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About Frogmore House

Frogmore House

Painted by William Leighton Leitch in 1861 ©

Frogmore House, so named due to the large number of frogs in the area originally, stood on the estates of Great and Little Frogmore, which were bought by Henry VIII in the 16th-century. Hugh May, Charles II's architect at Windsor, built the house for his nephew Thomas May and his wife Anne Aldworth, since its completion in 1684, it's been occupied by a succession of Crown tenants. 

From 1709 to 1738 the house was leased by the Duke of Northumberland, son of Charles II by the Duchess of Cleveland. Following the death of the Duchess of Northumberland in 1738, Frogmore had a succession of occupants, including Edward Walpole, second son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.

Queen Charlotte

Queen Charlotte, George III's wife ©

Frogmore House becomes a royal residence

George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte bought Frogmore House in 1792. Although the house was generally in good condition after being continuously occupied, Frogmore needed a number of alterations to make it fit for use by the royal family.

Queen Charlotte and her unmarried daughters used Frogmore as a country retreat where they indulged in their hobbies such as painting, drawing, needlework, reading and botany. In Queen Charlotte's own words, 'I mean this place to furnish me with fresh amusements every day'.

James Wyatt was George III's favourite architect and he was tasked with making the necessary changes. Within 3 years, Wyatt had extended the second floor and added single-story pavilions to the north and south of the garden front. The fronts were linked by an open colonnade, a row of evenly spaced columns supporting a roof.

Queen Charlotte had an extensive collection of books, including a botanical library, which spanned across several rooms at Frogmore. The Queen's interest in botany started when she lived at Kew Palace in the 1770s and it was given full rein at Frogmore. Her garden was laid out with rare and unusual trees and plants, including lilacs, honeysuckle, and golden rain trees. She also installed new garden features, including a thatched hermitage, barn and Gothic ruin, which was designed by her daughter, Princess Elizabeth.

Queen Charlotte died in 1818 and left the house to her eldest unmarried daughter, Princess Augusta, who lived at Frogmore until 1840.

Frogmore House in the time of Queen Victoria

The Duchess of Kent was the next occupant and was offered Frogmore as her country home by her daughter, Queen Victoria. In 1841 The Duchess moved in and substantially modernised and redecorated the house to suit her tastes. An extract from the Duchess's diary for 17 August 1843 describes her birthday party at Frogmore:

 

Victoria, Albert and their party dined here. The Colonnade and the large dining room where there was some dancing in the evening were most tastefully decorated with flowers and garlands of laurel. We dined in the Library, the band playing in the garden. 

Duchess of Kent's Journal

The Duchess used Frogmore regularly until her death 20 years later. Queen Victoria also had a great affection for Frogmore. She visited regularly during her long widowhood and is buried in the mausoleum on the grounds alongside Prince Albert. She added the gothic Tea House and white-marble Indian Kiosk to the garden and used Queen Charlotte's Gothic ruin as a breakfast and reading room.

Queen Victoria at Frogmore

Queen Victoria in a pony carriage at Frogmore House, 1893 ©

In the second half of the 19th century, Frogmore was intermittently used as the residence of different members of the royal family. In 1863, The Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) gave birth to her first child, Prince Albert Victor. From 1866 to 1872, the house was lived in by Queen Victoria's third daughter, Princess Helena, and her husband, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein before they moved to the nearby Cumberland Lodge.

 

Frogmore House in the early 20th century

During King Edward VII's reign, Frogmore was used by the King's son and daughter-in-law, the future King George V and Queen Mary. Queen Mary spent many hours sorting, rearranging and cataloguing items at Frogmore. She described the house as 'a family souvenir museum as well as a museum of "bygones" and of interesting odds and ends'.

 

Frogmore House today

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was very fond of Frogmore House, having spent part of her honeymoon there in 1923. She loved to picnic at Frogmore and this is a tradition continued by the Royal Family today.

In 1997, following the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia, The Duke of Edinburgh furnished what had previously been Queen Charlotte's library and the Duchess of York's dining room with a selection of items from the vessel. This included a mahogany table constructed for Britannia around 1950.

Frogmore House is no longer occupied by the Royal Family, but is often used for entertaining. In May 2018 after the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, their evening reception was held at the House. Nearby Frogmore Cottage is also part of the Windsor Estate and will become the official residence of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2019.