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Chequers: A brief history of the British prime minister’s country residence


Donald Trump will spend time at Chequers throughout his four-day “working go to” to Britain this weekend.

Preferring to sidestep the inconvenient reality of mass protests in London and demand that “they like me so much within the UK”, the US president will meet with Theresa May on the prime minister’s official nation residence in Buckinghamshire.

Every week earlier, the historic home hosted the ill-fated cupboard Brexit convention, the end result of which noticed each the Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the overseas secretary, Boris Johnson, resign in protest at a plan for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU that they discovered unpalatable.

Chequers, the Prime Minister’s official nation residence (Getty)

The 1,00zero acre property has been in public palms since 1917, when its then homeowners, former minister and First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Arthur Lee and his American heiress spouse Ruth, donated it to the British authorities on the grounds that the prime minister mustn’t essentially be anticipated to personal their very own rural retreat, a gesture representing a sea change in UK politics. Not would authorities be assumed to be the unique protect of the landed gentry.

Because the Chequers Property Act 1917 expresses it: “It’s not potential to foresee or foretell from what courses or circumstances of life the longer term wielders of energy on this nation might be drawn.”

A constructing has stood on the positioning simply south of Aylesbury since not less than the 12th century. Its identify has been attributed to certainly one of its earliest residents, Elias Ostiarius, whose surname signifies he labored as an usher on the Courtroom of the Exchequer. Alternatively, it could derive from the chequer timber that grown within the grounds.

The home, in its present guise, was designed and owned by William Hawtrey in 1565.

As quickly because it was accomplished, Queen Elizabeth I ordered its use for the detention of Woman Mary Gray, youthful sister of Woman Jane Gray, who had married Elizabeth’s serjeant porter Thomas Keyes in secret and with out the monarch’s consent. She was held at Chequers Courtroom between 1565 and 1567 as punishment and in an effort to guarantee she had no heirs with a declare to the throne.

Over the a long time the home handed by way of the palms of many rich households, together with in 1715 that of John Russell, grandson of Oliver Cromwell. Chequers retains a superb assortment of English Civil Warfare portraiture and antiques to today – in addition to many different artefacts, together with a diary and pocket watch saved by Admiral Lord Nelson, a dispatch case belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte and Elizabeth’s ring.

The cupboard’s ill-fated Brexit gathering at Chequers on 7 July 2018 (PA)

Sir George Russell, one other ancestor, made drastic modifications to the property in 1832, having Hawtrey’s Tudor panels stripped out and remodelling the property externally within the then modish neo-Gothic type.

When the Astley household acquired Chequers within the late Victorian period, they restored it to its unique Elizabethan glory beneath the steering of admired structure Sir Reginald Blomfield, who returned to hold out additional revision to the interiors beneath the Lees in 1909.

Chequers was used as a convalescent house for recovering officers within the aftermath of the First World War after which the Lees made the choice to reward the home to the nation beneath David Lloyd George.

A farewell banquet was held to mark their transferring out on eight January 1921 and a commemorative stained glass window put in, bearing the message: “This home of peace and historic recollections was given to England as a thank-offering for her deliverance within the nice battle of 1914-1918 as a spot of relaxation and recreation for her Prime Ministers for ever.”

Since then, the home has performed host to a whole bunch of eminent (and extra questionable) world leaders and public figures, together with Richard Nixon, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert Mugabe, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping.

Momentous occasions have additionally taken place inside its partitions, from PM Neville Chamberlain’s nervous breakdown in September 1939 to overseas secretary Anthony Eden receiving notification that Nazi Germany had attacked Russia in June 1941.

Margaret Thatcher mentioned of the residence: “I don’t assume anybody has stayed lengthy at Chequers with out falling in love with it.”

Her husband Denis emphatically agreed: “Chequers is why you get the job”. A lot for a lifetime of selfless dedication to public service.

Norma Main, spouse of Conservative prime minister John, appreciated it a lot she wrote a e-book about it, Chequers: The Prime Minister’s Nation Home and Its Historical past.


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