A real royal tour at Provender House

A week ago I was still in England. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t any better than today: quite a lot of rain. Really a pity, as we had planned a visit to Provender House in Norton near Faversham, Kent, in the afternoon. With about 30 people we were to have a guided tour of the house. A friend and I took the train from London to nearby Sittingbourne where somebody picked us up by car.

Of course we arrived far too early, and because it rained heavily we at first couldn’t even take photos outside. Luckily it stopped raining after a while. Finally inside we all bought some postcards and had our first look around. For the tour the group was divided in two parts. We were very lucky the owner of the house, Princess Olga Romanoff, personally guided the group on the first floor, while her friend Alexandra Campbell guided the group on the ground floor. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take photos inside the house. We were warned beforehand that the house would be quite cold, but I thought it wasn’t that bad.

Princess Olga especially turned out to be a very enthusiastic guide and entertained us with amusing stories. She proudly showed us room after room full of beautiful paintings and photos of the family, books and other Romanoff souvenirs. We saw lovely bedrooms, including Olga’s childhood room, bathrooms, and even a library. I wouldn’t have mind taking some of the books with me really. The tour was over far too soon. We all left, but not after having bought some more postcards, and the Princess even signed them. Whether her son, Francis Mathew, really “hide” with the dogs in one of the rooms we didn’t see … In case you missed it, this quite good looking royal descendant once took part in the Ukraine TV-programme “The Bachelor”.

But how did a Romanoff Princess end up in Provender House? The first parts of the house date back to the 14th century. The first owner was Elias de Provender. The house was of course extended in the next centuries. In 1633 the house became in the possession of the British noble family Knatchbull-Hugessen (baronets, nowadays Barons Brabourne). They rented it to the maternal great-grandmother of Princess Olga Romanoff in 1890, and sold it in auction in 1912 to her Finnish-born grandmother Sylvia McDougall née Borgström in 1912. Her daughter Nadine McDougall would married Prince Andrew Romanoff in 1942. Their only daughter Olga was born in 1950 and inherited the house after the death of her mother in 2000. Prince Andrew had been previously married to Donna Elisabetta Ruffo, who had died in 1940, and had one daughter and two sons.

Provender House was extensively restored over the past years with support of English Heritage and Swale Council. It however will costs much more to finish the restoration.

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