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Thursday, 17 January 2013
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The world's greatest dolls' house

The Queen's dolls' house is a miniature miracle, as these remarkable pictures show...

It is as extraordinary as it is wonderful that, after the First World War, the great and the good of the largest empire in the world chose to mark the moment by concentrating whatever was finest, most ingenious and most beautiful in the country within the narrow confines of… a dolls’ house, albeit one which, to this day, is considered among the finest architectural models in the world. How and why did this happen?
House-Jan18-02-590From left: Queen Mary's Dolls' House; crown-topped, wrought-iron gates with the Royal arms; tiny bottles and casks

How was it possible that this little house-within-a-house should ensnare the devotion of more than a thousand of the great men and women of the day, as well as three years’ passionate attention by the country’s greatest architect? It was Princess Marie Louise, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, who first thought ‘on the impulse of the moment’ of asking her friend, the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens, to design a dolls’ house for Queen Mary, the consort of Marie Louise’s first cousin, King George V.
House-Jan18-03-590From left: immaculate gardens; a baby carriage made by Marmet of Letchworth

Queen Mary was an obsessive collector of objets d’art, most particularly of ‘tiny craft’, and most passionately of those with a family connection. There could have been no better gift for her than a dolls’ house filled with diminutive treasures.

What more suitable tribute, too, could be created for the Queen as a mark of respect for her steadfast presence during the war? With its English eccentricity, this miniature, yet monumental scheme, was spot-on, designed to capture the world’s imagination. House-Jan18-04-590From left: the butler's wine cellar; opulence is the first consideration when setting up the dining room

As a last huzzah for the vanishing Edwardian age (with loud echoes from the Victorians) the Queen’s Dolls’ House, which now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II, is a creation unlike any other.

An exquisite little building, designed with serious intent by the great architect of the day and € lled to its rafters with the work, in miniature, of the € nest artists and artisans, craftsmen and manufacturers of early 20th-century Britain.
House-Jan18-05-590From left: pastry-making accessories; a Rudge motorcycle and leather-clad sidecar get star billing in the garage

Such is its sympathy, accuracy and attention to detail that, within seconds of staring into its tiny chambers, all sense of scale is swept away, enabling you to feel as if you are strolling through a sensational set piece untouched since the day it was € nished in 1924.

This is something of a miracle.
House-Jan18-06-590Clockwise from top left: red-winged cherubs swoop across Queen Mary’s lavishly decorated bedroom ceiling; in the King’s opulent bedroom, a portrait of his daughter, the Princess Royal, takes pride of place alongside his curtained four-poster; copper, polished steel, slate and magnifi cent oak table in the kitchen

Taken from The Queen’s Dolls’ House, by Lucinda Lambton, published by Royal Collection Publications, priced £12.95.

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest and most famous dolls’ house in the world, is just one of the exhibitions held at Windsor Castle. For tickets and visitor information: 020-7766 7304, www.royalcollection.org.uk

A new group tour o‘ffering a fascinating talk and a private viewing of the Dolls’ House and State Apartments, is available on selected dates. To book, email specialistsales@ royalcollection.org.uk


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