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Royal Oak Speakers & Topics for FALL 2017

Royal Oak's speakers are engaging, knowledgable experts with a passion for a variety of topices related to The Royal Oak Foundation's mission.

Browse Speakers & Topics

Read more about our Speakers & Topics below, and follow the links to make reservations.

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Laura Cavendish, Countess of Burlington

Lady Burlington is a former model and editor at Harper's Bazaar.

She has worked as a fashion consultant for major stores and brands including Selfridges and has sat on the New Generation board of the British Fashion Council since 2010.

She currently lives and works in London and makes frequent visits to Chatsworth with her husband William Burlington, heir to the Duke of Devonshire, and their three children.

House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth

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Lady Burlington's search for a christening gown eight years ago for her newborn son, James, led her to rummage through her family's collection.

Her search, with her mother-in-law the Duchess of Devonshire, not only resulted in her selection of Nancy Mitford's former christening gown for the occasion, but was also the impetus for a groundbreaking exhibition at Chatsworth showcasing five centuries of historic costumes and fashions worn by the Cavendish family.

Chatsworth has been home to the family, the hereditary dukes of Devonshire, since the original Elizabethan house was built on the site purchased in 1549 by Bess of Hardwick and Sir William Cavendish. Steeped in history and one of England's most famous country houses, Chatsworth is renowned as much for its unrivalled collection of art as its fashionable history.

From gowns owned by the stylish 18th-century fashion icon Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, to fashions worn by contemporary supermodel Stella Tennant, Chatsworth's textile archives are full of majestic dresses and tiaras, magnificent lace, splendid uniforms, and show-stopping ensembles created by the most celebrated designers of their day.

Lady Burlington will lead us through some of the family collection, showing images of drawings, paintings, and photographs in the Chatsworth collection, as well as archival examples of dresses and accessories—including costumes by Jean-Philippe Worth and Alexander McQueen.

Lady Burlington will also feature ceremonial and coronation dress, military jackets, fancy dress, and estate liveries, as well as clothing worn by members of the family to ride, hunt, shoot, and fish. From the 16th-century drawings of stage costumes to comical pieces, like the 11th Duke's jumper embroidered with "Never Marry A Mitford,"

Lady Burlington will offer a personal perspective, as well as discuss Chatsworth's well-known fashionable residents.

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Thomas Coke, 8th Earl of Leicester

Thomas Coke went to Eton and then studied Art History at the University of Manchester.

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts, Tom served in the British Army for six years in the Scots Guards Regiment.

He took over the running of the estate in 2006 and became Earl in 2015.

He lives in the Hall's Family Wing with his wife Polly and their children, Hermione, Juno, Edward, and Elizabeth, as well as four dogs and their mischievous parrot, Basil.

Holkham: A Family Home for Over 400 Years

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Situated on the stunning north Norfolk coast, Holkham is one of the finest examples of a centuries-old family estate adapting to the modern age.

Thomas Coke, the 8th Earl of Leicester, stewards the thriving 25,000 acre estate, which has belonged to the Coke family since 1609.

Its magnificent Palladian style Hall was built by the 1st Earl between 1734 and 1764. The Earl commissioned William Kent to design a building to reflect his passion and appreciation for Italian art and architecture, and to house the collection he acquired on his Grand Tour.

The interior state rooms feature superb examples of sculpture, tapestries, and paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Claude, and Gainsborough, among others.

Besides 7,400 acres of farm land managed by the farming company, the estate has other businesses, including a boutique hotel, a holiday park, various renewable energy projects, a National Nature Reserve, and the care of over 300 estate houses, many of which are over 150 years old. Beloved by the Royal family and tourists alike, Holkham's beach draws some 800,000 visitors a year.

One of the largest National Nature Reserves in the country, it became world-famous as the beach Gwyneth Paltrow strolled across in the final scenes of Shakespeare in Love.

Tom, who took over the running of the estate in 2006, will speak to Royal Oak audiences about the history of his family home and illustrate its exquisite interiors. He will also discuss the challenges of maintaining such a grand estate, which draws nearly 1,000,000 visitors a year.

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Michael Day

Michael Day, CVO was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in September 2016. He was Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces from 2003-2017.

