White's is the oldest gentleman's club in London, founded in 1693, and widely considered one of the most exclusive. Notable current members include Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Conrad Black and Tom Stacey. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron was formerly a member for fifteen years but resigned in 2008, despite his father Ian Cameron having previously been the club's chairman, over the club's declining to admit women. White's continues to maintain its standards as an establishment exclusively for gentlemen; brief exceptions were made for the visits by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, and 2016. White's is a member of the Association of London Clubs.
The club was originally established at 4 Chesterfield Street, off Curzon Street in Mayfair, in 1693 by an Italian immigrant named Francesco Bianco as a hot chocolate emporium under the name Mrs. White's Chocolate House. Tickets were sold to the productions at King's Theatre and Royal Drury Lane Theatre as a side-business. White's quickly made the transition from teashop to exclusive club and in the early 18th century, it was notorious as a gambling house; those who frequented it were known as "the gamesters of White's." The club gained a reputation for both its exclusivity and the often raffish behaviour of its members. Jonathan Swift referred to White's as the "bane of half the English nobility."
In 1778 it moved to 37–38 St James's Street. From 1783 it was the unofficial headquarters of the Tory party, while the Whigs' club Brooks's was just down the road. A few apolitical and affable gentlemen managed to belong to both. The new architecture featured a bow window on the ground floor. In the later 18th century, the table directly in front of it became a seat of distinction, the throne of the most socially influential men in the club. This belonged to the arbiter elegantiarum, Beau Brummell, until he removed to the Continent in 1816, when Lord Alvanley took the place of honour. It was here that Alvanley bet a friend £3,000 as to which of two raindrops would first reach the bottom of a pane of the bow window. It is not recorded whether he won his bet. Later, the spot was reserved for the use of the 1st Duke of Wellington until his death in 1852.
Alvanley's was not the most eccentric bet in White's famous betting book. Some of those entries were on sports, but more often on political developments, especially during the chaotic years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. A good many were social bets, such as whether a friend would marry this year, or whom.
The club declines to admit female members, however one of its best known chefs from the early 1900s was Rosa Lewis, a model for the central character in the BBC television series The Duchess of Duke Street.
There were two American members in the interwar period, one of whom was a General in the U.S. Army. Current American members include diplomat Edward Streator.
The clubhouse is located at 37–38 St James's Street in the City of Westminster and is a Grade I listed building. Originally built in 1674 and then rebuilt in 1787-88, probably by James Wyatt, it was further altered in 1811 and the frontage was remodelled by Lockyer in 1852. Constructed of Portland stone with a slate roof it possesses the Victorian version of a Palladian façade with some French motifs. The buildings consists of three storeys, a basement and a dormered attic. In the late 1970s, the exterior was painted azure with white trim. The Club bar is more compact than that of other clubs. An amusing description of it and the rationale behind its size may be found in Chapter Ten of the spy novel The Sixth Column (1951) by Peter Fleming (brother of Ian Fleming). The Club is thinly disguised as "Black's".
Whilst the club does not have members' accommodation, facilities include a private dining room and a billiards room. The menu revolves around the best of British game: grouse, partridge, wild salmon, gull’s eggs, potted shrimps, smoked eel and smoked trout. There is also a vegetarian option, but it is unpopular. In one seven-year period, only three vegetarian portions were sold.
