The estate in which Frogmore House now lies first came into royal ownership in the 16th century, but for a long time it was held by a succession of Crown tenants. The original Frogmore House was constructed between 1680 and 1684 for tenants Anne Aldworth and her husband Thomas May. It almost certainly built to the designs of Thomas’s uncle, Hugh May, Charles II’s architect at Windsor.
From 1709 to 1738 the house was leased by the Duke of Northumberland, son of Charles II by the Duchess of Cleveland. Following the death of the Duchess of Northumberland in 1738, Frogmore had a succession of occupants, including Edward Walpole, second son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.
In 1792 George III (r.1760-1820) bought Frogmore House for his wife Queen Charlotte, who used it for herself and her unmarried daughters as a country retreat. Although the house had been continuously occupied and was generally in good condition, a number of alterations were required to make it fit for the use of the royal family. By May 1795, Wyatt had extended the second floor and added single-storey pavilions to the north and south of the garden front, linked by an open colonnade. In 1804 he enlarged the wings by adding a tall bow room and a low room beyond, in order to make a dining room and library at the south end and matching rooms at the north.
Frogmore provided Queen Charlotte with a refuge where she and her daughters could indulge in their favourite pastimes: painting, drawing, needlework, japanning, reading and ‘botanising’. In Queen Charlotte’s own words, ‘I mean this place to furnish me with fresh amusements every day’.
A number of rooms at Frogmore contained Queen Charlotte's extensive collection of books, including her botanical library. The Queen’s interest in botany started when she lived at Kew in the 1770s. It was given full rein at Frogmore, where her garden was laid out with rare and unusual trees and plants, including syringas, spirea, honeysuckle, 200 birches, 600 Spanish chestnuts and 100 laburnum trees. She installed new garden features, including a thatched Hermitage, barn and Gothic ruin, which was designed by her daughter, Princess Elizabeth.
The Green Pavilion most closely resembles a room from Queen Charlotte’s time at Frogmore, thanks to carefully researched redecoration in the late 1980s. James Wyatt’s characteristically crisp detailing of cornice, dado and chimneypiece remain largely intact. When Queen Charlotte died in 1818 she left the house to the eldest of her unmarried daughters, Princess Augusta, who lived here until 1840.
The house’s next occupant, the Duchess of Kent, was offered Frogmore as her country home by her daughter Queen Victoria in May 1841. The Duchess made many alterations, substantially modernising and redecorating the house to suit her tastes. An extract from the Duchess's diary for 17 August 1843 describes her birthday party at Frogmore: ‘Victoria, Albert and their party dined here. The Colonnade and the large dining room where there was some dancing in the evening were most tastefully decorated with flowers and garlands of laurel. We dined in the Library, the band playing in the garden. The evening was very fine. The whole party went off very well. I was foolish enough to dance with Albert’. The Duchess used Frogmore regularly until her death 20 years later.
Queen Victoria had a great affection for Frogmore and wrote of it: ‘All is peace and quiet and you only hear the hum of the bees, the singing of the birds and the occasional crowing and cackling from the Poultry Yard!’ Victoria added the gothic Tea House and white-marble Indian Kiosk to the garden, and used the Gothic Ruin as a breakfast and reading room.
In the second half of the 19th century, Frogmore House was used intermittently as the residence of different members of the royal family. The Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) gave birth there to her first child (the Duke of Clarence and Avondale) in 1864. From 1866 to 1872 Queen Victoria’s third daughter, Princess Helena, and her husband Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein lived in the house before moving to the nearby Cumberland Lodge.
During the reign of King Edward VII (r.1901-10) Frogmore was used by the King’s son and daughter-in-law, the future King George V and Queen Mary. The latter was instrumental in arranging Frogmore as, in her own words, "a 'family' souvenir museum as well as a museum of "bygones" and of interesting odds and ends’. She would spend many hours sorting, rearranging and cataloguing at Frogmore. In a diary entry, the Queen recorded a visit to Frogmore in 1924: ‘Lovely day. To Windsor …/… at 9.30. To Frogmore House to decide where pictures and furniture are to be placed. Lunched there. Then to Castle. Then back to Frogmore to finish off. Left at 5.25. Home after 6.30’.
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was very fond of Frogmore House, having spent part of her honeymoon there in 1923. She loved to picnic at Frogmore, a tradition continued by the Royal Family today.
Although it is no longer a royal residence, Frogmore House is frequently used by the Royal Family for entertaining. It was used as the reception venue for the wedding of The Queen’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, to Autumn Kelly in May 2008.