Editor's Blog

The power of Cliveden

Where were you when Donald J Trump was elected US president? I know I’ll always remember where I was, because I was at Cliveden.

I’d been invited along to try out the facilities at the five-star none-more-English country house hotel, an invitation I was hardly going to turn down. 

The site has been home to - at various points in its illustrious 350-year history - an earl, three countesses, two dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor. And not only that, during the 20s and 30s under the Astors the house became a party destination for the great and the good, with guests including Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Lawrence of Arabia, Rudyard Kipling, Amy Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. 

So when I realised I was going to be staying on the night of the US election; well, that couldn’t have been more perfect.

After all, previous owner Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat as an MP in the Houses of Parliament. Thus it made Cliveden a thoroughly apt place to watch Hillary Clinton become the first woman commander in chief of the United States of America.

I hardly need to point out that it didn’t quite work out that way.

On arriving, we were greeted by the huge shell fountain sculpture, known as the Fountain of Love, before setting off along the lime tree avenue up to the grand opulence of the house itself.

Having enjoyed the crunch of tyres on gravel as I pulled up, the warm wood-panelled welcome of the stunning Great Hall was another box ticked on Things I Love About Country Houses.

We stayed in the Westminster room, a deluxe suite with a listed panelled dressing room and stunning views south over the 19th century parterre (that’s an ornamental garden to you and me).

The newly refurbished Astor Grill is housed in the former stables - hence the equestrian theme to the décor - and serves up generous hunks of meat in a relaxed setting.

We had our two-month-old daughter in tow, which meant the urge to round off the evening with a smoky glass of brandy or two had to be foregone in favour of an early night. Luckily, she woke us up at around 3.30am just in time to turn on the news to watch the political earthquake playing out across the pond.

Our daughter very sensibly went back to sleep, but we stayed up, transfixed by the sheer drama of history playing out in front of our eyes. As the sun came up and breakfast arrived in our room, it dawned on us that the world was suddenly a much more uncertain place.

But later, enjoying a blaze of autumn colours in Cliveden’s vast grounds – which played host to a political earthquake of their own in the 1960s in the shape of the Profumo Affair – we started to feel much better about things. Like, perhaps President Trump won’t herald a nuclear apocalypse. Maybe – just maybe – he might even be quite good at it. Who knows? Let’s see what happens.

Because that’s the kind of place Cliveden is. The kind of place that can make you feel decidedly chipper about a questionable sort becoming leader of the free world. And that, I’ve decided, is the mark of a great hotel.

So from now on, whenever there’s a hint of bad news in the air, I know where I’ll be heading…

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