Notable former members
- Henry St John, 5th Viscount Bolingbroke (1820–1899)
- Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, KB (1708–1759)
- George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll, GCH, PC (1768–1839)
- William Philip Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton (1772–1838)
- Beau Brummell (1778–1840)
- William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley (1789–1849)
- George Byng, 2nd Earl of Strafford (1806–1886)
- Ernest Brudenell-Bruce, 3rd Marquess of Ailesbury (1811–1896)
- Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1813–1894)
- Thomas Bateson, 1st Baron Deramore (1819–1890)
- Rainald Knightley, 1st Baron Knightley (1819–1895)
- William FitzClarence, 2nd Earl of Munster (1824–1901)
- Valentine Browne, 4th Earl of Kenmare (1825–1905)
- Henry Sturt, 1st Baron Alington (1825–1904)
- Wentworth Beaumont, 1st Baron Allendale (1829–1907)
- Richard Boyle, 9th Earl of Cork (1829–1904)
- Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 1st Earl of Ancaster (1830–1910)
- Allen Bathurst, 6th Earl Bathurst (1832–1892)
- Frederick Hervey, 3rd Marquess of Bristol (1834–1907)
- Richard Grosvenor, 1st Baron Stalbridge (1837–1912)
- Montague Guest, (1839–1909)
- Henry Chaplin, 1st Viscount Chaplin (1840–1923)
- The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII (1841–1910)
- Archibald Acheson, 4th Earl of Gosford (1841–1922)
- Charles Wynn-Carington, 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire (1843–1928)
- Thomas de Grey, 6th Baron Walsingham (1843–1919)
- Lord Claud Hamilton (1843–1925)
- John Beresford, 5th Marquess of Waterford (1844–1895)
- Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927)
- Edward Digby, 10th Baron Digby (1846–1920)
- Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife (1849–1912)
- The Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1850–1942)
- John Lonsdale, 1st Baron Armaghdale (1850–1924)
- William Legge, 6th Earl of Dartmouth (1851–1936)
- Walter Long, 1st Viscount Long (1854-1924)
- Archibald Grove (1855-1920)
- Charles William Mills, 2nd Baron Hillingdon (1855-1919)
- William Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland (1857-1943)
- Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington (1860-1940)
- Charles Edward Hill-Trevor, 3rd Baron Trevor (1863–1950)
- Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Baron Mount Temple (1867–1939)
- Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire (1868-1938)
- Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild (1868-1937)
- J. E. B. Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone (1868–1947)
- George Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxall (1873–1931)
- Ivor Guest, 1st Viscount Wimborne (1873-1939)
- Major General Sir Stewart Menzies, KCB, KCMG, DSO, MC (1890–1968)
- Arthur Robert Mills, 3rd Baron Hillingdon (1891–1952)
- Sir Lionel Fraser (1895–1965)
- Oswald Mosley (1896–1980)
- Brendan Bracken, 1st Viscount Bracken (1901–1958)
- Evelyn Waugh (1903–1966)
- Captain Philip Dunne, MC (1904–1965)
- Loel Guinness (1906–1988)
- David Niven (1909–1983)
- Randolph Churchill (1911–1968)
- Arthur Ponsonby, 11th Earl of Bessborough (1912–2002)
- Squadron Leader Christopher "Jack" Riddle, RAF (1914–2009)
- Peter Rawlinson, Baron Rawlinson of Ewell, PC, QC (1919–2006)
- Christopher Soames (1920–1987)
- Sir William Dugdale, 2nd Baronet (1922–2014)
- Pieter Kenyon Fleming-Voltelyn van der Byl, ID (1923–1999)
- Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie (1933–2006)
- Anthony Brand, 6th Viscount Hampden (1937–2008)
- David Cameron (until 2008)
- Michael Onslow, 7th Earl of Onslow (1938–2011)
- David Hatendi (1953-2012)
- Henry Cubitt, 4th Baron Ashcombe (1924–2013)
- Sir Run Run Shaw (1907–2014)
- Sir Jocelyn Stevens, CVO (1932–2014)
- John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, DL, JP (1926–2014)
- Michael Sandberg, Baron Sandberg, CBE (1927–2017)
- Marcus Kimball, Baron Kimball, DL (1928-2014)
- Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg (1933-2014)
- John Beresford, 8th Marquess of Waterford (1933–2015)
- William Murray, 8th Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield, DL, JP (1930-2015)
- John Denison-Pender, 3rd Baron Pender (1933-2016)
Notable current members
- David Ogilvy, 13th Earl of Airlie, KT, GCVO, PC (1926)
- Col. John Slim, 2nd Viscount Slim, OBE, DL (1927)
