Queen Mary's Dolls' House
Berkshire SL4 1NJ
This exquisite model of a royal country house is no ordinary dolls’ house nor was it built for a child to play with. The more you inspect it, the more you see. Over three feet (0.9 metres) tall, everything in it works, from the electric lights to the flushing toilets!
King George V’s wife Queen Mary was a lover and collector of ‘tiny objects’. This fact was well known to all the Royal Family including Princess Marie Louise, George’s cousin.
The Princess was a great patron of the Arts in Britain and was looking for a way to repay the kindness of Queen Mary. She came up with the idea of having a dolls’ house made, filled with miniature works of art. She was well known in literary and artistic circles and knew many eminent people among them the great 20th century architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
A Sir Edwin Lutyens Design
At the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1921 the Princess approached Sir Edwin with her idea for the dolls’ house and he enthusiastically embraced the project. Originally Lutyens thought it should be modelled on an English gentleman’s house of the early 1920s.
Lutyens developed his ideas and wanted to show future generations how a 20th century king and queen of England lived and what contemporary writers, artists and craftsmen were accomplishing during their reign.
At his first meeting with Princess Marie Louise, Lutyens brought along with him the President of the Royal Society of Industrial Artists, Sir Henry Morgan, who happened to be involved with the planning of the Government exhibit for the British Empire Exhibition to be held in 1924.
Morgan could see that this dolls’ house would make a popular exhibit for the Exhibition and would be an excellent showcase for British craftsmanship. Meanwhile, the Princess had presented her idea to Queen Mary for her approval. The Queen was very surprised and delighted and was happy for the gift to be exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition for a small fee which would go to the Queen’s charities.
The model for an English Gentleman's Home
Sir Edwin drew up scaled plans and elevations for a model of an English gentleman’s ideal home. Every possible requirement was catered for with planning for over forty rooms. For the master and mistress of the house there is a dining room, sitting room, library, impressive entrance hall, two staircases, private bedrooms with en-suites and wardrobes, a day nursery for the children, and a strong room for crowns and jewels!
For the domestic staff needed to run such an establishment there is a well equipped kitchen, scullery, pantry, linen room and bedrooms. The house had all the latest ‘mod cons’, two automated lifts stopping at each floor, electric lighting, hot and cold running water, and flushing toilets.
Everything is built to one twelfth scale including all the furnishings, paintings and books. The books in the library have been written by 170 well known authors like Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, J M Barrie, etc, some in the author’s own handwriting.
Furniture replicates Windsor Castle furnishings
Much of the furniture is a perfect replicas of the furnishings in Windsor Castle itself. The china in the butler’s pantry is made by Doulton, Minton and Wedgwood. In the linen room is a Singer treadle sewing machine. Sir Edwin Lutyens insisted that every item in the house worked, even the gramophone.
In the two years that the dolls’ house sat in Lutyens’ drawing room at Marylebone awaiting completion of all the furnishings, Queen Mary would often visit, spending up to four hours arranging and playing with the furniture.
The dolls’ house was ready 11 weeks before the British Empire Exhibition opened and the exhibit was a great success - more than 1½ million people saw the dolls’ house. It went on to be exhibited at the 1925 Ideal Home Show before finding its permanent home in Windsor Castle where it has delighted countless millions of visitors ever since.
Open all year except when the Castle is closed to visitors. Please visit Windsor Castle article in this website for entry details to the castle.
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