Leanne Coleraine, CNN
The French villa where former British King Edward VIII lived with his American wife, Wallis Simpson, will be open to the public for the first time.
The leafy Villa Windsor at the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris It will open as a museum next year to coincide with the Paris Olympics, after a multi-million euro renovation.
A few days before King Charles III and the Queen Consort made their first state visit to France, the Paris City Council handed the villa over to a charitable foundation committed to preserving and promoting the heritage.
Set in gardens of 1.5 hectares, The 14-room mansion was in place The former king, who scandalized British society after his abdication in 1936, lived the end of his life with his wife.
Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and Aristotle Onassis were among the many rich and famous who took part in 4 Practice Field Road, after it was occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1953.
The couple lived there until their deaths – the Duke in 1972 and the Duchess in 1986. In the days leading up to his death, the Duke was visited by his niece, Queen Elizabeth II. Her son, then Prince Charles, had previously visited her – an encounter depicted in the third series of ‘The Crown’.
Alberic de Montgolfier, president of the charity Fondation Mansart, told CNN on Wednesday that the city council has rented the dilapidated mansion for his organization for 32 years.
“This house has never been open to the public before,” he said, describing his intention to update the property in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Viewers of The Crown will see the villa come to life in the popular Netflix show, but none of the episodes were filmed on location in Paris.
The house was built in 1928 and has always belonged to the city of Paris, according to de Montgolfier.
In 1944, it opened its doors to General Charles de Gaulle in exile, who settled there with his family after the two-year liberation of Paris.
“It was a very interesting time because a lot of French laws were signed there, including the one that gave French women the right to vote,” de Montgolfier said.
After the death of the Duchess of Windsor, Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian billionaire businessman, took over the lease.
“Al-Fayed originally intended it as a home for his son Dodi and planned an engagement lunch there for Dodi and Diana,” said de Montgolfier.
Unfortunately, the lunch never happened, de Montgolfier said, because it was scheduled to take place the day after the couple were murdered in the city in August 1997.
Four years ago, Mohamed Al-Fayed decided to award him [the villa] says Montgolfier.
The Foundation commissioned the house in part because it had successfully restored the Château de Bagatelle, a few yards from Villa Windsor in the Bois de Boulogne.
Work on the villa is expected to take over a year and will include the installation of a new heating system as well as measures to ensure that 21st century health and safety standards are met. There will be a café and a small restaurant on site and admission is free.
In addition to a museum with a permanent exhibition explaining its history, the recently renovated villa will be used to organize events.
“It is a stately house,” said de Montgolfier, “with a large dining room, fine hall, library, and one and a half hectares of gardens.” It is only 10 minutes from the Place de l’Etoile in a very good location. »
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