Recent Hotels In Europe
( Originally Published 1927 )
At the beginning of the present century European hotels underwent a change by which they abandoned some of their ancient picturesqueness and took on luxury of decoration, and, what was more to the minds of American travellers, made some advance in service and conveniences. They also were built much larger than had been the case in the past, without sacrificing any of the comforts of the older hostel-ries.
This revolution in construction and conduct of hotels was one of the characteristics of the last decade of the nineteenth century and, it might be said, that it was not peculiar to Europe, for in the United States the building of immense hotels became frequent and the addition of private baths to the majority of the guest rooms, to say nothing of an opening of an era when elaborateness and luxury were keynotes everywhere, a new hostelry was planned.
The advent of the motor car undoubtedly has been a factor. There were more travellers than ever and they demanded comforts and elegancies to which they were accustomed at home. Hotels increased in number and many famed older houses were superseded by larger and more modern buildings.
The Hotel de Crillon, in Paris, is an example of a very modern and luxurious hostelry occupying an ancient building, but one whose architecture is so superb that the twentieth century has nothing to offer it in exchange. It is one of the commanding buildings which face the Place de la Concorde, and as a hotel it dates only from the beginning of the present century.
The buildings, of which the Hotel de Crillon is one, were constructed on the order of Louis XV by the architect Jacques Gabriel, whose work has been admirably epitomized by a recent historian of architecture in these words : "In the eighteenth century such buildings as Gabriel's Ecole Militaire and Petit Trianon and the buildings at the head of the Place de la Concorde, show a greater dignity as Classic architecture than anything in the vast mass at Versailles; but it is Classic architecture in the scholarly Italian manner, and not, like the earlier Renaissance, distinctly French, except in the excellence of its design and detail, in which it was superior to anything to be found in any other country at that date." It might be added that it is probable that the classic manner in these structures has not been surpassed by any buildings erected since.
Louis XV, no matter what his faults, and they may easily be assigned to his tradition and environment, was responsible for much of the architectural enterprises that have made Paris the most beautiful city in the world. It was in 1758 that he commissioned Gabriel, who finished the Pont Royal and had completed many works of importance under Louis XIV, to erect the buildings on the Place Louis XV, now the Place de la Concorde, as an outer structure to the Tuilleries, to which it made a grand and imposing entrance, standing between the Gardens of the Tuilleries and the Champs Elysees.
The Place Louis XV became the Place de la Concorde in the nineteenth century, to efface some of the memories of the anguish of the Revolution. On the other side of the Rue Royale stands a structure, similar in outward aspects to the Hotel de Crillon, now the Ministère de la Marine. Although these two buildings have been through more than one Revolution, the magnificent ceiling in the apartment of the hotel, known as the Salon des Aigles, and all its sculptures, remain intact, and virtually as when executed for the ill-fated Louis XVI. The hotel was organized by the same company which established the Hotel du Louvre and the Hotel Terminus de la gare Saint-Lazare and the Palais d'Orsay. It derives its name from that which it bore as the residence of the Dukes de Polignac, one of whom owned the building when it was transformed into a hotel, about twenty years ago.
Since its opening it has entertained a long list of prominent guests. In 1918 President Wilson and the American Envoys made it their headquarters in Paris while the Versailles Treaty was in course of construction, and General Pershing made it his temporary home in the French Capital when he went over ahead of the American forces in June, 1917. On the occasion of his arrival, June 13, the Place de la Concorde, in front of the hotel, was filled with a crowd of enthusiastic men and women, ready to welcome him.
"Whenever I enter Claridge's," wrote Colonel Newham Davis, in an article on "Two Restaurants for Kings," "I feel as if a patent of nobility had been bestowed upon me."
That sentence summarizes in a vivid manner the whole story of this historic hotel, which has always been designed more as a palace than a hotel, so that the European aristocracy might have a comfortable stopping place while in London.
Of course, the Claridge's one enters to-day is a new Claridge's, erected, however, on the site of the original house, in Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, almost in the heart of Mayfair. On one side is the aristocratic residential section of the English metropolis, and on the other lies Clubland.
