This week I’m writing about quite a different house as I turn my attentions to a London house. It may not be the oldest house I’ve researched, but it has been the home of many fantastic former residents with exciting stories, so much so, it is difficult to fit them all in. Most notably the house has been the home of the Countess de Narbonne, who was directly linked with the illegitimate son of Louis XV and also later home to Henry Fitz-Clarence, grandson of William IV.
No.41 Ovington Square was built during the early 1850s at a time of great building development across Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge. Within in a few years of the first residents moving in, the house was taken by Louise de Narbonne. The Countess de Narbonne was connected to the Comte de Narbonne-Lara, illegitimate son of King Louis XV of France. The Comte had risen to become Minister of War for Louis XVI, but when the Revolution broke out he managed to escape to England. At this time he associated with other famous émigrés including Talleyrand, Fanny Burney and his mistress, Madame de Stael. The Comte returned to Paris in 1801 and became aide-de-camp to Napoleon, but later died in battle in 1813. The Countess de Narbonne, who was living in Ovington Square during the 1860s, was the wife of the third Comte du Narbonne, both of whom would have walked in illustrious circles amongst the French aristocracy living in London.
The royal links with Ovington Square continued into the late 19th century when the house became the home of another distinguished resident, this time with direct links to the British royal family. Henry Fitz-Clarence moved into the house in around 1895. He was the son of Lord Augustus Fitz-Clarence, ninth son of King William IV and his long-term mistress, actress, Dorothea Bland (Mrs Jordan)…whose descendants also include the Duchess of Fife, Adam Hart-Davis, Duff Cooper and Conservative party leader, David Cameron!
Looking through the former residents of No.41 Ovington Square, there have also been a number of military heroes. Henry Fitz-Clarence’s son, Augustus fought in the Boar Wars, but later died during World War I; Squadron Leader Philip Lee-Warner, who died fighting over Germany in 1944; Lieutenant-Colonel Romer, who received the M.B.E and finally Major Harold Cayzer.
Quite a list of characters for one house tucked away in the quiet streets of Kensington…
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* More information about No.41 Ovington Square.