The history of Kew Palace has humbler origins in the first half of the previous century. In 1631 Samuel Fortrey, a successful Flemish merchant, built this smart, brick villa beside the Thames. For his new home he chose the site of a former courtier of Elizabeth I, perhaps that of her favourite, Robert Dudley. (The undercroft of the building suvives from this time.)
It was something of a status symbol for a man of the City, whose family had escaped religious persecution in France. He married Catherine de Latfeur and had several children. Their fondness for each other may be guessed from the lovers’ knot, with the intitials S and C intwined, carved over the front door to the house.
The house remained in Fortrey’s family for another generation and then passed through a succession of wealthy tenants, including Sir Richard Levett, who became Lord Mayor of London in 1699.