No one ever seems to have written the whole history of Claridge's; perhaps it would make a large volume; certainly it would be an entertaining one. Its origin lies in the misty past, and the hotel, from very modest beginnings, "grew" until even its dignified calm demanded a new and more modern structure. The tradition of the old house was so strong, and so essential to a hotel of the character of Claridge's, that it not only survived the rebuilding, but if anything is more strongly followed than ever it was.
About the beginning of the nineteenth century a certain Monsieur Mivart, said to have been "a gentleman's gentle-man," opened a house he called Royal Hotel, in Brooks Street. Although his name is all but forgotten in the traditions of Claridge's, he is not without fame, for did not Byron immortalize him in "Don Juan"? Contemporary with Monsieur Mivart's Royal Hotel, a Mr. Claridige, whose full name does not seem to have been preserved for posterity, did something in the catering line for kings and ambassadors at a house which subsequently gained some reputation as "Fenton's," in St. James Street. Claridge succeeded Monsieur Mivart, and gradually improved the patronage. He made the house an exclusive one. While it bore the evidence of elegance, every decoration, every piece of furniture, the whole equipment, in fact, displayed no tendency to what might be considered "showy." It provided a home in London for those accustomed to dwell in palaces, castles and great mansions, and gave them the kind of quiet, tasteful and refined environment to which they were accustomed.
A list of the personages who had been guests at Claridge's or the original hotel looks like a reprint of the greater part of the "Almanach de Gotha." It is so remark-able that it will bear quotation here :
H. M. King and Queen of the Belgians, H. M. King and Queen of Hanover, H. M. King and Queen of Rumania, H. I. M. Emperor of Brazil, H. M. late Queen of Holland, H. I. M. Empress of Austria, H. I. M. Empress Eugenie, H. M. King and Queen of Sweden, H. I. H. Crown Prince, of Austria, H. M. King of Italy, H. R. H. Count de Paris, H. R. H. Duc de'Chartres, H. R. H. Duke d'Aumale, H. R. H. Prince de Joinville, H. R. H. Duke de Montpensier, H. R. H. Crown Prince of Portugal, H. I. H. Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, H. I. H. Grand Duchess Catharine of Russia, H. I. H. Grand Duke Waldimir of Russia, H. I. H. Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, H. I. H. Grand Duke Constantine of Russia, H. I. H. Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, H. I. H. the Czarevitch, H. I. H. Prince Soltykoff, H. R. H. Prince Auguste of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, H. R. H. Prince Philip of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, His Ex. Rustem Pascha, His Ex. Marquis De Noailles, His Ex. Hassan Fehmy Pascha, His Ex. Count Corti, H. M. late Sultan of Turkey, His Hawaiian Majesty Kalakau, H. M. Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands, H. H. Maharajah Duleep Singh, Prince Arenberg, H. R. H. Crown Prince of Sweden.
Earl of Carnarvon, Duke de Castries, Prince Demidoff, H. H. Prince Hahim Pascha, H. H. Prince Hassan Pascha, Prince William of Prussia, Prince and, Princess of Olden-burgh, Princess Clothilde and Prince Napoleon, Prince Alexander Dolgorouky, H. R. H. the Duke de Banos, H. R. H. the Count de Flandre, H. R. H. the Duke D'Aosta, Prince Orloff, Princess Mary Czernicheff, Prince Belosselsky, Prince Kinsky, Prince Rospioliosi, Prince Giedroye, Count de Chambord, Grand Duke Nicholas Leichtenberg, Grand Duke George Leichtenberg, Duke de Croy, Duke D'Osuna, Count and Countess Leon Bobrinsky, Earl of Dalhousie, Count Streganoff, Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Duchess of Wellington, Louisa Marchioness of Waterford, Baron Henry de Worms, Earl of Granard K. P., Count D'Oultrement, Duke De Choisel Praslin, Lord Stourton, Lord Beaumont, Marquis Salamanca, Earl of Glasgow, Lady Howard De Walden, Prince Scherbatoff.
