By the Vicorian era (1837-1901) Warwick Castle had transformed from medieval military stronghold to an English country stately home of immense style. An army of servants ensured that the Castle was properly maintained and that the Earl’s family and guests wanted for nothing. The Industrial Revolution was embraced at Warwick and it was among the first of the large country estates to install a steam central heating system although by the 1890s this and gas lighting was replaced with the new and daring electricity.
The Earls and Countesses of Warwick continued to hold a place at the heart of society as they had done since the Middle Ages. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert lunched at the castle in 1858 and their son Edward Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) was such a frequent guest that he had his own bedroom. Playing hosts to political leaders current and future (the young Winston Churchill was a frequent guest) the Earls and Countesses of Warwick shaped society.
We are given a fascinating insight into Victorian life at Warwick Castle in a recreation of a Royal Weekend Party as experienced in twelve of the castle rooms. Using photographs and written records from the time, scenes from the weekend have been reconstructed allowing us a flavour of Victorian Society at play during a visit by Edward Prince of Wales. The Library, The Smoking Room, The Ladies Boudoir and The Bedrooms have all been set out to give us a snapshot of various events over that weekend.
Typically The Library would see the gentlemen of a country weekend gather in mid afternoon to read and discuss the affairs of the day. This is the scene set out at the Library at Warwick with the notable addition of Daisy Countess of Warwick who has clearly returned from riding in the grounds. The other ladies are gathered in The Music Room (where they are listening to renowned music hall star Clara Butt sing) and in the Ladies Boudoir where they are enjoying an informal gossip over afternoon tea. The remaining gentlemen, meanwhile, are ensconced in the smoking room enjoying cigars and a game of cards. The Bedrooms are set out to show the guests preparing for dinner. For a Victorian lady or gentleman changing for dinner was a time consuming affair and would have involved the help of a domestic servant. The servants can be seen helping to arrange the ladies hair, helping to dress the ladies and making sure that hemlines are straight! Among the guests on view for this particular weekend are Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill with their son Winston then in his early 20s; the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire owners of Chatsworth House; The Duke of Marlborough; The Duke Of York (later King George V 1910-1936) and Edward Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). Truly an insight into how the other half lived!