When in conversation with her architect, Sir Edward Lutyens, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1921, Princess Marie Louise formed the idea of commissioning the perfect doll’s house as a gift to Queen Mary. Known as one of the great collectors of her time, Queen Mary had a passion for detail and a love of all things small, including rare and valuable netsukes.
The instruction to Lutyens was that the doll’s house would be a gift from the people and needed to therefore reflect their love, admiration and loyalty of the Queen; a huge task to design and responsibility to shoulder. Princess Marie Louise was a supporter of the arts and had many connections, arranging for over 1,500 leading craftsmen to contribute their specialist skills to the project.
Taking over three years to build, the doll’s house showcased the finest goods and the best of British trade, with such details as working shotguns, hot running water, hand carved and gilded furniture and a fully stocked wine cellar. Amongst the beautifully furnished rooms, carefully selected silks decorate walls, four poster beds, chairs and curtains: hand woven at 1:12 scale, these stunning silks defy belief.
Having produced silks for the royal occasions, Warner & Sons were requested to weave a small patterned silk for the salon and plain silk to use throughout the house. It is unfortunate that the Archive does not have any samples of these fabrics, but a local silk weaving mill, Gainsborough Silks in Sudbury, still holds samples of the silks fabrics and rugs they were commissioned to weave. In a traditional 18th century style, the damask has been woven by Gainsborough and Warner & Sons throughout the 20th century and remains a grand and luxurious design. A testament to the skill of the hand weavers, the yarns have been dyed, spun and woven to perfection in miniature.
Now famous round the world, Queen Mary’s doll’s house is on display at Windsor Castle and remains one of the royal top visitor attractions.