St James's, London

Home of Harriet Sutherland,
wife of the 2nd Duke of Sutherland

(formerly Stafford House, originally York House)


York House c. 1826


Begun in 1825, the house was originally built for George IV’s brother, the Duke of York, and was known as York House. After he died in 1827, it was acquired, with the interior uncompleted, by the 2nd Marquess of Stafford and was renamed Stafford House. He became the 1st Duke of Sutherland in 1833 and died later that year. His son, the 2nd Duke, inherited the house and completed its construction. It was assessed for property taxes as the most valuable private house in London.

The 2nd Duke's wife, Harriet Sutherland, was Queen Victoria’s best friend and Mistress of the Robes. On arriving at Stafford House from Buckingham Palace, the Queen told Harriet, “I have come from my house to your palace.” In 1912 the house was acquired by Sir William Lever of Lever soap fame. He renamed it Lancaster House in honour of his home county of Lancashire and presented it to the nation the following year. Until 1945 it housed the London Museum. Queen Elizabeth’s coronation banquet was held there in 1953. It is now used for government receptions.




The map shows how close the house is to Buckingham Palace – just off The Mall beside Green Park. Harriet Sutherland’s uncle, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, lived nearby in Piccadilly. Devonshire House was torn down in 1924. It was located between Stratton and Berkeley Streets across from where the Ritz Hotel now stands.





The Grand Staircase Hall provides a dramatic introduction to the house.

In the story... Diana attends her first London ball at Stafford House. The ballroom is on the first floor level (second floor to North Americans), the same level as the colonnade. Emotionally wrought from a troubling experience in the ballroom, Diana seeks solitude in the Staircase Hall away from the crowd. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert find her weeping profusely and express concern. Embarrassed by the encounter – the head of the British Empire witnessing what Diana thought was a private moment – she flees. The elongated staircase makes for a prolonged flight from the royal presence.





An 1832 painting by David Roberts shows part of the lantern at the top of the Staircase Hall.