The place-name (and derived epithet) Cliveden is pronounced with a "short '-i-'", as if the first syllable contained the verb 'to live': 'KLIV-den' (IPA: /ˈklɪv dən/). It is a house in Buckinghamshire, built in 1851 as the third on its site, which has been prominent in British history several times:
- The first house was built in 1666 for George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who was active in the politics of the reign of Charles II. He was said to be the richest man in England.
- The house burned down in 1795. It was rebuilt in the 1820s. That house burned down in 1849.
- The current house (designed by Charles Parry) was completed 1851-2 for the Duke of Sutherland. It passed to another extremely rich Englishman, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor (3rd Marquess, later 1st Duke, of Westminster).
- Westminster sold Cliveden to William Waldorf Astor (an American billionaire, later 1st Lord Astor). He passed it on to his son, Waldorf Astor (later 2nd Viscount Astor), an active owner of The Observer newspaper, and daughter-in-law, Nancy Astor, the first British woman MP actually to sit in the House of Commons, which she did from 1919 to 1945. They were famously hospitable, with house parties of prominent people from many walks of life, but principally politics, and largely upper-class. The Communist journalist Claud Cockburn dubbed them The Cliveden set in attacking them as forming a right-wing conspiracy to appease Hitler: this "is regarded as essentially a fiction" (ODNB).
- During both World Wars, the Canadian Red Cross built hospitals in the grounds.
- In 1942, the Astors gave the house, with a generous endowment, to the National Trust, on condition that the family might continue to live there. They left in 1968.
- In 1962, Cliveden became notorious as the place where John Profumo, then Minister for War, began - or continued - an adulterous relationship with Christine Keeler about which he later lied to the House of Commons. The scandal led to his resignation. It is known as the Profumo Affair.
Cliveden is now run as an hotel, on a long lease from the National Trust.