Previously he was the Director of the Jersey Heritage Trust. Mr. Day attended the Getty Leadership Institute in Berkeley, California in 1993 and was on the faculty of the UEA Museum Leadership Program from 1994-2011.

He received the Museums+Heritage 2015 Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution and was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the New Year Honours List in 2015.

As Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces, Mr. Day led substantial change in the way the Palaces and their stories are presented. He also oversaw the now famous Blood Swept Lands and Seas red poppies installation at the Tower of London, as well as the re-presentation of Kew Palace and Kensington Palace.

Re-Presenting History: Challenges and Changes at Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust

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In this talk, Mr. Day will reflect on the impact of and lessons from his previous work and suggest what this could mean for the National Trust and other organizations in the future.

He will also discuss the National Trust's new strategic aim.

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Curt DiCamillo

Historian & Speaker

Curt DiCamillo is an architectural historian and authority on the British country house. He has taught classes in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the School of the MFA.

Mr. DiCamillo leads tours on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning website, The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (TheDiCamillo.com), which seeks to document every country house, standing or demolished.

In recognition of his work, he has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales.

He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is an alumnus of the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School.

He is currently Curator for Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. From 2004 to 2012 he served as Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (today he serves as Executive Director Emeritus).

Previously, he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

William Waldorf Astor: From American Tycoon to English Lord

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William Waldorf Astor, attorney, politician, philanthropist, newspaper publisher and peer of England was one of the richest men in the world during the early 20th century.

Descended from a German butcher's son who immigrated to New York in 1783, Astor, unlike his rough-and-tumble great grandfather, was a sensitive and cultured man who created some of the finest houses, gardens and art collections.

In 1882, while living in Rome as the American Ambassador to Italy, Mr. Astor fostered a passion for art and sculpture by purchasing many treasures. By 1891, he was living with his family in London and at his country estate in Buckinghamshire—Cliveden. He became a British citizen in 1899 and a peer in 1916.

In this richly illustrated lecture, historian Curt DiCamillo will trace the extraordinary life of one of the world's most enigmatic tycoons who became an English lord.

It will feature Astor's most magnificent houses, from his English country estates—Hever Castle in Kent, the ancestral home of Anne Boleyn—to Cliveden House, the magnificent Thames-side palace—to his stunning London home, Astor House.

He will also illustrate Lord Astor's sublime paradise of art, architecture, and gardens, the subject of his forthcoming book, Villa Astor: Paradise Restored on the Amalfi Coast (2017).

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Curt DiCamillo

Historian & Speaker

Curt DiCamillo is an architectural historian and authority on the British country house. He has taught classes in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the School of the MFA.

Mr. DiCamillo leads tours on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning website, The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (TheDiCamillo.com), which seeks to document every country house, standing or demolished.

In recognition of his work, he has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales.

He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is an alumnus of the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School.

He is currently Curator for Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. From 2004 to 2012 he served as Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (today he serves as Executive Director Emeritus).

Previously, he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Jewels of Scandal & Desire: British Jewelry, Country Houses & Collections

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Shimmering, captivating, and corrupting. Great jewels have dazzled people for millennia, their beauty and value producing respect, deception, love, and betrayal.

Whether an enormous diamond, a jewel-encrusted heraldic pin or an Order of the Garter star, the language of jewels subtly and sometimes ostentatiously coveys a statement of power, position and wealth.

This lecture will explore how the 18th-and 19th-century British ruling classes, modeling themselves on the ancient Roman Empire, used jewelry to reinforce their positions in society and awe their peers.

The aristocratic families that owned these jewels, such as the Marquis of Londonderry, were at the pinnacle of British society. They often hosted glittering soirées at their expansive country houses—such as the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth—and grand London homes, where their jewels were shown off to great effect.

British Royals collected jewels for both state and private use and notable collectors included Queen Mary and Princess Margaret who amassed collections of extraordinary tiaras, necklaces, brooches, etc. Where there is wealth and power, there are always stories about jewelry.

Historian Curt DiCamillo will discuss the tales behind these noble families, their houses, and their jewels, all weaving together to create a glittering web of power and position.

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David Lough

David Lough read history at Oxford University, where he won first class honors. Mr. Lough then had a long and fruitful career in finance, starting in Asia and investment banking, before founding a private banking business in 1988.

