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Hotels with a tale to tell; GILL WILLIAMS REVEALS ALL..

Byline: GILL WILLIAMS

CLIVEDEN

THEREOS something deliciously illicit about Cliveden, where Government Minister John Profumo first set eyes on the beautiful young Christine Keeler (above) in the 1960s.

It still has an aura of scandal and sense of history that make your spine tingle as the footmen show you into the Great Hall. The oak-panelled walls, and the majestic sweeping stairway hold secrets of monarchs and politicians.

The breathtaking country house in Berkshire, with its long gravel drive and manicured grounds, has played host to nearly every monarch from George I to Queen Victoria. Before becoming a hotel, it was owned by the wealthy American Astor family and became the epicentre of a social whirl of parties and balls with guests ranging from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw.

It was at a party in the summer of 1961 around the swimming pool that Profumo embarked on a disastrous affair with Keeler. It became a scandal of sex, lies and Russian spies and led to his resignation from Harold MacMillanOs Tory government.

Today Cliveden is arguably the most beautiful hotel in the land. The rooms retain the grandiose echoes of the society parties it hosted for decades. The dining room has six elegant French windows overlooking the terraced garden down to the Thames. And WaldoOs is a more intimate dining room which boasts a picture of Keeler by her friend, the society osteopath Dr Stephen Ward. The Great HallOs grand piano has a picture of the Queen Mother, another former visitor, on it.

The bedrooms are lavishly furnished. The Buckingham suite is named after ClivedenOs first owner Lord Buckingham. The Nancy Astor suite has a huge private terrace overlooking the gardens and other suites commemorate famous visitors like Rudyard Kipling and Lawrence of Arabia.

Nothing compares to the sense of history and majesty you feel at Cliveden. Staff are discreet, the service is slick and the grounds are the most beautiful imaginable. Owned by the National Trust, they are open to the public in the day and boast wonderful river walks, formal gardens and exquisite statues and fountains.

Beside the river is Spring Cottage where Keeler was staying when she met Profumo I and also where Queen Victoria used to come for tea to escape the pressures of London. ItOs now available for guests to stay in.

You cannot visit Cliveden without seeing the pool in a walled garden where the film Scandal, based on the Profumo affair, was filmed. A pavilion spa has now been added.

Cliveden is a pricey treat but somewhere for a very special occasion. You get a little bit of history, a whiff of scandal and out-and-out luxury.

One night in a Classic Double room starts from pounds 390 per room (pounds 195pp per night) including English breakfast. Details: 0800 056 0457, www.distinguishedhotels.com

THE CADOGAN HOTEL

IT was enough of a scene to raise the eyebrows of the most unflappable butler I police dragging away playwright Oscar Wilde (above).

The Cadogan Hotel along LondonOs Sloane Street was always in the gossip sheets in the late 19th Century as the haunt of actresses, playwrights and dissolute royals. But its notoriety reached new heights in April 1895 when legendary wit Wilde was arrested in Room 118.

His crime was flaunting his affair with the son of a rich noble at a time when homosexuality was outlawed. OscarOs downfall came when his latest comedy The Importance of Being Earnest had become a West End hit He was everybodyOs darling, much in demand at parties up and down the country. Yet his favourite hangout was the Cadogan with his equally naughty theatrical friend Lillie Langtry. Room 118 has since been named the Oscar Wilde suite and Lillie also has a suite named after her.

WildeOs play Earnest was shut down abruptly three months after it was first performed. And Oscar was in disgrace, languishing in prison awaiting trial. His real crime was not staying firmly in the closet back at Room 118 but parading his love with Lord Alfred OBosieO Douglas.

This didnOt go down well with BosieOs dad I the original Marquess of Queensberry, who wrote the rules for gentlemanly boxing. The gloves came off and Oscar went down for the count.

The playwright was sentenced to two years hard labour at Reading Prison, walking a treadmill for six hours a day and sleeping on a bare board.

The hotel I within spitting distance of Harrods and Tiffanys I was restored to its late 19th Century grandeur three years ago. OscarOs suite is lavish with chocolate walls and silk curtains. It would have been a nice room for him to wake up in Ixsometime after noon. As he used to say: OOnly boring people are brilliant at breakfast.O

A nightOs B&B at the Cadogan costs pounds 115pp per night until the end of April through Superbreak, phone 01904 644455 or www.superbreak.com

LANGTRY MANOR

IF ever a son gave his mother cause for worry it was Bertie, later to become King Edward VII and a shameless womaniser.

BertieOs scandalous public liaisons outraged his Mum and the whole of right-thinking Victorian society.

And at the height of his notoriety, Bertie had a celebrated love affair with Lillie Langtry I a famed socialite and actress who had a string of high profile relationships.

Bertie ordered the building of Langtry Manor, a Bournemouth lovenest where the couple lavishly entertained some of the more broad- minded members of society.

Even then, they had to be a bit discreet so he had a spy hole installed and the lovers (pictured above) would check out their guests in the dining room before they made their grand appearance.

Today Langtry Manor is open to kings and commoners alike, but it has lost none of its naughty-but-nice romantic allure.

Authentic Jacobean four-posters preside over the high-ceilinged KingOs Room and in the Langtry and Le Breton suites. The grand drapes, plants and illustrations look to be straight out of an Edwardian period film.

The drawing room is a cosy retreat where you can spend the evening nursing a port or brandy and cigar in aristocratic style.

But itOs the dining room that really captures the spirit of the day, with its minstrel gallery, stained glass windows, chandeliers and hand- woven tapestries.

On Saturday evenings you can take part in an Edwardian banquet, where waiters in costume re-enact the days when Bertie and Lillie held court.

The six courses are fit for a king I although they may not be such a good idea before a night of king-sized passion.

Weekend breaks with Friday champagne cocktails and candlelit dinner and a Saturday six-course Edwardian banquet start from pounds 175pp when two share.

Details: 01202 553 887, www.langtry manor.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Stunning Cliveden has recovered from the Profumo scandal to become one of BritainOs top hotels; Luxury... Cliveden bedroom; Party guest ...Churchill; Cadogan Hotel (top) and drawing room; Restaurant fit for a king.. Langtry Manor
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2005
Words:1169
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