The Story of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos:
From Creativity to Destruction
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Viscount Cobham set out to celebrate his military, political and financial success through development of the gardens and house at Stowe. His successor, the second Earl Temple, exhausted himself in redeveloping Stowe House but also lay the seeds of arrogance and greed. His brother George pushed the family to new political heights as prime minister and George's son secured the title of Marquis of Buckingham. But although this George showed the generous side of his character in supporting French exiles and suppressed catholics, he also instilled gluttony and financial imprudence into his children. His eldest son Richard was to secure the long coveted dukedom in 1822 and became the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. But was to achieve little of significance in his life other than to plunge the family headlong into debt. His son and successor completed the destruction of the family and its estates through sexual and financial abandon, culminating in national disgrace and the great sale at Stowe in 1848.
In the mid-eighteenth century. the merging of the Temple and Grenville families brought Wotton into the family assets. The grandeur of this house, built by an insignificant family, should have been a warning. With Wotton came the Grenvilles’ excessive ambition, ill judgement and self indulgence. The blame for the destruction of a great family and its estates lies with the first Marquess of Buckingham and his sons but the seeds of decline were unwittingly sown in the will and testament of Lord Cobham, its laudable creator.
The third Duke bravely tried to rescue the remnants of the family’s wealth and reputation. However, he died without a son and the Dukedom perished with him. Stowe now houses an independent school and is being rescued from its decline by the National Trust and Stowe House Preservation Trust. Wotton has also had to be rescued, though Avington has fared more fortunately.