- David Somerset, 11th Duke of Beaufort (1928)
- Sir Jack Stewart-Clark, Bt. (1929)
- Hon. Edward Streator (1930)
- John Savile, 8th Earl of Mexborough (1931)
- Sir Ian Rankin, Bt. (1932)
- William Weir, 3rd Viscount Weir (1933)
- Sir John "Chips" Keswick (1940)
- Shane Gough, 5th Viscount Gough (1941)
- Sir Simon Robertson (1941)
- Myles Ponsonby, 12th Earl of Bessborough (born 1941)
- Malcolm Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch (1942)
- Norman Lamont (1942)
- Conrad Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, KSG (1944)
- Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, PC, DL (1946)
- HRH The Prince of Wales (1948)
- Adam Fleming (1948)
- Peter St Clair-Erskine, 7th Earl of Rosslyn, QPM (1958)
- Brooks Newmark, MP (1958)
- Sir Richard Osborn, Bt. (1958)
- Simon Marquis, 3rd Earl of Woolton (1958)
- Sir Nigel Burney, Bt. (1959)
- Hon. Rupert Soames, OBE (1959)
- Nicholas Biddulph, 5th Baron Biddulph (1959)
- Geordie Greig (1960)
- James Newdegate, 4th Viscount Daventry (1960)
- Sir Richard Kleinwort, Bt., DL (1960)
- David Faber (1961)
- Piers Butler, 18th Viscount Mountgarret (1961)
- Sir Charles Burrell, Bt. (1962)
- Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby, DL (1962)
- Charles Hay, 16th Earl of Kinnoull (1962)
- Sir Francis Brooke, Bt. (1963)
- Sir Richard FitzHerbert, Bt. (1963)
- Charles Vivian, 7th Baron Vivian (1966)
- George Bingham, 8th Earl of Lucan (1967)
- Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll (1968)
- Clifton Wrottesley, 6th Baron Wrottesley (1968)
- Jay Hambro (1974)
- Ashton Clanfield, Viscount Clanfield (1976)
- Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (1982)
In popular culture
- Wheeler, Brian (24 November 2003). "'If anybody wants me, I'll be at my club'". BBC News Online. BBC News. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Rance, Penelope (3 January 2013). "Joining the club". Economia. Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Laura Pitel (19 July 2013). "Cameron declares war on the gentlemen’s club". The Times. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Ros Taylor (18 October 2005). "Smashing chaps". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Peter Dominiczak; Steven Swinford (18 July 2013). "Gentlemen's clubs are a 'thing of the past', says David Cameron". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Steerpike (18 July 2013). "Cameron whiter than White’s". The Spectator. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Harry Mount (18 July 2013). "Disowned by Cameron, the raffish men-only club that his father once ran". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "Association of London Clubs". The Association of London Clubs. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Grivetti, Louis Evan; Shapiro, Howard-Yana, eds. (2009). Chocolate: history, culture, and heritage. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 584. ISBN 0470121653.
- "London's Cleverest Cook.". Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920). Vic.: National Library of Australia. 25 September 1914. p. 5. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- "Read the Book, Darling," Charles McGrath. New York Times, 22 August 2004, section 2, page 9.
- Historic England. "White's Club (Grade I) (1264877)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Rose Prince (24 October 2008). "White's gentlemans' club reveal what men really like to eat". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Cave Brown, Anthony (1988). The Secret Servant: The Life of Sir Stewart Menzies, Churchill's Spymaster. London: Michael Joseph. p. 148. ISBN 0718127455.
- "Iain Dale's Diary: The Lord Pearson Interview". Iaindale.blogspot.com. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- ‘LAMONT OF LERWICK’, Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016 ; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 8 Dec 2016
- Creamer, Martin (18 October 2013). "Adam Fleming". Mining Weekly. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
- Christopher Hibbert; London, the Biography of a City; 1969; William Morrow, NY
- Stella Margetson; Regency London; 1971; Prawger Publishers, Inc. NY
- Ellen Moers; The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm; 1960; The Viking Press, Inc., NY
- Dod's Parliamentary Companion (various editions)
- Debrett's People of Today, 2011