His Ex. Malcolm Khan, Lord Lilford, Marquis of Londonderry, Sir Tatton Sykes, Duchess of Cleveland, Baroness Adolphe De Rothschild, Sir John St. Anbyn, Sir John Errington, Count Clam Gallas, Earl of Guilford, Dowager Viscountess Hill, Marchioness of Hastings, Baron Von Hoffman, Sir Rainald Knightlay, His Ex. Count Larisch, Lord Lovat, Earl of Pembroke, Marquis De St. Sauveur, Marchioness of Winchester, H. G. the Duchess of Hamilton, Grand Duchess of Baden, Countess Charleville, Count Erdody, Earl of Minto, Count Arnim, Lord Gage, Duke of Roxburgh, Count Schouvaloff, General Stanford, Count de Vogue, Earl of Jersey and Marquis Pahavincini.
The above list is obviously not a complete one, but it will give some idea of the character of the clientele which made Claridge's a name closely associated with Europe's ruling classes in the nineteenth century. Was it any wonder that enthusiastic writers have called Claridge's "The Home of Kings" and "The House of Call for Emperors"?
At this time Claridge's consisted of half-a-dozen houses connected by means of doorways pierced through the walls. Not an imposing group, but it made history. Then, in 1893, the cornerstone of the New Claridge's, which was to carry on. the tradition in a palatial structure more fitted to be "The Home of Kings," was laid by Lady de Grey. The old Claridge's had its "Throne Room," but in erecting the New Claridge's, the great royal apartment was not perpetuated. A private entrance to the royal suite, however, was built.
The New Claridge's is very spacious, and apparently could entertain a large number of guests, but internally it is seen that, having great vistas and large rooms, many en suite, mere numbers of guests has not been the aim of the management. Therefore, it can accommodate only about 150 visitors, while its hotel staff numbers about 500 persons.
The reception and banquet rooms on the ground floor are very commodious, and a thousand guests can easily be provided for at important social functions.
The first year the New Claridge's was open—it began business in November, 1898—it had as guests, among others, The Grand Duke Michael of Russia and the Countess Torby, Prince and Princess Radziwill, the Princess Ourousoff, Prince and Princess Hatzfeldt, Prince Alexis Karageorgevitch, the Hon. Joseph H. Choate, the American Ambassador; the Earl and Countess de Grey, Lord and Lady Charles Beresford, the Duke and Duchess de Bojano, Comte de Castellane, Lady Mary Sackville, the Countess of Warwick, Lady Marjorie Greville, the Duc de Grammont and Lady Corisande de Grammont, the Countess of Dun-raven, Lady Algernon Gordon Lennox, the Earl and Countess of Craven, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin, and the United States Ambassador to Russia and Mrs. Charlemagne Tower.
In November, 1899, a reception and concert were given at Claridge's by the Committee of American Ladies in London in aid of the United States Hospital Ship Maine, which was the first large, historical and society function to be given in the new hotel. It was a gorgeous bit of color and gold lace, for a contingent of the Second Life Guards in full uniform and a detachment of the Scot's Guards in their bearskins with drummers and pipers lined the hall and filled the staircase as a Guard of Honor. The Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, honored the event by his presence. His Royal Highness afterward took tea in the public restaurant of the hotel. There also were present H. R. H. the Princess Christian and the Princess Aribert of Anhalt, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, and H. R. H. the Duke of Cambridge.
Were it not that the Savoy Hotel in London, which is built on a historic site bordering the Thames Embankment, is younger than Claridge's, it would run the latter a keen race as "The House of Call for Emperors." The long tradition and the extensive aristocratic vista may be missing, but the associations with great personages have given to it a prestige to be envied. It is the most modem of all the hotels in Europe, and Arnold Bennett referred to it in his novel, "The Grand Babylon Hotel" as "a very town in itself."
