Inside a £15.5million mansion that was once a notorious prince's playground
It is no secret that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, but a good back story can also help shift a property.
Once the home of a dissolute Indian prince, whose marriage to an English noblewoman scandalised Victorian society, this £15.5million mansion would surely pique Kirstie and Phil’s interest, even if it was located on the worst street in Chernobyl. But it isn’t. It’s in the prime location of south-west Kensington. Boom.
This is the former London home of Prince Victor ‘Vickie’ Albert Jay Duleep Singh, the Crown Prince of Lahore, and the exiled son of the last Maharaja of Lahore.
The 5,613sq ft, semi-detached villa in Kensington’s Little Boltons, features two large roof terraces and a 52ft rear garden, which would have been the hub for the original Victorian version of Made in Chelsea shenanigans during the prince’s watch in the late 19th century.
So, where does the prince come in?
Eton College and Cambridge University-educated ‘Vickie’ had set society tongues wagging when he married his sweetheart, Lady Anne Coventry, the daughter of the 9th Earl of Coventy, in 1898, as it was the first time that an Indian Royal had married an English noblewoman.
Initially, both families resisted the marriage, but it was made possible when Prince Victor’s gambling chum, Edward, Prince of Wales (who became King Edward VII), and the 5th Earl of Carnarvon put in a good word. More on the prince’s gambling habits later.
The newlyweds were to call this three-storey, Italianiate-style villa home, thanks to a rather exclusive help to rent scheme. The house had been bought by the East India Company on its completion in 1868 as a grace-and-favour property and was leased to the prince and for a peppercorn rent.
The cheap rent, which continued after the government acquired the East India Company’s assets when it ceased trading in 1874, meant the prince had his entire £8,250 allowance (more than a £1million in today’s money) to play with. He became the ultimate Sloane ranger and enjoyed a hedonistic life of leisure cruises around Europe, lavish parties and lads’ holidays to Egypt, whilst spending what time he had left hanging out at Claridge’s and playing bridge. But it was his love of playing the tables in Monte Carlo that was to prove his undoing.
In 1902 Prince Victor, who was in debt to the tune of £117,900 – a breathtaking £14.5million today – was declared bankrupt. A series of poor investments and his gambling habit had destroyed his fortune.
One final time, he travelled to Monte Carlo to try one more roll of the dice, in the hope of salvaging his money. It didn’t work.
Further notices followed and the couple relocated to Paris, and saw out World War I from the comfort of Monte Carlo, where, aged just 51, the prince died of a heart attack in June 1918. His widow returned to London upon his death, and she continued to have use of The Little Boltons house until she died, aged 82, in 1956.
It remains a house fit for a king, or prince, perhaps a captain of Industry, finance or commerce
Now sympathetically modernised, this huge open-plan, five-bed property is still fit for royalty. It skillfully blends sharp contemporary elements with traditional Victorian features including archworks and cornicing.
A stylish extension from 2010 to the lower-ground floor level, which creates a large open space with full-height glazing opening onto the rear garden, with traditional Victorian archworks and cornicing.
The living spaces, which are spread across five levels, are entered though a large hallway with timber flooring and high ceiling.
Next comes the front drawing room with large bay window and, to the rear of the house, the kitchen and breakfast room along with a separate dining room.
Throughout the property are two formal reception rooms, an informal family/media room, a family kitchen and breakfast room, five bedrooms, including the sumptuous principal bedroom suite, a gymnasium and two staff bedrooms/studios.
The family house now provides five levels of modern living space over lower ground/garden floor, raised ground and three upper floors.
Jeremy Gee, managing director of Beauchamp Estates says: ‘It is a grand house, yet maintainable; a beautiful family home perfect for people who also like to entertain. It remains a house fit for a king, or prince, perhaps a captain of Industry, finance or commerce, and is one of the finest properties currently available for sale in The Little Boltons and sister address The Boltons.’
A tour of the Kensington mansion
The entire first floor is home to the stylish principal bedroom suite, which includes a private balcony and terrace, with a walk-in dressing room, opening onto two balconies and the main bathroom. Back in the day, this would have been two VIP bedroom suites for Prince and Princess Victor Duleep Singh, the Royals sleeping separately and meeting for breakfast together on the rear bedroom terrace.
The family kitchen certainly is a bold, contemporary statement, with its polished green and brushed-steel units and informal dining area. Two sets of French doors open onto the upper-ground floor roof terrace. The adjoining, more formal, dining room also opens onto the roof terrace.
Well, it goes without saying the kids won’t be short of space in a 5,613sq ft home, but you could practically fit the average London studio flat into the generously sized children’s room. Even the Wendy House is a Wendy Castle…
The Boltons had a major refurb about a decade ago and the massive contemporary extension means the lower-ground floor enjoys panoramic views across the gardens. There is a floor-to ceiling wall of glass at the back of this vast living space, which houses a family room, media room and informal dining area, and opens up onto a large paved terrace and garden, as well as providing access to the gym. With just a few circuits of the house however, we reckon you should be able to reach your 10,000 steps a day.
The expansive modern extension has barely put a dent in the sizeable garden. As well as the terrace directly outside the modern extension, there’s plenty of scope to sit looking down on the fun below, with three more terraces extending from the house. The elegantly landscaped grounds are also home to a treehouse, a construction that may pique the interest of first-time buyers. Before you ask, no, it’s not for sale separately!
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