Mr. Lough is a former member of the London Stock Exchange and Fellow of the Chartered Securities Institute.

He returned to history in his retirement and coupled it with his experience in finance to write his first book No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money.

No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money

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The popular image of Winston Churchill—grandson of a duke, born at Blenheim Palace, drinking champagne and smoking a cigar—conjures up an image of a man of wealth and substance.

In truth, Britain's most celebrated modern statesman lived for most of his life on a financial cliff edge. He had to take risks, speculate wildly on shares, and write constantly to fund his lifestyle. Indeed in 1898 Churchill wrote, "The only thing that worries me in life is money."

With unprecedented access to Churchill's private records, historian and financier David Lough was able to create the first fully researched narrative of Churchill's private finances and business affairs. Mr. Lough will lecture and disclose the scale of Churchill's financial risk-taking, his ability to talk or write himself out of the tightest corners, and also expose the links between the private Churchill and the public figure.

Depicting Churchill's financial endeavors across his lifetime, Mr. Lough will also illustrate the cultural shift in Britain as aristocratic inheritances often waned and a new class of business entrepreneurs emerged. These new financiers forged fortunes in railways, mining, finance, and other industries.

Mr. Lough's remarkable tale of Churchill's success despite his monetary shortcomings only makes the story of one of the most successful political figures of the 20th century more fascinating.

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Jeremy Musson

Architectural Historian & Author

Jeremy Musson is a leading commentator and authority on the English Country House.

He was awarded an M Phil in Renaissance History at the Warburg Institute, University of London in 1989 and was Architectural Editor of Country Life from 1995-2008.

Before joining Country Life in 1995, Mr. Musson was an assistant regional curator for the National Trust in East Anglia, curating historic houses such as Ickworth House, and at the same time setting up the research and interpretation of new sites, such as the ex-bomb testing range and nature reserve at Orford Ness in Suffolk.

He has written and edited hundreds of articles on historic country houses, from Garsington Manor to Knebworth House.

Mr. Musson also presented a 6-part series on BBC 2 called Curious House Guest in 2005. His books include The English Manor House (1999), Plasterwork (2000), How to Read a Country House (2007), The Country Houses of Sir John Vanbrugh, Up and Down Stairs: The History of the English Country House Servant (2009), and English Country House Interiors (2011). His latest book is Robert Adam: Country House Design, Decoration & the Art of Elegance (2017)

Robert Adam: Country House Design, Decoration & the Art of Elegance

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Robert Adam was one of the greatest architects of Georgian Britain, and influenced generations with his use of the neoclassical aesthetic in the country house interior.

After returning to Britain from a Grand Tour to Italy and Dalmatia in the 1750s, he set up as an architect in London, and was an immediate success.

Adam introduced and popularized decoration based on ancient classical ornament, with tablets and medallions of low relief plasterwork on ceilings and walls; carved and gilded classical motifs on furniture; and designs for chimneypieces incorporating classical masks, wreaths and tributes.

He also used fashionable colors such as pink, green, blue, lilac, and straw to allow his ornamental detail to be read in relief and to create harmony between ceiling and side walls.

His plans were distinctive for their vaulted ceilings, screens of columns, apses, and niches, which all created what he himself called "movement... to add greatly to the picturesque of the composition."

Architectural historian Jeremy Musson will talk about Adam's extraordinary life and work, describing his unique design process, his patrons, and his enduring legacy to the world of design.

Mr. Musson will illustrate and describe magnificent country house interiors designed by Adam, including National Trust treasures such as, Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, Osterley Park, in Middlesex, and Saltram, in Devon, as well as other famous houses such as the Duke of Northumberland's Syon House, Newby Hall in Yorkshire and Lord Mansfield's Kenwood House.

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Robert O'Byrne

Writer and Lecturer

Robert O'Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in the fine and decorative arts.

He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House, The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, Romantic Irish Homes and Romantic English Homes.

A retired Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society and trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists Collecting Society.

Among other work he writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine, and is also a regular contributor to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review.

For the past five years Mr. O'Byrne has written an award-winning blog, The Irish Aesthete

Romantic English Country Homes

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Ever since the English aristocracy embarked on a Grand Tour in the 17th century, the passion for developing collections has been a national trait.

