< FRANCE | BIARRITZ: Hôtel du Palais
Formerly the summer mansion of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie de Montijo, The "Villa Eugénie", was built in just ten months and completed
in 1855. During the next sixteen years, the imperial couple spent almost every summer in Biarritz, accompanied by other European royalties. Once drowsy fishing
village of Biarritz soon became a posh resort town.
In 1880, Banque Parisienne bouth the Villa and converted it into a casino, while it was finally opened as a hotel in 1893. Hôtel du Palais became one of the prestigious addresses of France. Only during its first years, guest were: Queen Victoria, Edward VII, the Duke of Connaught, Princess Yourievskaya - the widow of Tsar Alexander II, King of Hanover, Queen Marie-Amelie of Portugal, Archduke Victor of Habsburg, King Oskar II of Sweden, Empress Elizabeth of Austria - "Sissi"...
On February 1st, 1903 hotel was caught by fire, after which it was rebuilt with an additional wing and altered with several storeys. The rebuilding, completed in 1905, was designed by the famous Belle Epoque architect, Edouard-Jean Niermans, to whom we owe some of the most luxurious hotels throughout the France, Monaco and Spain. Today, the main hall, private salons, the dining room still feature original Second Empire style. It was here in 1906, that the King of Spain Alfonso XIII met the woman he would marry a year later, Princess Ena Battenberg.
During the First World War, hotel became the hospital, but at the war’s end, it played once again host to grand events and balls. In 1922, the Marquis of Arcangues organized the Second Empire Ball in the sumptuous Rotonde of the Hôtel du Palais, presided over by King Alfonso XIII of Spain and the Shah of Persia. During this period, celebrities were more frequent then royalties: Sarah Bernhardt, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Cocteau, Edmond Rostand, Ernest Hemingway...
After the World War II, guestrooms and suites were fully renovated and a superb outdoor pool built and inaugurated by Bing Crosby, Porfirio Rubirosa, Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra and Jayne Mansfield. The great names of Spain returned to their favourite playground, as well as the couple who would remain loyal to Biarritz until their last breath, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
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