Chesham House, Chesham Place, (Fig. 3.1) the Russian embassy, was in a quiet tree-lined street in Belgravia to which the officials walked from their equally imposing addresses. There are still many embassies and consulates in the Georgian houses facing the streets between Buckingham Palace Gardens and Chesham

Fig 3.1 The Benckendorffs in their private apartment in Chesham House

Place. The Russian embassy consisted of two houses, with a corner house between them which was the private residence of a gentleman who refused to sell. The two embassy buildings were therefore connected by a strange system of added-on corridors. The stubborn owner of the house-in-between suffered the inconvenience of having to answer the door to the visitors who mistook it for the entrance to the embassy. The embassy was a reasonably comfortable place, with electricity and a lift installed by Baron de Staal in the beginning of his term, in the 1880s. Benckendorff had the lift repaired and asked the ministry to provide the money for renovations of the reception rooms1 but even renovated, they did not look as imposing as the Benckendorffs’ private apartment on the third floor (Fig. 3.2) which they filled with their own furniture. A British visitor praised the Benckendorffs’ ‘fine taste … which was reflected in the appointments of the embassy’.2