We dropped in at Cliveden – which neither of us had visited before – on the way home this afternoon, had lunch in The Orangery, then walked down to the Thames, where I was looking for boats for Caroline to paint. Not even the slightest whiff of scandal these days, which was slightly sad. The Profumo Affair was one of those pivotal moments in generational politics, but my main memory, as a schoolboy, was being fascinated by the sex. Industrial quantities of mistletoe festoon the ride of trees that run from the main house to the Fountain of Love, which seemed vaguely appropriate.
One thing that caught my eye, on the Duke’s Lawn, was the date 1668, marked in the lawn. The duelling sword included in the design was the clue to the story. That year, the Duke of Buckingham, who was building Cliveden at the time, fought a duel at Barn Elms (a stone’s throw from where we live) with his mistress’ husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury – who got the worse of both ends of the Duke, who killed him.