Compared with the United States, there is a lot of history in France. Someone once told me that you can throw a rock and hit a château in France, and now that I’ve been living here almost 10 years, I totally believe him. For example, in my small town in the north of France, there’s ruins of a château from the 16th century, and in my former town (only about a 15-minute drive away), there’s a château from the 12th century! But here, at the Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild in the South of France, we found that its history isn’t so old, in fact, this Villa has barely been around for more than 100 years! However, it’s history is equally as interesting because of its former fascinating owner, Béatrice de Rothschild.
The History of Béatrice de Rothschild and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
Béatrice de Rothschild was born in 1864 and grew up in an extremely wealthy household. Her father, Alphonse de Rothschild, was a baron, a banker and an art collector. In 1883, at the age of 19, she married Maurice Ephrussi who was a Parisian banker 15 years older than her. Sadly, their marriage was an unhappy one as Maurice was a huge gambler and racked up debts totaling over 12 million gold francs (the equivalent of 30 million euros today). Worried about the effect this debt had on Béatrice’s future inheritance, the Rothschild family took Maurice to court and in 1904, they were divorced.
It was just in time. In 1905, Béatrice’s father died and she inherited his fortune. She discovered the beautiful area of Cap Ferrat, located in southern France on the Mediterranean Sea, and purchased property there to build her expansive estate, beating out the King of Belgium who was also interested in the property. Seven years later, the villa and part of the gardens were completed and Béatrice used it as her winter residence and the home of her extensive art collection. A rather eccentric personality, she was known for her luxurious parties, including staging a wedding of her 2 dogs!
We made the mistake of doing the gardens first, thinking that there wouldn’t be much in the villa itself. Sadly, we were wrong. An audioguide is included with admission, full of interesting facts about the villa and Béatrice de Rothschild herself, and it normally takes about an hour and a half to listen to everything. Not knowing this, we were left with less than an hour to tour the villa before closing. Despite our limited time, we were still able to appreciate the beauty of the interior. If you visit, don’t do what we did and make the Villa the first stop on your tour.
Yes, that’s “gardens” plural. It’s not enough just to have one – this property has 8 different gardens! The French Garden took most of Béatrice’s attention, with the others being added and redesigned after her death. The French Garden was designed in the shape of a ship’s deck, with the Temple of Love at the bow and the waters of the Mediterranean Sea at both sides of her garden.
Most of the other gardens were added or redesigned by a landscape architect after Béatrice de Rothschild’s death. I don’t have photos of all of the other gardens – sadly it was still winter and not everything was growing, but here’s what I do have…
The Spanish Garden
The Florentine Garden
The Japanese Garden
The Exotic Garden
The Rose Garden
Although we probably weren’t visiting this beautiful estate at its optimal time of the year (early March), I was still pleasantly surprised that there still was much growing. I would highly recommend a visit to the Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild during your next visit to the French Riviera.
Until next time,
Love this place! We need to go on our next visit R
Yes, you would totally love it! 😍