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Romance and intrigue in England's hotels

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The staff at the hotel – there are two workers for every guest in the 29 rooms – will cheerfully fill you in on the story. And there are reminders here and there: in the main dining room, for instance, (where a starter 30 grams of Beluga caviar will set you back £120) pictures of Keeler and her call-girl friend Mandy Rice-Davies look down on the diners.

The pastels were painted by Stephen Ward, an osteopath who was also a procurer of girls for the rich and famous. Lord Astor let him have Spring Cottage, right on the river, for, as Ward said, "a peppercorn rent" (said to be £1 a year).

That cottage – in reality quite a large three-bedroom house – is still a rental property, but the price has gone up to – wait for it – £1,575 a night. That includes a butler, a fridge full of champagne and a stretch golf-cart to take you and your friends to meals in the hotel, about two kilometres away.

Despite the cost, staff say the cottage is well-booked, often by corporations for senior staff who, perhaps, take someone other than their spouses.

But then the whiff of sexual escapades isn’t new to Cliveden. It was built in 1666 by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, a notorious rake. An 18th century Prince of Wales installed his mistress there, and a later Prince of Wales (who became King Edward VII) spent weekends there with his lover, Alice Keppell (the great-grandmother, incidentally, of the former Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles).

ACCESS

For more information on Cliveden (pronounced "Cliffdon") House visit its website at www.clivedenhouse.co.uk .