My husband leaves things around sometimes. And sometimes I pick up after him. One item he left around recently was a 1985 issue of National Geographic (because, doesn’t every husband?). Imagine my surprise when I leafed through it and found an article on England’s Country Houses, called The Great Good Places. I was even more surprised to see it was written by Mark Girouard.

Mark Girouard is more known to me for writing books on my research shelf, books like The Country House Companion or Life in the English Country House .

Girouard begins the article:

When I was an undergraduate in the 1950s, I used to stay with my old great-aunt, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, at Hardwick Hall…

The idea of visiting such a house as a relation boggled my mind! Perhaps Girouard’s love of English architecture began with such visits. He later read the old account books, letters, and other documents from Hardwick Hall, piecing together what happened there.

In the time of Bess of Hardwicke, for example, Girouard described how, in the early 1600s, the Earl of Rutland would arrive on horseback, the gate opened by the porter, the servants who could take away the horses, the greeting by the Usher of the Hall. Girouard goes on to describe a meal and the entertainment.

In addition to Hardwicke Hall, the article includes photos (by Fred J. Moon) of several other Houses, such as Blenheim, Penshurst Place, Knoll, Burghley House, and Castle Howard, mentioning that Castle Howard was the location for the recent (in 1985) TV miniseries, Brideshead Revisited

Girouard talks about the 1700s as the most pompous age of the country house. He discusses Queen Victoria setting the style for “elegance and importance without ostentation.” He moves on to another country house heyday, the Edwardian Age.

What does he leave UNDONE?
Not a mention of the Regency era, not one. Not even a peep about the Pavilion.

Do you have a favorite English Country House? I remember loving Stratfield Saye, Wellington’s house, because it still seemed like a real home. In fact, members of the family still lived there. I also was amazed by Chatsworth.
How about you?

Remember, I’m still giving away prizes this week at Diane’s Blog. My plans for Wednesday are UNDONE, but Friday I’ll feature my story in Pleasurably Undone, The Unlacing of Miss Leigh.
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