Wilton House and Gardens

A house with history.

From a Benedictine Nunnery established in the eighth century in what was then the capital of Wessex, Wilton House and village now has the gentle air of style combined with substance. Style in the house’s famous single cubed and double cubed rooms. A nunnery that the 1st Earl of Pembroke was granted by Henry VIII in 1544.

There is substance in the centuries of history that saw William Shakespeare and his merry band of players enter the front door with their first performance of “As You Like It”; that saw Sir Philip Sidney compose “Arcadia”; witnessed the assembling of painters, actors, musicians, writers all who came to this country stately house.

Close to this charming house you can visit the Italianate/Lombardic church where the present 18th Earl married. Walk through the gardens with the Palladian bridge that strides a gently flowing river. What could be more delightful?

“Wilton House 1603. It is the second of December. Evening has already closed in, and the deepening gloom of night gives an additional sense of cheerfulness to those who are gathering within the warm and well-lit hall. at one end, the company of players have raised a temporary stage and wings and one set-scene…

So exuberant was the King’s delight with the play which had been brought to a close that he enquired if the author of it were among the players by whom it had been performed, and the Earl of Pembroke, replying in the affirmative, was commissioned to introduce him to the monarch, (James I ).

…soon emerged again leading the dramatist by the hand. He was a man on whose face Nature had legibly written “nobelman”. In figure scarcely above the middle height, in age verging upon forty years, plain of attire, and unassuming in demeanour, there was a grandeur in his head and face which seemed to intimate affinity with demigods of old mythology. Principally, perhaps, this natural regality was to be found in the high and massive forehead, slightly bald, which rose up like a tower, above finely arched brows, flexable as a bow, and a pair of hazel eyes, soft, full, and wonderfully expressive of every – even the most transient – emotion of the mind which looked upon you from their calm depths. His mouth was also remarkably beautiful, – perhaps it would have been effeminately so, but for the trim moustache and peaked beard, which gave it a more pronounced and masculine character Do we need to add, that the play thus presented to the Earl of Pembroke’s royal guest was the comedy of “Twelfth Night,” and that the dramatist who knelt before the King was WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE?”

James Smith author of “Rural Records”



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