Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire was the location chosen to represent Rosings, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s home in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It might at first appear to have been an odd choice. Rosings in the text is clearly referred to as a modern house-
It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground
-all done no doubt to subtly throw doubt on the age of Sir Lewis de Boughs “noble” origins. Burghley is so obviously an Elizabethan house, built in the late 16th century for Queen Elizabeth I’s loyal minister, William Cecil, and therefore could never have been thought of as “new” in 1796 ,when this adaptation was set.
However, it was convenient. It is to be found on the outskirts of the town of Stamford, which was the real town used as the setting for Meryton in the film (and which I have previously written about here and here)
In this first post of three about Burghley and Pride and Prejudice, I will write about one of the rooms used in the adaptation…the Heaven Room.
This was the setting for Lady Catherine’s drawing-room at Rosings…
where Elizabeth is introduced to a rather formidable Lady Catherine in the company of Charlotte and Mr Collins…and unexpectedly meets Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam , Lady Catherine’s nephews, who were also staying there…
…and where after dinner, we learn that Anne de Bourgh doesn’t play due to her delicate health…
But eventually Elizabeth is persuaded to play..though she does so very indifferently and with a very bad grace….not performing to strangers, indeed.
The Heaven Room,where these scenes were filmed is simply an astounding room. It is almost totally painted,
all the walls and ceiling,with roundels executed in grisaille over the entrances.
Seen in bright sunlight-as on the day I took my photographs- it all encompassing effect is almost overwhelming…
The gods and goddesses disporting themselves amidst tromp l’oeil columns and pediments, the sky seamlessly merging with the painted walls…
…a magically painted rainbow cutting through the scene on the right.
The room was painted by Antonio Verrio, the celebrated Italian muralist,who was patronised by Charles II (my hero)and James II, creating painted interiors at Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace but who later fell out of court favour with the accession to the throne of William III.
He stayed at Burghley for some considerable time, painting these magnificent rooms, becoming part of the 5th Earl of Exeter’s social circle, even joining an informal gentleman’s private drinking club known as the Little Bedlam Club, based at Burghley and whose other members included the portraitist Sir Godfrey Kneller and the Earl himself. The club was well named in Verrio’s case ( the rules of the club are still on display in the Billiard Room in the House) for he was(and still is!!) known for causing havoc in the nearby town of Stamford running up tremendous bar bills and gaming debts and “wenching” in a rather George Wickham-like manner. intriguingly he included a portrait of himself in this room, and here it is in close up below….
He is shown without his usual Baroque wig , sketching while sitting in the forge of the cyclops, which you can see to the right of the centre section, shown below the falling rainbow.
Obviously it was logically too hot to wear a wig in such circumstances…
Choosing such grand and Baroque interiors certainly contributed to the impression of the grandness of Lady Catherine’s social situation in this film, emphasising the social gulf between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy’s family and relations, though a modern interior for the time would have been more appropriate, in my opinion.
I should like to thank the Trustees of Burghley House Preservation Trust , Phillip Gompertz, the house manager and the room Stewards for all their assistance , kindness and for granting me permission of photograph the Heaven Room. And also for allowing me to reproduce images 2-5 in this post. Burghley is a magical house, with stunning interiors( more on these in the next post) marvellous grounds and above all a happy atmosphere throughout all the house and the parts of the estate open to the public. If you can, do go and visit, for its welcome is always warm and the contents are always amazing to see, with something new to discover on every trip.
Next in this series, The Bow Room, used as Lady Catherine’s dining room.