By the time novelist Henry James had moved to England and described English interiors, the country's aristocratic palaces had become repositories of treasures gathered from across the globe. Almost every residence in England had amassed objects influenced by the spread of the English Empire.

Around the same time, a number of organizations were founded to ensure that the finest examples of English domestic design and decoration would survive for future generations' appreciation—most notably the National Trust in 1895. Robert O'Byrne will present 14 English houses—large and small, old and new—which all convey the intentional mingling of styles and tastes that now encompasses the "English look."

From classical antiquities next to gothic revival pieces, or tartan plaid competing with floral chintz, these private houses demonstrate the layering of collections and styles ubiquitous in English homes.

From London to Dorset, Staffordshire to East Anglia, and Northumberland to Suffolk, the timelessness of these properties and their many-layered appearances makes them alluring both in fiction—novels, movies, and television serials such as Downton Abbey—as well as in reality.

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Robert O'Byrne

Writer and Lecturer

Robert O'Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in the fine and decorative arts.

He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House, The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, Romantic Irish Homes and Romantic English Homes.

A retired Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society and trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists Collecting Society.

Among other work he writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine, and is also a regular contributor to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review.

For the past five years Mr. O'Byrne has written an award-winning blog, The Irish Aesthete

Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House

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Luggala, an exquisite Gothic Revival style house at the center of a 5,500 acre estate in Wicklow Ireland, was originally built as a hunting lodge by the La Touche banking family in 1787.

In 1937, Ernest Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh and chief executive of the Guinness Company, bought Luggala and gave it to his daughter, Oonagh, as a wedding present.

Oonagh made it the center of a dazzling social world that included painters, poets, journalists, scholars, and socialites.

Robert O'Byrne will tell the absorbing tale of the building, which Oonagh called "the most decorative honey pot in Ireland" and how the house earned its reputation as an exuberant cultural hub where Irish music, art and literature have flourished for decades.

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Troy Scott Smith

Head Gardener, Sissinghurst Castle

Landscape designer Troy Scott Smith's passion for the natural world developed during his childhood spent in the Yorkshire countryside.

He began his gardening career in 1987 creating gardens in both the United Kingdom and France and joined the National Trust in 1990. Apart from one year as the Curator for The Royal Horticultural Society, he has been caring for Trust gardens ever since.

Troy spent seven years as Head Gardener at The Courts in Wiltshire and another seven at Bodnant Garden in Wales, where he led a 3.4 million pound restoration.

Head Gardener at Sissinghurst Castle since 2013, Troy and his team of seven full-time gardeners have been working to revitalize and maintain the beauty and romance of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson's exquisite garden.

Troy has also worked with the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney and Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, co-designing the Floral Colour spectrum at the latter.

An avid photographer, Troy was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society garden photographer of the year in 2003. He also writes regularly for garden magazines and daily newspapers and presents on BBC's Gardeners' World.

Sissinghurst: Re-vitalising Vita Sackville West's Garden

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The garden surrounding Sissinghurt Castle, Kent, which has been managed by the National Trust since 1967, is the epitome of an English garden.

The poet, novelist and garden writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, started planting the garden in 1930 and spent 30 years turning it into a refuge dedicated to natural beauty. When she first laid eyes on the empty plot, Vita wrote: "It caught instantly at my heart and my imagination. I fell in love; love at first sight..."

She designed the garden as a series of adjoining rooms, separated by walls of high clipped hedges enclosing beds of different colored flowers with, as she described, a strict "formality of design, with the maximum informality in planting."

For Vita, gardening was about romance, emotion and intimacy. In the famous White Garden she restricted colors to white, grey, green, and silver while Harold emphasized the structure and texture with yew and box wood.

Though many original details and plantings remain half a century after Vita's death, changes in planting, as well as visitors numbering in the hundreds of thousands, have led to an overall tone and look that differs from her original design.

Head Gardener Troy Scott Smith will discuss how he plans to revitalize the original plan and illustrate his implementation of a more relaxed approach to pruning and training—allowing for the looser, more natural look Vita so enjoyed. He will also talk about new discoveries, such as Vita's original metal rose labels, which indicate that her collection numbered over 300 varieties.

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