London mansion once owned by scandalous Duchess goes on sale

London home of scandalous Duchess of Sutherland who inspired Disney Cinderella’s ‘wicked stepmother’ after trying to deny her step children their inheritance goes on sale for £16million – complete with a cinema and gym

  • Home once owned by scandalous Duchess who inspired Disney Cinderella’s wicked stepmother is on sale
  • The elegant six bedroom townhouse in London’s Hyde Park Gate is on the market for a staggering £16million 
  • Once the mansion of the Duchess of Sutherland (1848-1912), who was then Mary Caroline Blair (née Mitchell)
  • She lived at the house with husband, Captain Arthur Blair, the financial advisor to the 3rd Duke of Sutherland 
  • But Captain Blair’s life was cut short in a shooting accident in 1883 and shortly after she married the duke 

It’s the fairy tale that’s been giving stepmothers a bad reputation for years, and now the lavish house once owned by the scandalous Duchess who inspired Disney Cinderella’s wicked guardian has gone on sale.

The elegant six bedroom townhouse in London’s Hyde Park Gate, once the mansion of the Duchess of Sutherland (1848-1912), is on the market for the princely sum of £16million.

Then Mary Caroline Blair (née Mitchell), the duchess lived at the house with her first husband, Captain Arthur Blair, the financial advisor to the 3rd Duke of Sutherland.

But Captain Blair’s life was cut short in a shooting accident in 1883 and shortly after, to the distaste of Victorian society and the frustration of her second husband’s children, the duchess married the Duke of Sutherland following an affair between the two.

Her sordid life – which saw her try and deny her step children their inheritance – helped inspire Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance and Harry Clarke’s 1922 collection, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, which in turn influenced Disney’s 1950 Cinderella stepmother. 

It’s the fairy tale that’s been giving stepmothers a bad reputation for years, and now the lavish house (pictured) once owned by the scandalous Duchess who inspired Disney Cinderella’s wicked guardian has gone on sale

The elegant six bedroom townhouse (pictured is the living room) in London’s Hyde Park Gate, once the mansion of the Duchess of Sutherland (1848-1912), is on the market for the princely sum of £16million

Then Mary Caroline Blair (née Mitchell), the duchess lived at the house (pictured is one of the bedrooms) with her first husband, Captain Arthur Blair, the financial advisor to the 3rd Duke of Sutherland

But Captain Blair’s life was cut short in a shooting accident in 1883 and shortly after, to the distaste of Victorian society and the frustration of her second husband’s children, the duchess married the Duke of Sutherland following an affair between the two. Pictured, the balcony at the property

Her sordid life helped inspire Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance and Harry Clarke’s 1922 collection, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, which in turn influenced Disney’s 1950 Cinderella stepmother. Pictured, the family bathroom available at the property

The real ‘wicked stepmother’: Duchess of Sutherland shocked Victorian society with her scandalous affair and left her stepchildren seething as she tried to deny them their inheritance

In 1875 the Hyde Park Gate townhouse became the London home of Mary Caroline Blair (nee Mitchell) and her husband Captain Arthur Blair, who had married in 1872. 

Captain Blair had served since 1861 as the land agent and financial advisor to George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd Duke of Sutherland (1828-1892). At the time the duke was one of the richest people in Britain, owning 1.4million acres of land and Lancaster House, a private palace on the Mall adjacent to Buckingham Palace.

At Hyde Park Gate the Blairs entertained the 3rd Duke of Sutherland, the Duke’s sister Constance (the Duchess of Westminster), Lord Ronald Gower (the Duke of Sutherland’s younger brother), and Oscar Wilde, who was a close friend of both Constance and Lord Gower. 

In 1882, Mary Blair became the Duke of Sutherland’s mistress and in 1883 when her husband died after a shooting accident gossips speculated that it was suicide or murder, although the official verdict was accidental death.

As documented by biographer Catherine Layton in her 2018 book Power Play: The Life and Times of Mary, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland, the affair between the married Duke (whose wife Anne was a friend of Queen Victoria) and the widow continued after her husband’s death.


Duchess of Sutherland’s (pictured left) ‘wicked stepmother’ headlines influenced publisher Harry Clarke in his 1922 work, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault; the book’s illustrations helped create Lady Tremaine, the stepmother (pictured right) in Disney’s 1950 cartoon movie classic Cinderella

But in 1889 Mary caused scandal when she and the Duke married only four months after the death of the Duke’s estranged wife. The marriage broke aristocratic convention that widowers should not remarry for a year and went against a written request to the Duke from Queen Victoria who was still grieving over Anne’s death. 

