Bettany visits Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, an extraordinary French chateau built as a fairy-tale castle by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the heart of the English countryside. Here Bettany meets Pippa Shirley, Head of Collections and Gardens, to discuss the contradictions at the heart of the house, which showcases the best of 18th century French decorative art.

Ferdinand devised the house in part as a stage set to court power and for a ‘wow’ factor, and this very much paid off when Queen Victoria asked to visit. The Queen became obsessed with the new electric light switches, which she kept turning on and off. Later, Margaret Thatcher chose to host President Mitterand here during the 1990 summit: an event about which Lord Rothschild spills the beans in an illuminating chat with Bettany.

For more information about Waddesdon, including opening times and dates, go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/waddesdon-manor

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