14th October, 2016
Day 3 of our 'Thames Path from Henley to London' walking holiday is a Carter Company team favourite. Towards the end of the day, walkers along our route are rewarded with stunning views of Cliveden over the Thames. If you're not familiar with Cliveden and its unique place in British history and national political scandals, read on..!
Cliveden is an Italianate mansion, set in expansive grounds, on the border of the home counties of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire border. Situated atop an outlying ridge of the Chiltern Hills - a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - it's a stone's throw from the charming riverside town of Maidenhead, which also features on this Thames walking holiday route. It has a spectacular setting, as you can see from the picture above, with grounds sloping right down to the banks of the river. Cliveden estate has been home to an earl, three countesses, two dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor, as well as Stanford University in the 70s. Today it is a 5 star country house hotel.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Cliveden was home to Nancy Astor, a socialite and key figure in the 'Cliveden set', who were a group of political intellectuals. It was during the 1960s however, when Cliveden really gained its reputation as a political hot potato. The key events of the notorious Profumo Affair took place here. The scandal eventually brought down the ruling Conservative government in 1964. Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old model, and John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's government, first met at the bathing pond at Cliveden in 1961. What followed was a brief but illicit sexual relationship which Profumo denied in an official statement to the House of Commons in 1963. He was forced to admit he had lied just a few week's later and resigned from the government. Prime minister Harold Macmillan was completely destabilised by the revelations, and he resigned as PM due to 'health reasons' later that year. The Conservative Party was badly hit by the scandal, especially because Keeler was linked to the Soviet naval attaché Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, thereby creating a potential national security risk. The following year, the Conservative Party lost the general election to the Labour party - an defeat blamed in part on the Profumo Affair. Scandal indeed!
If you can, book afternoon tea here (reservations in advance absolutely necessary, it's famously good) for a truly memorable pit stop on our 'Thames path from Henley to London' or 'Thames path from source to London' walking holidays.