Marble Hill

Marble Hill in Twickenham is rather tasteful Georgian house built in the Palladian style by Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk. Henrietta had a difficult marriage; her husband, who became Earl of Suffolk upon his brother’s death, used to beat her and gamble the family funds. This added to her woes, for she was already partially deaf and was regularly humiliated by the queen upon whom she waited. On the other hand, King George II rather liked her, and took her to bed as his mistress, making a financial settlement on her husband. When George tired of her in 1734, she too received a generous financial settlement, allowing her to design, construct and inhabit this rather fine house.

It is tasteful and elegant, and for its first owner we may have a degree of sympathy. Yet there is no escaping the fact that it was a reward for adultery. George II’s grandson, the Prince Regent, rented it the following century to enable his own adultery with Maria Fitzherbert. I am sure that old Grandpop would have been proud of him.

Despite the building’s plain, whitewashed exterior and beautifully apportioned rooms with appropriate furniture and décor, sin lies at its heart. Georgian hypocrisy winks at adultery; our own century’s culture of easy divorce and life-long fornication is little better. We might admire someone’s respectability, attractiveness and jolly good reasons for doing what they do, but sin is sin: there is black and white, sheep and goats, saved and unsaved. I believe the current expression used among the informed classes is 'binary'. A marriage may be unhappy, and the one with whom one sins may have pleasanter features and character than the one to whom we committed, but adultery God has plainly decreed to be wrong.

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Hebrews 13:4