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The Sackvilles have inhabited Knole, one of Britain's greatest treasure houses, for more than four hundred years. Robert Sackville-West, the 13th generation of the family, takes you on a personal tour of this 'calendar house' with its legendary 365 rooms, fifty-two staircases, and seven courtyards, sprawling over four acres.
Sumptuous photographs by designer Ashley Hicks (who recently photographed the interiors of Buckingham Palace) capture the smouldering spirit of the place: from the state rooms, which house possibly the finest collection of royal Stuart furniture in the world, to the private apartments and gardens, to the behind-the-scenes labyrinth of cellars and attics. Knole provides a window onto English history. The characters who people the pages of the book the grave Elizabethan statesman, the good-for-nothing gadabout at the seedy Court of King James I, the dashing Cavalier, the Restoration rake, the 3rd Duke, that magnificent and melancholy representative of the ancien regime, the whiskery and dark-hearted Mortimer who caused three nights of rioting in 1884 by closing the park to visitors are all representative of their age (members of a family described by Vita Sackville-West as a race too prodigal, too amorous, too weak, too indolent, and too melancholy : in short, a rotten lot, and nearly all stark staring mad. Of course, Vita s torn legacy with the property prompted her dear friend Virginia Woolf to pen Orlando, furthering the place s fame and glamorous lustre. Similarly, the architectural and decorative features of the house, so splendidly revealed by Ashley s photographs, illustrate the different tastes of successive ages, from Thomas Sackville s seventeenth-century makeover of a ramshackle medieval mansion to an early twentieth-century suite of rooms designed in the Bohemian style. Knole has never been illuminated in this way before.