The Miniature Library of Queens Mary’s Dolls’ House

Our Rating
Author: Elizabeth Clark Ashby

Category: The arts

Book Format: Hardback

Publisher: Royal Collection Trust

ISBN: 9781909741577

RRP: $34.99

Queen Mary, (wife of King George V), was a lover of great art and miniature objects. She was an active and generous philanthropist, giving support to a nation during the World War I and in the difficult economic times following. After seeing Queen Mary furnishing a dolls’ house to raise money for the London Hospital, her childhood friend and cousin by marriage, Princess Marie Louise, decided that she would create a doll’s house for the Queen to show appreciation for all she had done to support the country. The dolls’ house was to be funded by donation and sponsorship.

The work began in 1921. Princess Marie Louise approached the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to design the house. He was excited with the playfulness of designing the house, referring to it as Dollyuyah!

Lutyens was involved in and oversaw every aspect of this miniature project, including fitting, furnishing and decoration. He ensured the correct scale was maintained throughout and all additions rested on his approval as he engaged the most significantly skilled craftspeople, artists and companies to provide the highest quality contents for the house.

The house was built in Lutyens’ offices in London where it rose to 2.6 metres by 1.5 metres, so big they had to remove a wall to move it to Lutyens’ home, where the library and the books were assembled.

The House is gobsmacking. It has running water, electric lights and a working lift and a jewel vault. The doors all really lock and the kitchen and cellar contained real food and drink. There are numerous bedrooms and, of course, bathrooms (fully plumbed), as well as several reception rooms, garages, and a landscaped garden. In other words, it is a ‘fully functioning house’ in every respect down to the jar of cold cream.

image of the miniature library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House

The Library is simply extraordinary, stretching the full depth of the House. Like the rest of the house the books needed to be real, as in any other library. Princess Marie Louise was involved in bookbinding the tiny books and approaching authors to create their own miniature hand-written editions, which are astonishing, that would adorn the miniature shelves. ‘Most of them are perhaps a little big to be comfortable for any dolls of the House’s scale to hold’ but are ‘just about large enough for humans to read without a magnifying glass.’ There are 300 books from poetry to gardening to atlases that line the shelves all independently crafted and a wonderment to behold.

The Miniature Library of Queens Mary’s Dolls’ House is truly fascinating. It left me with such admiration of the skills to create it, from true craftsmen. Queen Mary insisted that the money raised by the exhibition of the house would be shared among charities. The people flocked to see it, giving them joy in a time of hardship. A joy I have also received over a hundred years later.

Reviewed by Rowena Morcom 

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