Shortly before 1804, King George III commissioned his architect, James Wyatt, to undertake a major programme of works at the Great Lodge, now named ‘Cumberland Lodge’ after the long residence of his uncle. The south wing of the old house was refaced in brick and given a tower, turrets and castellations in the Gothic revival style to become the building we recognise today. At the establishment of the Regency in 1811, Wyatt’s works were still incomplete. With the castle in a ruinous state and uninhabitable, the Prince Regent selected Cumberland Lodge as his Windsor home. He temporarily moved into the nearby ‘cottage’ (now the Royal Lodge) to allow for the new building work at Cumberland to be completed; but there was so much fighting with the Treasury over the cost of fitting it out that he eventually decided to stay at the cottage instead. The Prince’s favourite architect, John Nash, however continued to make necessary repairs at Cumberland through 1814-15 so that it could be used as overflow accommodation for the Prince’s many guests. The stables were well used by the Royal Lodge too but, after the prince became George IV, he was not allowed to extend them because of the prohibitive cost.
Lord Mount Charles was allowed to live there for a short time in the 1820s and William IV suggested the house be used as a barracks. However, Queen Victoria returned it to its position as a residence for senior members of the Royal Household. Her Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Uxbridge, lived there for a while. Then, after Prince Albert was made the new Ranger in 1841, his Clerk Marshal, General Wemys, moved in. He was in charge of equestrianism and agriculture and was followed by Lord Bridport. They resided in the old part of the house, the north wing being turned into a library and reading room for Prince Albert and his estate workers, with a flat for the housekeeper at the castle above. The building was, by this time, in a rather poor state or repair and, in November 1869, a serious fire broke out in the north wing and that whole area was completely gutted. Queen Victoria even ventured out of the castle to see the spectacle, but was ‘pumped upon’ by the fire brigade and got very wet. Luckily the ‘old house’ survived largely intact, so the main entrance was moved back to its original position there. The north wing was rebuilt by Anthony Salvin on a much smaller scale in 1871-72 at a cost of £10,000.
Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the husband of Queen Victoria’s third daughter, Princess Helena, had been appointed Ranger of the Great Park in 1867 and the two now moved in to Cumberland Lodge from Frogmore with their four children. Since Prince Albert’s death, Princess Helena had been her mother’s constant companion. Victoria married her to a penniless younger son from one of Europe’s Royal houses in order to keep her near at hand in Windsor. She spent much of her life at the Lodge dealing with the Queen’s correspondence and other affairs, bur her passion was looking after others. She undertook many charitable works and founded the Royal College of Nursing from Cumberland. Visits from Royalty were frequent. When the Princess’ niece, Alexandra, and her husband, Tsar Nicholas of Russia visited, they ‘poached’ the nannie from the family and took her back to Russia with them to raise the Royal children. Fortunately however, she did not share the fate of her Imperial employers at Ekaterinburg in 1918.
When introducing electricity and the telephone in 1900, workers discovered extensive dry rot throughout the building and the interiors all had to be rebuilt. The main staircase was relocated, the roof raised and a new bay window inserted in the garden front at the same time. After Princess Helena’s death in 1923, Cumberland Lodge was leant to Lord FitzAlan of Derwent, a younger son of the Duke of Norfolk who had been the last Lord Lieutenant of Ireland before independence. He was responsible for the introduction of much of the panelling as well as the Jacobean fireplaces and medieval tiles brought from Badge Court, his home near Bromsgrove. He was great friends with the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, who often visited for shooting parties; and it was in the private surroundings of the Lodge that Baldwin chose to hold negotiations with King Edward VIII’s private secretary over how to proceed over the crisis of the King’s proposed marriage to Mrs. Wallace Simpson. These talks eventually led to the King’s abdication.
In 1947, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were so impressed by Amy Buller’s book ‘Darkness over Germany,’ written as a warning from history, that they granted her Cumberland Lodge as a home for her Foundation of St. Catherine’s . The college has been there ever since, as a centre where people can come to discuss their differences. It hosts many conferences and, after Roald Dahl attended one, he was so impressed by the house that he featured it in his book, the BFG.
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