Muckross House is a ninetieth-century mansion, nestled in Killarney National Park in County Killarney, between the park’s abandoned fifteenth-century abbey and Muckross Lake. The structure was designed by British architect, William Burn, and concluded its original construction in 1843. It was built as a home for MP Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife Mary. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Kerry in 1853.
When visiting Killarney, a friend and I made last-minute plans to bike through the park to Muckross House the next morning. However, when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and several members of the royal family planned to visit the manor in 1861, they gave notice six years in advance.
This exceptionally long notice was due to an expectation that the family would make extravagant improvements to the home, in preparation for the Queen’s visit. This included elaborate renovation and expansion of the garden.
According an 1861 article in the Kerry Evening Post:
“An entire section of the mansion has been set apart for the royal family, so that all their apartments communicate without the necessity of passing into the corridors to be used by other occupants of the house… In her sitting room- which, like all the others, is a splendid apartment furnished richly and tastefully, there is a series of views of the Lakes of Killarney, painted by Mrs. Herbert.”
The Queen arrived in Killarney on Monday August 26, 1861, and departed on Thursday, staying only three nights for security purposes. It is speculated the luxurious amenities procured in anticipation for the Queen’s arrival, placed a financial strain on the Herbert family, who were forced to sale the house. In 1899, it was purchased by Arthur Guinness and later by the Bourne-Vincent family in 1911. After the death of William Bowers Bourn’s wife, Maude, in 1929, the family donated the mansion and grounds to the Republic of Ireland. Decades later, the house itself would become accessible to the public- no six-year reservation required.