Fifteen years ago, a great house was in danger. Around the beginning of the 20th century, buoyed up by coal royalties in Wales, the ownership of Cardiff docks, and copper mines in Chile, the Marquesses of Bute were one of the richest families in the world. They owned several great houses and employed hundreds of servants. Then the world changed. Taxation and labour costs made the old order unsustainable. By this century, the family had fallen back to Castle Stuart on Bute itself. Welsh houses had been given away and Dumfries House was put up for sale. It was a palace of treasures. Nothing had been altered, including the magnificent furniture, since the Adam brothers had completed the building. The estimated value of the whole estate was £45 million. That could have been a lot higher, but there was a problem. Dumfries House was a beauty, but in a scruffy part of industrial Ayrshire: not the ideal setting for a country house. So the estate was to be sold. The furniture had already been catalogued and was on its way to the sale room. A unique collection would be scattered, while the House itself would have been broken up into flats.
Then Prince Charles intervened. He set about raising the £45 million, and not only for a house-as-museum project. The Dumfries House estate became a centre for craft courses and apprenticeship schemes, creating jobs and imparting skills. In a world where it often seems that what can go wrong will go wrong, it is surely a pleasure to salute an unalloyed success – and the credit is due to the Prince of Wales and his vision.