How the French Riviera Became a Paradise for the Rich – Stories of Extravagance and Opulence

How the French Riviera Became a Paradise for the Rich – Stories of Extravagance and Opulence

How the French Riviera has always been a paradise for the rich and decadent: from the bankrupt gambler who blew himself up to the prostitute whose clients included a duke, a king and a tsar…

Jonathan Miles’ book retraces the rich heritage of the Côte d’Azur.

Côte d’Azur: how it gained prestige

What Matisse described as “the luminosity of the Côte d’Azur” has always attracted “foreigners with devouring power”.

Queen Victoria, for example, stayed in Menton, where her presence “established the prestige of the seaside resorts of the Riviera”, even though locals mocked John Brown’s kilt. She had traveled to France incognito as Countess of Balmoral. Less visible were the three British battleships and 15 ships of the French Mediterranean squadron, anchored throughout her stay outside Villefranche.

Sofia Richie is the bride of the year, with three incredibly chic Chanel wedding dresses – French Riviera Wedding

Stunning Zendaya in the new Louis Vuitton campaign – On the French Riviera, she holds incredible bags

Victoria brought her own food from Windsor, including Irish stew. But then the Brits could be difficult customers abroad, always complaining, says Jonathan Miles, of “flies, fleas and gnats”.

British holidaymakers and residents were easily recognizable by their “height, poor pronunciation and eating habits”, who tended to eat in sullen silence.

In the 19th century, visitors like Robert Louis Stevenson traveled to the south of France for the guaranteed good weather, “cloudless, limpid…fragrant air, all pine and gum tree”. The warm winter climate was advertised as good for gout, rheumatism and tuberculosis. DH Lawrence died of a pulmonary hemorrhage in Vence. James Joyce traveled to Nice to have “leeches to drain glaucoma pressure”.

However, with Riviera’s growing popularity as a “cocktail of illicit business and questionable behavior”, those without power were less well received. In 1899, tuberculosis patients were banned from inns, as other patrons would be “disturbed by coughing early in the morning”. If someone died, the relatives of the deceased were responsible for “repairing, whitewashing and renewing the curtains”.

Book cover / Photo: Amazon

The south of France became the haunt of plutocrats and aristocrats, who built elaborate stucco villas. The beaches “located near the city’s sewage outlet” have been renovated with boardwalks, boardwalks and platforms.

In Monte-Carlo, the casino, with its domes and gargoyles, was designed by the architect of the Paris Opera. Dorothy Parker was not allowed to enter the gambling den because she was not wearing stockings. Diaghilev’s opinion says it all: “My tastes are simple. The best is enough for me.”

Extravagance and opulence

There was a lot of money. People arrived in their private yachts, which could have a crew of 100, plus a cow on board for fresh milk.

It was not uncommon for hostesses to file for dinner on a silver platter, naked except for a discreet sprig of parsley.

There was also the luxurious Train Bleu, with its dining cars and couchettes, the interiors decorated in mahogany and gold.

Boutiques on the Riviera sold extravagant wares, “glittering diamonds, pearls, rubies, emeralds, which twinkle and shine in the bright winter sun”. The ladies of fashion showed up with 20 trunks, containing a wide variety of dresses and accessories. Patou, Molyneux, Worth and Coco Chanel had outlets on the Côte d’Azur. At this turn of the century, 300 million exotic birds were slaughtered every year to decorate hats. The perfume industry in Grasse required 45,000 kg of roses and 15,000 kg of orange blossoms per day.

The hidden side of the Côte d’Azur

If there was a darker side to all of this, Miles points out that the Riviera also provided business opportunities for many of society’s prostitutes. Among the patrons of a courtesan were D’Annunzio, the Italian poet, the Duke of Westminster, King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Tsar Nicholas.

Queen Victoria’s son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, built a special ‘love chair’ or personalized hammock so that ‘with minimal effort’ he could have sex with two prostitutes in same time without strangling them to death.

Suicides were common, following losses at the gaming tables – 19 in the 1884 season. A man committed suicide “by detonating a canister of dynamite in his mouth”. Drinking was a problem. It was not uncommon for drunks to dive into empty pools and require months of hospitalization.

Cannes beach, circa 1970 / Photo: Getty Images

During World War I, due to the Russian Revolution, the Grand Dukes who flocked to the seaside resorts suddenly worked as porters and taxi drivers.

Later, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor spent time with wealthy acquaintances Chips, Tufty, Baby, Nana and Fruity. The ex-king’s telephone bill when Wallis was away for a fortnight was £800 (about £69,000 today). He wanted to be served by footmen in red uniforms and insisted on royal protocol.

World War II was worse. The Germans used the Blue Train as a brothel. The Gestapo set up torture centers in hotels and villas. The beaches were lined with barbed wire.

Hollywood discovers the French Riviera

Over the years, the Riviera was discovered by Hollywood – David Niven, Dirk Bogarde and Gregory Peck acquired villas. Hitchcock filmed To Catch A Thief on location with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. Brigitte Bardot was photographed topless in St Tropez. The Cannes Film Festival has become an international feature film. In general, the place, which once saw so many lush forests, has become “a vast square of reinforced concrete”.

All green spaces have been lost to anarchic constructions. Valuable art deco and Belle Epoque architecture was demolished. Blue Train disbanded when air travel took over. Shopping malls, apartment buildings, fast food chains and freeways are everywhere.

Brigitte Bardot in Cannes in 1953 / Photo: Getty Images

Monte Carlo is home to Putin’s oligarchs and Princess Grace was killed when her car crashed off a cliff.

There are drug traffickers, illegal activities and examples of judicial fraud, burglaries, murders and major acts of Islamic terrorism. Residents drive around in armored cars with tinted windows.

It is an environmental, cultural and political disaster. Miles’ book, a chronicle of “luxury, scandal, war and corruption”, is filled with hundreds of juicy anecdotes and made me think about the best outcome for the Côte d’Azur, writes Roger Lewis in the Daily Mai. “A sunny place for sleazy people,” Maugham said, is to sink completely and completely under the sea.

am the on Google News and be the first to know about all the news
See all the latest news from Greece and the world, on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *