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In this sumptuous portrait of the house known as 'the English Versailles', Richard, Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, sets the scene with a history of his ancestors, the Montagus of Boughton, who acquired the manor in Northamptonshire in the reign of Henry VIII. Most memorable is Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu (1683-1709), Charles II's ambitious ambassador to the court of Louis XIV, who transformed Boughton into a palatial homage to French culture. His son John, the 2nd Duke, is remembered for the miles of avenues he planted, a love of heraldry, a fondness for practical jokes and the ancient lion he nursed in one of the courtyards. The Duke then takes us on grand tour of the house: the French-inspired faade, the formal State Rooms created for Royalty, the Tudor Great Hall and the labyrinth of courtyards. He draws our attention to dramatic painted ceilings, flamboyant French furniture and the oldest dated carpet in Europe, before moving to the park, with its avenues of soaring limes, network of lakes and newly created sunken pool. The book showcases Boughton's celebrated art collection, with its magnificent tapestries and the outstanding collection of Svres porcelain. There are striking portraits of Elizabeth I, Charles II and his son the Duke of Monmouth, another Buccleuch ancestor. Dozens of Van Dyck's friends and contemporaries cluster in the Drawing Room. And most eye-catching of all is the full-length portrait of Shakespeare's muse, the Countess of Southampton. But this is no stuffy museum. The house is still lived in by the Duke and his family and is a thriving hub of artistic life, with regular exhibitions and concerts. Photographs are by Fritz von der Schulenburg, who captures the atmospheric house in all its guises. And the recently appointed archivist Crispin Powell enlivens the history of the house with fascinating new research findings.
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