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Chevening: A Seat of Diplomacy

Chevening: A Seat of Diplomacy


A lively and welcome new introduction to the handsome architecture, splendid decoration, notable collections and glorious gardens of Chevening, the grand country residence used by Britain’s Foreign Secretary. 


Chevening stands in a magnificent park below the wooded escarpment of the North Downs in Kent. It has a history dating back around 800 years, but the Chevening we see today is almost entirely the creation of seven generations of the Stanhope family, building on the original house of 1630, attributed to Inigo Jones. For 250 years the Stanhopes served their country as soldiers and statesmen, and at Chevening as patrons of architecture and art. This significant and beautifully produced new book highlights the contributions of the Earls and Countesses Stanhope to the building, furniture, pictures, gardens and landscape of Chevening. It also gives a short account of the family in the wider world in order to set their creations in context. 


The decoration and architectural features of each of the rooms – from the Entrance Hall with its spectacular swirling staircase of c. 1721 to the sumptuous Tapestry Room with its rare Berlin tapestries woven by Huguenot craftsmen in 1708 – are described and illustrated, and significant and unusual works of art highlighted, such as important portraits by Allan Ramsay, Thomas Gainsborough, and Sir Thomas Lawrence. 


The Estate consists of some 3,000 acres, and the gardens include a lake, maze, parterre and a double-walled hexagonal kitchen garden. The history of the garden is explored, from the extensive landscaping in the formal style by the 1st and 2nd Earls in the early 18th century, to the naturalistic style created in 1775–78 – much of the character of which survives today – to the re-formalizing in the 19th century, with the creation of the ‘Italian’ gardens, a maze and hedged allées. The wonderful restoration of recent decades and the replanting to the designs of Elizabeth Banks is celebrated with new photography. 


Remarkably, research for this book also revealed that the armour forming the centrepiece of the Great Hall is none other than the long lost armour of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, leader of the Spanish Armada of 1588, now rediscovered after nearly 300 years. The armour may have been a diplomatic gift, either to General Stanhope or to his father, the ambassador to Spain. Made around 1588 by Pompeo della Cesa or by an associated armorer in his workshop in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, it was identified by the monogram, which recurs ten times on the armour.


Chevening: A Seat of Diplomacy is published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Chevening Act coming into effect with the death of the last Earl Stanhope and the 300th anniversary of his family’s acquisition of the Chevening estate.

  • By Julius Bryant

    September 2017

    Hardback, 242 x 212 mm
    144 pages, 130 colour illus.
    PRICE: £30.00
    ISBN: 978 1 911300 11 3

  • About the author

    Julius Bryant is Keeper of Word and Image at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

  • In the press

    "A stylish new account … with excellent photography … this lively book is informed by much new research, and includes a crisp and clear account of the architectural history [and] goes on to reveal the rich complexity of the setting too." —Historic House Magazine


    "A handsome, well-illustrated product with a good family tree and garden map, and a full bibliography." —Furniture History Society Newsletter 

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