The new duchess was pushed away from society, and in 1892, when the duke died, he left Mary his fortune, instead of leaving his estate to the children from his first marriage; his son Cromartie, 4th Duke of Sutherland, and his daughters, Lady Florence and Lady Alexandra.

Although the will was contested, the court case was complicated by the duchess having the document (which laid out provisions for his children) burnt. Mary was jailed for contempt of court but to avoid further scandal, the 4th Duke of Sutherland reached an agreement with his ‘wicked stepmother’.

She was given sufficient funds to build Carbisdale Castle in Scotland and maintain the townhouse at Hyde Park Gate.

Mary’s antics at Hyde Park Gate influenced Oscar Wilde, with a photograph of the duchess appearing alongside an ad and editorial about A Woman of No Importance, published in The Illustrated London News on 29 April 1893.

 PR savvy Oscar Wilde scheduled the play to premier the evening the Dowager Duchess went to Holloway Jail which generated further publicity for both the play and Mary.

Her ‘wicked stepmother’ headlines influenced publisher Harry Clarke in his 1922 work, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault; the book’s illustrations helped create Lady Tremaine, the stepmother in Disney’s 1950 cartoon movie classic Cinderella. 

Located off Kensington Road, on the doorstep of Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall and Knightsbridge, the townhouse was originally built in 1842-1843 by school-owner turned developer Joshua Flesher Hanson, designed by architect Robert Cantwell in the Nash tradition. 

The home provides accommodation over lower ground, ground and four upper floors including a main reception room, sitting room, dining room, family kitchen and breakfast room, media room and gymnasium.

For those wanting to entertain while outdoors, it also comes complete with a generous rear garden, decorative balcony on the first floor and large terrace on the second floor.

Located off Kensington Road, on the doorstep of Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall and Knightsbridge, the townhouse was originally built in 1842-1843 by school-owner turned developer Joshua Flesher Hanson. Pictured, one of the living spaces

The home provides accommodation over lower ground, ground and four upper floors including a main reception room, sitting room, dining room, family kitchen and breakfast room, media room and gymnasium. Pictured is the main hall

For those wanting to entertain while outdoors, it also comes complete with a generous rear garden (pictured), decorative balcony on the first floor and large terrace on the second floor

The ground floor entrance leads into the inner hall, where the main staircase sits. Two sets of double doors provide access to the dining room, overlooking the front exterior, and the family kitchen, which has stone flooring, grey fitted units and cabinets, a central island and French doors which lead to the rear garden.

The first-floor reception room, where Mary hosted the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Gower of Dorian Gray fame and Oscar Wilde, has full height windows opening onto an impressive balcony.

A study with an arched window overlooking the garden follows next, while the main bedroom suite occupies its own private floor on the second level of the house.

The ground floor entrance leads into the inner hall, where the main staircase sits. Two sets of double doors provide access to the dining room (pictured), overlooking the front exterior

The impressive family kitchen (pictured) has stone flooring, grey fitted units and cabinets, a central island and French doors which lead to the rear garden

The first-floor reception room (pictured), where Mary hosted the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Gower of Dorian Gray fame and Oscar Wilde, has full height windows opening onto an impressive balcony

A study with an arched window overlooking the garden follows next, while the main bedroom suite occupies its own private floor on the second level of the house. Pictured, the floor plan

It includes the bedroom, marble floored main bathroom and private roof terrace. There are five further bedrooms, three ensuite, and two sharing a family bathroom. The media room and gym are on the lower ground floor.

The townhouse is available for sale through Beauchamp Estates and to let through the company, alongside Tunstall Property. 

Gary Hersham, Founding Director of Beauchamp Estates, said: ‘This elegant Hyde Park Gate townhouse has immaculately presented interiors and was once the London mansion of Mary Caroline Blair, the Duchess of Sutherland, whose soirées inspired Oscar Wilde plays and life influenced the creation Cinderella’s stepmother.’

Mark Tunstall, Founding Director of Tunstall Property, said: ‘This Hyde Park Gate house is a superb family home, modernised throughout, and benefitting from generous ceiling heights to the principal entertaining floors, with each of the principal rooms featuring full height windows, fireplaces and Oak strip or parquet flooring.’ 

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