Here, again, luxury, the modern kind that makes that of the ancients pale, was aimed at by the group of enthusiasts who sought to erect a palatial hotel on the site of the old and historic Palace of the Savoy, in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
There are few more historic quarters in London than the old Savoy, in which district Peter, Earl of Savoy, erected a noble palace in the year 1245, the gift of his nephew, Henry III. That palace descended into many other hands as years went on, and it was the scene of much strife. John, King of France, who had been taken prisoner by Edward the Black Prince, was brought to England and confined there in 1357. Six years later, being on a visit to England, he died in the palace. The Savoy Palace was attacked by the Londoners in a riot growing out of the tenets of the reformer, Wickliff, in 1377, and in 1381 was burned to the ground by the insurgents under Wat Tyler.
The ruins remained undisturbed for a century, and then, in the reign of Henry VII, a hospital was founded there under the auspices of that king. The Savoy Hospital was buffeted around by each ruler who followed in those exciting times, and Queen Anne finally dissolved the foundation. Many of the buildings remained until the Waterloo Bridge was built in 1815, when they were demolished to make way for the northern approach of the bridge. Very few fragments now remain of the old Savoy, whose literary associations go back as far as Chaucer, who, as the protégé of the great Henry, Duke of Lancaster, was married to Philippa, daughter of a knight of Hainault, in the Savoy Chapel. The latter, somewhat restored by Queen Victoria, is the largest memorial of the old Savoy.
The Savoy Hotel has been extended, added to and partly rebuilt so many times that it is thoroughly modern. In 1898 its famous restaurant was opened in an effort to bring the best catering of Paris to London, and now it is as well known in the French capital as it is in the English metropolis.
In addition to having many eminent names inscribed on its register, the Savoy has had even greater personages at-tending functions. The Duc D'Orleans before his marriage made the Savoy his London home, and even afterwards his place of call when in the English capital. On the evening of the wedding day of his sister, the Princess Helene of Orleans and Duc d'Aosta, a royal dinner party was given at the Savoy and among the forty-two guests, it was noted, there was not one under the rank of a Serene Highness. This was on June 25, 1895.
Ten months before that time the Savoy had under its roof what was believed to have been the largest assemblage of French nobility ever mustered at an English hotel. The occasion was the funeral of the Comte de Paris. At the Savoy were the Duc and Duchesse de Luynes, the Duchesse de Luynes, née La Rochefoucauld, and the Duchesse d'Uzes, the Prince de Lucinge, the Duc de Doudeauville, the Duc de Bisaccia, the Duc de Lorge, the Marquis d'Hervey St. Denys, a score of counts and minor notabilities of the Royalist party.
To mention only a very few of the personages who have been guests of the Savoy, it could be said there have been entertained there Rajah of Pudutokai, Prince Lubomirski, Prince Galitzin, Countess Potocka, Lord Dunraven, M. de Blowitz, Mr. Chauncey M. Depew, Princess de Sagon, Grand Duke of Leuchtenberg, MM. Ephrussi, Baron Schroeder, the Maharajah of Kooch Behar, Comte de Perigord, the Gaekwar of Baroda and the Maharini, M. Emile Zola, the Grand Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Prince and Princess Reuss, Rajah of Kapurthala, Madame Patti, and Madame Sarah Bernhardt.
The recent history of the Savoy is equally important. Almost every vital announcement by British statesmen during the World War was made there, and the American Ambassador, Walter Hines Page, has left a record of the great work under his influence which was carried on there.
On one occasion the entire Ulster Cabinet, under the Premiership of Sir James Craig, stayed at the Savoy and carried on the government of their country. After the Locarno Pact, Sir Austen Chamberlain was entertained there at a non-party banquet.
Next to the Savoy, to the westward, also opposite the Embankment and in the old Adelphi quarter, stands the enormous Hotel Cecil, where the visitor usually sees flying from the roof two ensigns—the British Union Jack and the American Stars and Stripes. On the Embankment, in front of the Cecil, stands Cleopatra's Needle, the Egyptian obelisk brought to England in 1878.
