• VIP Reception at The Royal Commonwealth Society

    VIP Reception at The Royal Commonwealth Society

    10th July 2017
    6:00pm to 8:00pm

    Please note that this event is now fully-subscribed after a great response. We are balloting the remaining places and will let applicants know whether their luck is good or otherwise.

    The Royal Commonwealth Society and the Britain-Australia Society will host a joint reception with wine and canapés for B-AS members in the impressive surroundings of Marlborough House, the Headquarters of the Commonwealth.

    We will be joined
    at Marlborough House

    The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
    Prime Minister of Australia
    H.E. The Hon. Alexander Downer AC

    Australian High Commissioner
    to the United Kingdom

    The changes happening in British politics have swung the spotlight firmly onto the potential of Britain’s Commonwealth cousins so this is a very apt time to renew our acquaintance with Marlborough House and strengthen the links between the UK and the modern Commonwealth.


    Dress code: Business attire

    We will be privileged to hear from The Rt Hon The Lord Howell of Guildford PC, President of The Royal Commonwealth Society.

    Lord Howell is also Chairman of the Lords Select Committee on international Relations and a member of the Privy Council. He has served as Minister of State at the FCO, Secretary of State for Transport and for Energy, and Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury.  He was MP for Guildford for 31 years from 1966 to 1997. Lord Howell was awarded Grand Cordon of the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure in 2001. He is also Chairman of several energy companies and an author and newspaper columnist.

    Please note:
    We are very fortunate that the Australian Prime Minister will attend our function but, as with all high-level political visits, plans may change at short notice preventing Mr Turnbull from coming. We are hopeful that this won’t happen of course!

    About Marlborough House:


    Completed in 1711 this Grade I listed mansion was built for the 1st Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. It was designed by Christopher Wren, his son of the same name and Sir James Pennethorne to the specifications of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough who wanted her new house to be ‘strong, plain and convenient and good’. It is now the HQ of The Commonwealth Secretariat and The Commonwealth Foundation.

    John Churchill made his a name on the battlefields of Europe defeating King Louis XIV of France. His wife Sarah had from childhood been a friend of the ruling monarch, Queen Anne. It was the home of the Dukes of Marlborough for over a century.

    The huge estate of Blenheim Palace was paid for by a nation grateful for the Duke’s military victories but Marlborough House was commissioned and paid for by the Churchills themselves and was originally a modest two stories.

    In 1817 the property was leased to the Crown and subsequently was occupied by a succession of Royals including Princess Caroline and Prince Leopold. Queen Adelaide, King William IV, and the future kings Edward VII and King George V.

    In 1936 Edward VIII came to his mother, Queen Mary’s private apartments and announced that he planned to abdicate.

    In 1959 Marlborough House became the Headquarters of The Commonwealth of Nations.

    The Entrance Vestibule and the Grand Corridor were added during a refurbishment in the 19th century and features a white stucco ceiling, 19th century wooden wall panelling. The light colours and skylights make the room very different from the ornate and Baroque Blenheim Saloon which is a riot of gilding and paintings on the themes of the Dukes military prowess in 1704 against the Bavarian and French armies.

    The two principal staircases and the Blenheim Saloon boast impressive wall paintings commemorating The Duke of Marlborough’s victories. By contrast the tapestries show jolly village scenes.

    Over the marble fireplace are carved the dates 28th April 1863 and 4th April 1903. These record the arrival of the future Edward VII and George V respectively. There are marble busts of King George V and Queen Mary whilst they were still Prince and Princess of Wales.

    The hallway adjoining the Saloon leads to the Ramillies Staircase which dates from the 1860s. The paintings are earlier 18th century commissions by the Churchills by Louis Laguerre. In one painting, Marlborough is on horseback with three slain soldiers nearby, one of whom, his wig having fallen off, is Colonel Bringfield who helped the Duke back on his horse before being slain. The small bullet-hole in the Colonel’s head is artistic licence as in reality his head was blown off by a cannonball!

    At the top of the Ramillies staircase are a few steps down to the gallery within the Saloon. Paintings visible here show the Duke accepting the French surrender, and Grenadiers crossing the River Nebel en-route to battle. The ceiling murals are by Italian artist Orazio Gentileschi and were formerly in the Great Hall of the Queen’s House in Greenwich. They depict Peace among the 9 Muses, 4 Arts and the Liberal Arts.

    At the other end of the Gallery is a hall containing the Malplaquet (or “visitors'”) Staircase, used by guests including the last Tzar of Russia. The Laguerre paintings here depict the victory at Malplaquet.

    Near the entrance to Marlborough House are the Tudor St James’s Palace and the early 17th century Queen’s Chapel. The chapel was commissioned for Henrietta-Maria, the wife of King Charles I, so that she could partake of a Catholic mass privately when at St James’s. The chapel was built by Inigo Jones who also built the Queen’s House at Greenwich and the Banqueting House at Whitehall.



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    • Britain-Australia Society Sponsors
    • Britain-Australia Society Sponsors
    • Britain-Australia Society Sponsors
    • Britain-Australia Society Sponsors
    • Britain-Australia Society Sponsors
    The Britain-Australia Society Sponsors

    The organisations shown have all committed to supporting this year’s events. Many thanks to them.

    Commonwealth Bank Australia, CPA AustraliaEtihadCA ANZ,
    Godiva ChocolatierTait Memorial Trust and Vestey Foods Group.