Queen Mary's Dolls' House

Coordinates: 51°29′02″N 0°36′11″W / 51.484°N 0.603°W / 51.484; -0.603
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Queen Mary's Dolls' house

Queen Mary's Dolls' House is a doll's house built in the early 1920s, completed in 1924, for Queen Mary, the wife of King George V. It was designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, with contributions from many notable artists and craftsmen of the period, including a library of miniature books containing original stories written by authors including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and A. A. Milne.


The idea for building the doll's house originally came from the Queen's cousin, Princess Marie Louise, who discussed her idea with one of the top architects of the time, Sir Edwin Lutyens, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1921. Sir Edwin agreed to construct the dollhouse and began preparations. Princess Marie Louise had many connections in the arts and arranged for the top artists and craftsmen of the time to contribute their special abilities to the house. It was created as a gift to Queen Mary from the people, and to serve as a historical document on how a royal family might have lived during that period in England.

It showcased the very finest and most modern goods of the period. Later the doll's house was put on display to raise funds for the Queen's charities. It was originally exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition, 1924–1925, where more than 1.6 million people came to view it,[1] and is now on display in Windsor Castle, at Windsor, Berkshire, England, as a tourist attraction.


A medicine chest from the dollhouse, shown next to a 17-millimetre (0.67 in) halfpenny

The doll's house was made to a scale of 1:12 (one inch to one foot), is over three feet tall, and contains models of products of well-known companies of the time. It is remarkable for its detail and the detail of the objects within it, many of which are 112-sized replicas of items in Windsor Castle. These were either made by the companies themselves, or by specialist modelmakers, such as Twining Models of Northampton, England. The carpets, curtains and furnishings are all copies of the real thing, and the house has working light fittings. The bathrooms are fully plumbed with piped, running water, and include a flushable toilet with miniature lavatory paper. Other items in the house include shotguns that "break and load", monogrammed linens, lifts and a garage of cars with operational engines.[2]

In addition, well-known writers wrote special books for the house's library, which were bound in scale size by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle contributed the short story "How Watson Learned the Trick", and the ghost-story writer M. R. James wrote "The Haunted Dolls' House". A. A. Milne contributed "Vespers". Other authors included J. M. Barrie, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and W. Somerset Maugham.[3] (George Bernard Shaw rebuffed the princess's request for a tiny volume of his work.[4]) Composers who contributed miniature works for the house included Gustav Holst, Frederick Delius, Arthur Bliss, John Ireland and Arnold Bax,[5] although Sir Edward Elgar refused to contribute.[6]

Painters, including Eli Marsden Wilson, Edith Mary Hinchley and Gladys Kathleen Bell, also provided miniature pictures. Two pen-and-ink drawings by G. Howell-Baker were supplied by his sister, who wrote to say that he had recently died when the request for his contribution arrived from the palace.[7][8]

Even the bottles in the wine cellar were filled with the appropriate wines and spirits, and the wheels of motor vehicles were properly spoked.[9] Queen Mary's purchases brought media attention to specialist furnishers such as Dorothy Rogers, who created needlework miniature carpets for the house. Even viewing a high quality photo of the interior will not reveal it is in fact a collection of miniatures.[10]

There is a hidden garden revealed only when a vast drawer is pulled out from beneath the main building. Designed by Gertrude Jekyll,[11][page needed] it includes replicas of greenery and garden implements and follows a traditional ornamental garden theme.

In 2024, twenty new manuscripts were added to the house's library as part of the anniversary project headed by Queen Camilla to reflect Britain's modern literature. Sebastian Faulks, Bernardine Evaristo, Elif Shafak, Malorie Blackman, Alan Bennett, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Horowitz, Tom Stoppard, A. N. Wilson, Jacqueline Wilson, Philippa Gregory, Simon Armitage, Ben Okri, Joseph Coelho and Tom Parker Bowles were among the authors who contributed.[12][13]


The ceramics company Cauldon China produced a Parian ware box modelled on the house, measuring 9.5×15 cm, and 12.5 cm high, at around the time of the 1924 exhibition.[14] A version was also produced with the exhibition's crest applied as a colour transfer, in the manner of crested ware.[15] Some of the proceeds were donated to Queen Mary's charities.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Waclawiak, Karolina (November–December 2010). "Safe as Houses: An Ode to Britain's History in 1:12 Scale". The Believer. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  2. ^ Hartnett, Kevin (22 August 2014). "In a Queen's Dollhouse, Why Are Tiny Toilets So Captivating?". Boston Globe. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  3. ^ The contents of the library were published in normal format in E. V. Lucas, ed., The Book of the Queen's Dolls' House Library (London: Methuen, 1924).
  4. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasury of Royal Scandals. New York: Penguin Books. p.47. ISBN 0-7394-2025-9.
  5. ^ "Prints and Paintings". Royal Collection. 25 October 2020.
  6. ^ Siegfried Sassoon reported that on 6 June 1922 Elgar told Lady Maud Warrender: "We all know that the King and Queen are incapable of appreciating anything artistic; they have never asked for the full score of my Second Symphony to be added to the Library at Windsor. But as the crown of my career I'm asked to contribute to a Doll's House for the Queen! I've been a monkey-on-a-stick for you people long enough. Now I'm getting off the stick. I wrote and said that I hoped they wouldn't have the impertinence to press the matter on me any further. I consider it an insult for an artist to be asked to mix himself up in such nonsense." (Kennedy, Michael [1982]. Portrait of Elgar. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press. p. 305.)
  7. ^ "A Crusader". Royal Collection Online. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  8. ^ "A Spanish Galleon". Royal Collection Online. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Queen Mary's Doll House". Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  10. ^ Lambton, Lucinda (2010) THE QUEEN'S DOLLS' HOUSE: LONDON ENGLAND: Royal Collection Enterprise. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978 1 905686 26 1
  11. ^ Clifford Musgrave, Queen Mary's Doll's House (London: Pitkin Unichrome Ltd., 2001).
  12. ^ Newton, Lou (30 January 2024). "Queen updates royal Dolls' House with tiny modern books". BBC News. Retrieved 30 January 2024.
  13. ^ Ward, Victoria (30 January 2024). "Queen celebrates royal dolls' house as tiny books by Horowitz and Donaldson placed on shelves". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 January 2024.
  14. ^ a b "Cauldron Bone China model of Queen Mary's Dolls House, 1924". Moorabool Antiques Galleries. 24 March 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  15. ^ "British Empire Exhibition Miniature Parian China Copy of Queen Mary's Doll House". Etsy. Retrieved 27 September 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

51°29′02″N 0°36′11″W / 51.484°N 0.603°W / 51.484; -0.603