Chevening, also known as Chevening House, is a country house at Chevening
Chevening, Kent
Chevening is a village and civil parish in the Sevenoaks District of Kent, England. The parish is located to the north west of Sevenoaks on the southern slopes of the North Downs. The parish is a small one, being in length and wide. It has a population of 2,762. Apart from the village the...

 in the Sevenoaks District
Sevenoaks (district)
Sevenoaks is a local government district covering the western most part of Kent in England. Its council is based in the town of Sevenoaks. It was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by a merger of the Sevenoaks Urban District, Sevenoaks Rural District and part of Dartford...

 of Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is an official residence
Official residence
An official residence is the residence at which heads of state, heads of government, gubernatorial or other senior figures officially reside...

 of the Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

 of the United Kingdom. However, under the current coalition government
Coalition government
A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several political parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament...

, the Foreign Secretary
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

 and the Deputy Prime Minister
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 share use of the property.


The 115-room mansion, situated near a lake in the midst of a 3500 acres (1,416.4 ha) estate, is a three-storey, symmetrical red brick structure in the English Renaissance
English Renaissance
The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century; like most of northern...

 style. It may have been designed by noted 17th-century British architect Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England...

. Staying there as a guest in 1911, the former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery crossed out "Chevening" at the head of a piece of writing paper and substituted "Paradise".
The house was the family seat of the Earls Stanhope
Earl Stanhope
Earl Stanhope was a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1718 for James Stanhope, 1st Viscount Stanhope, the principal minister of King George I, with remainder to the heirs male of his body. Stanhope was the son of the Hon. Alexander Stanhope, fifth and youngest son of Philip...

, and was bequeathed to the Nation by the 7th and last Earl Stanhope
James Stanhope, 7th Earl Stanhope
James Richard Stanhope, 13th Earl of Chesterfield and 7th Earl Stanhope KG, DSO, MC, PC , styled Viscount Mahon until 1905, and known as The Earl Stanhope from 1905 until 1967, was a British Conservative politician.-Background:Stanhope was the eldest son of Arthur Stanhope, 6th Earl Stanhope, and...

. He left the heavily endowed manor
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

 to be managed by a body of trust
Trust law
In common law legal systems, a trust is a relationship whereby property is held by one party for the benefit of another...

ees. The Chevening Estate Act stipulated that the future resident should be the Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, a Cabinet Minister, the widow or lineal descendant of King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

, or the spouse, widow or widower of such a descendant.

Lord Stanhope was apparently impressed by the young Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

, and hoped that he would reside at Chevening. In 1974, the Prince accepted the prospect of living on the estate. According to his biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby
Jonathan Dimbleby
Jonathan Dimbleby is a British presenter of current affairs and political radio and television programmes, a political commentator and a writer. He is the son of Richard Dimbleby and younger brother of British TV presenter David Dimbleby.-Education:Dimbleby was educated at Charterhouse School, a...

 (for whom Prince Charles himself arranged access to unpublished royal diaries and family correspondence), at that time he was contemplating an eventual marriage to Hon. Amanda Knatchbull, granddaughter of his great-uncle the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas George Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC, FRS , was a British statesman and naval officer, and an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

: "[I]n 1974, following his correspondence with Mountbatten on the subject, the Prince had tentatively raised the question of marriage to Amanda with her mother (and his godmother) Patricia Brabourne. She was sympathetic, but counselled against raising the issue with her daughter, who had yet to celebrate her seventeenth birthday.". Amanda's paternal great-aunt had been Lady Eileen Browne, daughter of the 6th Marquess of Sligo
Marquess of Sligo
Marquess of Sligo is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created in 1800 for John Browne, 3rd Earl of Altamont. The Marquess holds the subsidiary titles of Baron Mount Eagle, of Westport in the County of Mayo , Viscount Westport, of Westport in the County of Mayo , Earl of Altamont, in the...

, whose barren marriage to the last Earl Stanhope (who had no other near relations) led to Chevening's being placed at the disposal of the Royal Family
Royal family
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...

. If Amanda were to become Princess of Wales
Princess of Wales
Princess of Wales is a British courtesy title held by the wife of The Prince of Wales since the first "English" Prince of Wales in 1283.Although there have been considerably more than ten male heirs to the throne, there have been only ten Princesses of Wales. The majority of Princes of Wales...

, the Prince's acceptance of Chevening would make some familial sense.

But this was not to be, although the Prince did visit the house several times. In a note of April 24, 1978 to his private secretary, Sir David Checketts
David Checketts
Squadron Leader Sir David John Checketts, KCVO was Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales 1970-1978.He was educated at a grammar school...

, Prince Charles observed, "I know there are advantages -- particularly financial ones -- in the Chevening set up, but I regret to say I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that they are the only advantages." In June 1980 Prince Charles wrote to Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 to renounce residency at Chevening (without actually having resided there). Weeks later, he purchased Highgrove House in Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

. By then, according to Dimbleby, Amanda Knatchbull had declined the Prince's proposal of marriage, and he would soon begin courtship of Lady Diana Spencer
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...


Since then, Chevening has been used by the British government to house successive Foreign Secretaries. However, William Hague
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

, the current Foreign Secretary, shares the use of Chevening with Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

, the current Deputy Prime Minister.

Literary connection

It has been suggested that Chevening and its former parsonage are the original for Rosings Park, home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and the Hunsford rectory in Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.Austen lived...

's Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England...

. Austen's cousin was the rector at Chevening from 1813 and she had other family members living in the area whom she stayed.

External links

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