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The High-Flying Duchess
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High-Flying Duchess

Extracts / Woburn Abbey

“Everything was done in splendid, if flamboyant, style. Liveried servants were evident in large numbers. Breakfast was served at ten each morning. A century later, when Herbrand insisted on retaining all the ancient traditions of the house, he continued to ensure that every guest was provided with his or her own gold teapot: these were introduced by Georgiana in 1803 to replace the ancient china ones first brought from China by the East India Company. But the timing of meals reflected Herbrand’s obsession with punctuality and Mary’s commitment to her work: breakfast was three hours earlier, at seven in the morning.”

Mary’s grandson later recalled his first visit to Woburn:

“‘I was put into the front car with a chauffeur and a man on the box. My suitcase was put into the second car, also with two men in charge. We drove to Hendon where I was transferred with my luggage to the Woburn country vehicles, a crowd gathering, fascinated by the sight of eight chauffeurs and four cars transporting one very small boy and his suitcase.

"‘While we were standing there, an MG Midget, the sports car of the moment, passed and all the passengers pointed mockingly at the assembled cars and chauffeurs. I was now being driven by my grandfather’s chauffeur, one of the youngest men. As we approached the Barnet by-pass, the first big by-pass ever built, I sat glued to the edge of my seat, my eyes wider and wider as the speedometer moved from 30 through 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80… we had just touched 80 mph, a remarkable speed for the time, when we passed the Midget, a smile on the chauffeur’s face. The Midget’s driver had not bargained on the most up-to-date engine possible under the old-fashioned bonnet.’”

            Woburn Abbey is still an amazing place to visit: www.woburnabbey.co.uk



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