As the Adelphi already has been the subject of a volume, this historic quarter, in which the western part of the Hotel Cecil lies, it will be understood can not be adequately treated here. There are traditions of bluff Prince Hal, of Henry VIII, of Lady Jane Grey, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Sir Walter Raleigh in this little section of London, and in the eighteenth century David Garrick lived and died in Adelphi Terrace, close by; Voltaire had been there, Oliver Goldsmith and the great Doctor Johnson, too. There are traditions of Fielding, of Mrs. Oldfield, two more characters of that century; and in the nineteenth century there are visions of Dickens—for did not David Copperfield describe the place to a T where the Micawbers spent their last night before sailing to Australia? There is ever so much to interest the literary antiquarian in the Adelphi, so the Cecil can be understood to enjoy a real historic site, as well as having contributed to history since the hotel was opened in 1896.
The hotel itself occupies the site of Durham House, a palace erected seven centuries ago. Durham House had many royal visitors in its time, and for twenty years it was the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, who wrote one of his books in a tower overlooking the Thames. The Hotel Cecil impresses the visitor on account of its enormous size—Americans are familiar with taller buildings, but this covers an immense area.
As the Hotel Cecil probably is the largest hotel in England, it was taken over by the British Government during the World War for headquarters for the Royal Air Force. The banqueting rooms were refitted and re-opened in 1920, and in 1921 the entire house, after being overhauled and renovated, was once more open to receive guests. Many prominent Americans have stayed there.
While it would convey a very false impression to describe many of the inns and hotels in England which are owned and managed by the Trust Houses Limited, as recent hotels, yet the plan under which they have been acquired and operated is essentially one that belongs to the present century. The history of this immense organization of small and large hostelries in England, as given by the company's publicity department, shows it to have been founded by the late Earl Grey.
Earl Grey founded the Trust Houses Limited in the year 1903 as one of the Public House Trust Companies which were at about that time formed in different counties to acquire licensed houses free of tie to brewers or distillers, and to secure their management by managers remunerated at a fixed salary with commissions on takings for all items except alcoholics.
Thus the Company was, in the first place, an attempt at a constructive solution of the temperance problem, on the assumption that elimination of trade interest in the sale of liquor would enable the development of the licensed house in the line of its proper function of the provision of both food and drink.
The dividend payable to shareholders was limited in the first place to five per cent. (5%) and now, owing to the change in money values, to seven per cent. (7%) free of tax.
Formed in Hertfordshire; the Company proceeded to acquire by amalgamation the interests of the Essex, Middle-sex, and Sussex Trusts, and gradually by extension to ac-quire houses as far apart as Inverness and Plymouth. The original problem of the Company was the village inn and roadside public house; in its wider field it comprises practically every type of licensed house from the London tavern to the large business hotel, such as the Victory Hotel, Leeds, and the holiday hotel, such as the Royal Hotel, Ventnor. It has happened that a number of the most picturesque and historic inns of the country have from time to time come under the Company's control. Some of these have been mentioned in a former chapter and others will be found, included in the chapter on Dickens Inns. All the Trust Houses cannot be mentioned, for at present they number more than thirty.
Every visitor to Berlin at least sees the Hotel Adlon, because it has a most prominent site on the Pariser Platz; indeed, it is so much in the midst of private palaces, embassies and monuments of that kind on Unter den Linden, that Imperial sanction was helpful in securing it.
Built in 1907 and ceremoniously opened in the presence of the last German Emperor, his family, together with the most distinguished scholars, artists and financiers then in Germany, the house has attracted the greatest travellers who have since visited Berlin. It is a very modern and gorgeous hotel.
A little newer, and, consequently, also very modern in ideas of convenience, luxury and comfort of guests, is the Hotel Royal, in Rome, the scene of many important social events. It is close to the British and American Embassies in the most aristocratic quarter of the Eternal City.
Nice, on the French Riviera, is filled with "Grand Hotels." There are to be found the Hotel Royal, Hotel Savoy, Hotel Plaza and the Hotel Ruhl et Des Anglais. The latter, although built only in 1910, has, since its construction, entertained as guests some of the greatest world figures who have visited Nice. The Hotel itself was designed by the eminent French architect, M. Dalmas, who tried to incorporate all the ultra-modern ideas of M. Ruhl. The result is one of the sights of this part of the Riviera.