This week my Friday talk is going to be about Scandals in London! It’s a delicious word, something that is gossiped over or shouted from the rooftops. So, I thought I would share some of London most scandalous houses and their stories with you.
The Town House ,Hyde Park Gate is one of London’s most stylish residences recently selling for £16 million. It was once owned by the Mary Caroline Blair, the Duchess of Sutherland, who inspired not only Oscar Wilde's play "A Woman Of No Importance" but through illustrations by Harry Clarke to Charles Perrault's fairy tales ,became the inspiration for the wicked stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella.
This came about as the Duchess, who having achieved status by quickly marrying the Duke after having a scandalous affair, and the untimely death of both their former partners , on his subsequent death burnt documents that prevented her grieving step children from gaining their inheritance. She was sent to prison for this, but bounced back with an agreed settlement. Though ostracised from polite society she went on to marry her third husband magnate Sir Alfred Rollit and made headlines again when she lost jewels worth £30,000 [about £3.5 million today] on the Orient Express in 1898, to the famous jewel thief William Johnson known as “Harry the Valet” most of which were never recovered.
Another beautiful house is 33 Portland Place, once home to Edward Davenport who was named in more recent scandals that you can look up on the web. The glamorous John Nash inspired house and it’s beautiful rooms you can see easily as they were used in the film The Kings Speech, and also the “Rehab” video by Amy Winehouse.
In London there are so many notorious houses, one wonders if there is a home in which something hasn’t happened ! Though there are few buildings that were so awful they no longer exist. As in Paris with the Bastile we once had a prison known as the “Clink” in Southwark, where so notorious were the conditions within, that it was burnt down by rioters in the late C18th. Today, a tourist museum exists on part of this to give you an idea of the scandalous conditions the prisoners were kept in.