Set amongst ancient trees and grasslands in the Lammermuir Hills just south of Haddington, Scotland, Lennoxlove stands as a monument to Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, the famous beauty loved by King Charles II.
A massive 14th century tower, a border fortification in the warfare between England and Scotland, dominates the estate, originally known as Lethington. The walls of the tower, with its well-preserved barrel vaulted ceiling, are ten feet thick. Carved above the main entrance to the tower are the Latin words, "who of the race of Maitland laid the foundations, who raised the Tower, envious antiquity has concealed."
The original owners of the estate were the Gifford family, but it passed to the Maitlands in 1345. Today, the warm pink sand-coloured stone additions, beginning with those of the 17th century, speak of its conversion into a comfortable family home.
The estate became well known when members of the family made their name in the political arena. During the 16th century Sir Richard Maitland, a poet, collector of Scottish ballads, and a judge had two sons destined to become famous. John (1545-1595) became Lord Chancellor of Scotland and was given the title Lord Thirlstane. William (1525-1573) was appointed Secretary of State by Mary, Queen of Scots when she returned from France in 1561. He married Mary Fleming, one of Queen Mary's attendants and ended his life in a Leith prison before the defeat of the Queen.
The Earl of Lauderdale, another John Maitland, enlarged and embellished the house in 1626. His son, John, became one of the most powerful figures in Scotland, virtually a dictator at one time. After the Restoration, he served in London as Secretary of State and Privy Councillor. He restored the house and built the 17th century addition and enclosed the park, separated from the house by a low yew hedge.
It was in 1703 that Frances Stuart bought Lethington. Wishing her name to have some kind of immortality, she changed the name of the estate to Lennoxlove in honour of her title, Duchess of Lennox. Frances never visited the house and, on her death, it passed to her cousin, Walter Stuart.
The estate was sold to the Duke of Hamilton whose family occupies it to this day. The house, as it stands today, includes 19th and early 20th century additions and alterations.
Lennoxlove is filled with fine furniture and portraits by Van Dyck, Raeburn, Lely, Canaletto and others. One of the most interesting collections of china and porcelain in Scotland is found here. A famous silver casket belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, and her death mask are on show. Holding a place of prominence is a portrait of "La Belle Stuart", the famous beauty of Charles II's Court. Today, just as Frances wished, Lennoxlove stands in tribute to her memory.
Lennoxlove can be found one mile (1.6km) south of Haddington, East Lothian. Tel: +44 (0) 1620 823 720. Open: Easter-end Oct, Wed, Thurs, Sat (check first), Sun from 2-4:30pm; guided tours. Admission fee, Friends of the Historic Houses Association free entry.