Wallis Simpson’s Villa La Croe seized from Russian oligarch – inside the former royal home

Wallis Simpson admits she has 'certain regrets' in 1969

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The Château de la Croë is a Riviera villa where King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson entertained guests including Winston Churchill. It has just been seized by the French government from its current owner Roman Abramovich as part of a €25billion Ukraine War assets snatch from Russian oligarchs.

What does the home look like inside?

American publisher Sir Pomeroy Burton commissioned the construction of the chateau in 1926.

The elegant colonial-style villa had 17 bedrooms and eight bathrooms. The couple initially signed a two-year lease of the property for £2,000 a year.

The villa was white with green shutters and red-tiled roofs. Set in 12 acres of cool woodland and lawns, and facing the sea over some rocks, no other house could be seen from its windows.

With these barriers from the public, the couple hoped they would be left untroubled by the outsiders. The chateau was described by the Duke’s secretary as “dream-like… cool, serene and aloof.”

The entrance of the massive home led you through to the tall French windows at the back of the house. These windows provided a beautiful view of the woods and lawns beyond the terrace.

On the right of the hall, suspended from the lower gallery, there was the Duke’s banner from the Chapel of Knights of the Garter in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. The rich red and gold colours added a nice bit of character to the room.

The antique chairs had red leather seats and black and gold backs. The broad terrace, facing the sea, ran the whole length of the house.

The great rooms were French in character. The high ceilings and walls were elaborately moulded in white and gold.

Tall, mirrored doors, standing always open, led from one room to another and looking glass covered some of the panelling. The Duchess wanted the chateau to be light and airy, so she installed huge mirrors above great fireplaces that reflected objects back and forth.

Wallis had a fancy for mirrors, which explains this decision. Some of her friends even called her ‘Wallis through the Looking Glass’.

It had the charming appearance of an English country house in a French setting.

It was all done in a remarkably short time causing British journalist Rebecca West to comment admiringly: “There are not too many women who can pick up the keys to a rented house, raddled by long submission to temporary inmates, and make it look as if a family of good taste had been living there for two to three centuries.”

The Duchess’ impeccable taste in interior decorating was complimented by two experts, Lady Sybil Colefax and Lady Mendl.

Decorating the property fit for Edward’s Kingly stature meant transporting his paintings, silver, porcelain, crystal and other furniture which he used to decorate Fort Belvedere, his former home in Windsor.

The task of recreating a palatial feel for the Duke was left in the hands of Wallis and no amount was spared to achieve this goal.

Wallis had an eye for interior decorating and so she embarked on renovating the house, transforming it into a home befitting her station.

When the chateau’s renovation was ongoing the couple opted to stay nearby, renting out suites at the hotel Cap d’Antibes.

When refurbishment was done, Edward and Wallis moved in and frequently hosted lavish receptions.

In the afternoon, the Duchess of Windsor would assemble her servants in the chateau’s great hall.

With much excitement, she handed them gifts that she bought herself and wrapped.

At the height of World War II, the couple were sent by the British Government to the Caribbean, where Edward served as Governor of the Bahamas from 1940 until 1945.

The Windsors gave up the chateau in 1949 when they moved to their Parisian villa.

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