palace.

After the Act of Settlement had received the Royal assent, and Letters Patent under the Great Seal had been duly issued, the historic old house entered upon a career of public usefulness by temporarily housing the Vernon Collection.

In 1859, the sum of £15,000 was voted for fitting the house as a residence for the Prince of Wales, it having become rather dilapidated, and the amount formed an item in the general Estimate for Royal Palaces, 1859-60. As time went on, it became necessary to prepare it for the reception of the Prince and his youthful bride, who took possession in the month of April, 1863 — as inscribed over the fire-place in the saloon — and extensive and absolutely necessary alterations were commenced.

The three reception rooms on the garden front were converted into a noble apartment; the two small rooms and spiral staircases flanking these three apartments were thrown into the two now known as the Indian-room and dining-room. An equerry's room, and one also for the lady-in-waiting, together with a portico entrance, hall entrance and corridor, were added to the north front. Suitable stables were built, and many other improvements elsewhere described, were effected for the future sovereign of Great Britain and his consort.

In addition to these and other necessary works undertaken from time to time by the Crown, His Royal Highness has, since his marriage, expended upon repairs, alterations, decorations, etc. sums amounting to a total of over £50,000, thereby greatly enhancing the value of the property.

Electric lighting has been introduced throughout the house; the offices have been embellished, and everything that could possibly increase the comfort of those around him, has been added by the Prince at his own expense.

Marlborough House and its occupants. - By Arthur H. Bevan, 1896


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