Marlborough House is a Grade I listed mansion in the City of Westminster, central London, in The Mall, London, east of St James's Palace. It was built for Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, the favourite and confidante of Queen Anne. The Duchess wanted her new house to be "strong, plain and convenient and good". The architect Christopher Wren and his son of the same name designed a brick building with rusticated stone quoins (cornerstones) that was completed in 1711. For over a century it served as the London residence of the Dukes of Marlborough.
The house was taken up by the Crown in 1817. In the 1820s plans were drawn up to demolish Marlborough House and replace it with a terrace of similar dimensions to the two in neighbouring Carlton House Terrace, and this idea even featured on some contemporary maps, including Christopher and John Greenwood's large-scale London map of 1830, but the proposal was not implemented. Marlborough House was primarily used by members of the Royal Family, especially dowager queens and eldest sons of the sovereign.
From 1853 to 1861 Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, arranged for the building to be used by the "National Art Training School", later the Royal College of Art. It was then (1861–1863) substantially enlarged to designs by Sir James Pennethorne, who added a range of rooms on the north side and a deep porch. This was done for the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, and his wife the Princess of Wales, Alexandra of Denmark, who made their home the social centre of London, and lived there until his mother died in 1901, when Edward acceded the throne and they moved to nearby Buckingham Palace.
Their second son, later King George V, was born at Marlborough House in 1865. In 1936 it became the London residence of his widow, the queen dowager, Mary of Teck. She survived him by 17 years, and after her death in 1953, it was donated by Queen Elizabeth II for use by the Commonwealth Secretariat, which continues to use it today.
The nearly cubical saloon retains wall-paintings by Louis Laguerre of the battle of Blenheim. (The seat of the Dukes of Marlborough is Blenheim Palace, one of England's largest houses.) A cupola inserted in the ceiling is surrounded by paintings by Orazio Gentileschi for the Queen's House, Greenwich, 1636. There are paired staircases flanking the saloon, with further battle pieces by Laguerre. Most of the interiors have been altered. A late Art Nouveau-Gothic memorial fountain by Alfred Gilbert (1926–32) in the Marlborough Road wall of the house commemorates Queen Alexandra, and the grounds of the house include her pet cemetery and a thatch-roofed rotating summer house built for Queen Mary.
Marlborough House is usually open to the public for Open House Weekend each September. The house is also open for group tours on Tuesdays by prior arrangement.
- Details from listed building database (422684) - Grade I. Images of England. English Heritage.
- Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London vol. I, p 470f
- Greenwood Map of London 1830
- F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor) (1960). "Pall Mall, South Side, Past Buildings: Nos 66–68 (consec.) Pall Mall: The Junior Naval and Military Club". Survey of London: volumes 29 and 30: St James Westminster, Part 1. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- Frayling, Christopher, The Royal College of Art, One Hundred and Fifty Years of Art and Design, p.35 & ff, 1987, Barrie & Jenkins, London, ISBN 0-7126-1820-1
- Marlborough House set (act. 1870s–1901). Jane Ridley, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. (accessed 30 Nov 2010)
- "Marlborough House Gardens Virtual Tour". Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marlborough House.|
- Visiting Information at The Commonwealth Secretariat
- Virtual tour
- Flickr images tagged Marlborough House