I Spent the Night at the Same Hotel Meghan Markle Stayed the Night Before Her Royal Wedding

Here’s my honest review

cliveden house review universal
Rachel Bowie/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Very specific details come to mind immediately whenever I think back to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding, which—if you can believe—took place on May 19, 2018, almost six years ago. Of course, I think of her Claire Waight Keller-designed Givenchy dress; Meghan and Harry’s non-balcony kiss beneath that stunning floral arch on the steps of St. George’s Chapel; also, the uncharacteristically sunny British weather that day. But I also think about the night before—and the pics of Meghan and her mother, Doria Ragland, outside the Cliveden House in Berkshire, the fancy and storied address she chose to stay (and get ready at!) the night before “I do.”

cliveden house main entrance
Courtesy of Cliveden House

Recently, on a trip to London, I had the chance to spend a single night at the property and live life like a royal—or a royal-to-be, as is the case when Meghan stayed there. I can firmly attest, the property is just as dreamy and idyllic as you might expect.

meghan markle doria ragland cliveden house
WPA Pool/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

First, a Bit of History About the Hotel

Meghan Markle (pictured above at Cliveden with her mom Doria) isn’t the only royal to spend the night at Cliveden. In fact, the property—which only became a hotel in 1985—has quite a range of royal ties. It was originally built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1666 as a hunting lodge for his mistress, the Countess of Shrewsbury. He ultimately fought a duel on her behalf in 1668, which resulted in her husband’s death. (Talk about royal drama.)

In the years (and centuries) since, everyone from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II have frequented the property. Queen Victoria used to travel by boat from Windsor Castle up the Thames, which can be seen from the hotel; Queen Elizabeth II was joined by Princess Margaret in the 1930s on a visit to the property to meet the Kennedys, who were staying on site with the estate’s new owners, the Astors. Even Princess Diana popped by the hotel for a black-tie dinner in 1991.

On a non-royal note, the property’s pool is thought to have brought down a government at one point following what is now dubbed the Profumo Affair in 1961. The story involves John Profumo, a married Secretary of State for War and a young mistress of a suspected Russian spy (whom Profumo first encountered when she was swimming nude in the Cliveden pool). Their sordid affair ultimately forced his resignation—and caused irreparable damage to then-Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s reputation.

cliveden house bedroom and main entrance
Rachel Bowie

About My Stay—the Hotel’s Grand Entrance Included

When you look back at pics of Meghan the night before the royal wedding, the main images we have are of her pulling up to the hotel. But that’s just it: Pulling up to the Cliveden’s main entrance is like something out of a royal rom com. After making the trek from London in the rain (which took a little over an hour in a rental car), the clouds literally parted as we turned off the road and onto the crushed gravel driveway. We passed a spectacular fountain—appropriately dubbed the Fountain of Love and dating back to 1897—one of the first sights you see before embarking up the long drive. It’s also immediately quiet and romantic; after all, Cliveden is set on 376 acres of National Trust gardens and woodlands, all available for guests to explore.

From there, our bags were grabbed and we were whisked upstairs to the Buckingham Suite in the main estate. (There are 47 rooms in total at the property.) Spacious doesn’t even begin to describe it: The bathroom alone was nearly the size of a New York City studio apartment. The walls were ornate and adorned with stunning portraits and images, many of which marked the history of the hotel. There were high ceilings, a working fireplace, a pullout couch (which the turn-down service set up for my six-year-old) and breathtaking views that overlooked not only the grounds and perfectly manicured parterre, but also the Thames in the far-off distance.

harry and meghan royal wedding 2018
Ben Stansall/Getty Images

I immediately thought of Meghan.

While the royal room in which she stayed has never been revealed, the energy of the property is so calming and meditative. It seems to be the perfect (and completely protected) sanctuary a royal might want to seclude themselves ahead of a wedding that garnered nearly two billion viewers worldwide.

cliveden house amenities
Rachel Bowie

A Few Amenities Worth Mentioning

First up, the pool and the spa. I was only there for about 24 hours, but squeezed in a 60-minute warm oil massage, which—while an indulgence—wasn’t priced much higher than what you’d expect to pay in a major city like New York. What struck me the most was the unique setup: For the treatment, I lay on a water mattress. (No, it had nothing in common with the ones made famous in the 1980s; instead, it simply allowed my body to relax and adjust much more willingly throughout my massage.)

The spa is also where you’ll find access to both the indoor and outdoor pools (ahem, including the one where the infamous Profumo Affair kicked off). My son delighted in this experience—although it’s worth noting that we had to mind the kid-friendly hours, which are offered in the morning and evening. (I actually smiled as my spa treatment began as I heard the corridors near the pool suddenly fill with loud shrieks as several kids arrived to take their turn.)

That was actually one of the most surprising things about the Cliveden: While you’d expect a stuffy and formal experience, it was, in fact, quite kid-friendly. There are two restaurants on site, the Astor Grill, as well as a formal option, called the Cliveden Dining Room. Led by executive head chef Christopher Hannon, I was impressed to find a separate kids menu that offered a burger option, chicken fingers and fries. (My son was delighted.) As for me, the food was as impressive as the views of the gardens. Over candlelight, my husband and I enjoyed a multi-course meal. (I still can’t stop thinking about my salt-baked celeriac.)

cliveden house grounds
Rachel Bowie

It’s All About the Fresh Air

Again, our stay was brief, but we were up early to explore the grounds, which really are the pièce de resistance of a stay at Cliveden. We headed straight to the English maze, designed long ago by Lord Astor, hearing the gravel crunch beneath our feet and the sound of birds flitting about. We got lost, then found our way out—my son leading the way and having the time of his life. From there, we meandered about, stumbling upon garden after garden, all full of vivid blooms, but also several walking trails, too.

Again, my mind went to Meghan, who perhaps had the opportunity to explore these same grounds the night before marrying Prince Harry. At Cliveden, it felt so easy to disappear; to lose yourself in the surrounding nature. While I’m sure at the time, she was surrounded by her royal protection officers, this estate feels defined by its privacy—no doubt welcome, given the intense pressure (and press attention) she endured. Even the winding hallways to get to the spa from the main house felt secluded. Almost like you could hide around any corner if you needed to and escape interaction. Personally, I loved that.

meghan markle leaves cliveden hotel
Phil Harris/Getty Images

Final Thoughts

Would I return to Cliveden? In a heartbeat. Also fun—the proximity to places like Richmond (of Ted Lasso fame), Kew Gardens (where Kate Middleton took her 40th birthday portraits) and Windsor Castle, the exact address of Harry & Meghan’s wedding and located a mere 20 minutes away. Still, I’d plan to spend more than just an overnight at the property, if only to take better advantage of the easy accessibility to the outdoors. But also to further contemplate what it really feels like to live life like a royal.

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...