Follow the Footsteps of Queen Victoria on the Riviera


The Queen as a good farmer in the Anglo-Boer War, sowing lead in order to reap gold. The lead was dum-dum bullets which split and exploded on contact. Dum-dum bullets had been banned by international treaty, but there were unsubstantiated reports that the British used them in the war. French Postcard by Julio around 1900. Author’s Collection.


Follow the Footsteps of Queen Victoria on the Riviera:

  1. 1882 Menton

Queen Victoria stayed in the Chalet des Rosiers for her first visit to the Riviera. Today the Chalet des Rosiers is converted into six apartments and part of the garden is now incorporated into the Exotic Botanical Garden of Val Rahmeh. It is best seen from the gardens of the Val Rahmeh, which are open to visitors. Exit Menton on the coast road, Porte de France, towards Italy, turn left after the second church on the left, up the Av. St. Jacques. The gardens are at the top of the hill on the left.

She visited the magnificent Hanbury Gardens, which are in Italy 4 km from Menton on the right hand side of the coast road, and are open to visitors.

The Queen took a drive to Monte Carlo one afternoon, but did not, of course, visit the casino, of which she disapproved. Her comments in her journal were:

Monte Carlo is a very clean looking place, with many Hotels and Villas, the Casino with its gambling rooms, is an immense building with splendid gardens, and terraces going down to the sea……….

One saw very nasty disreputable looking people walking about at Monte Carlo, though many respectable people go there also for their health.  The harm this attractive gambling establishment does, cannot be overestimated.

On 10 April 1939 a statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in Menton on the Place Victoria. When the Italians seized Menton in the Second World War they threw the statue in the sea. It was replaced by the town of Menton in 1960.


Queen Victoria Statue, Menton. Photo by HJ Nelson, 1999.

  1. 1887 Cannes

The visit to Cannes was to mourn her youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. She wanted to see the Church of St. George, built in his memory, and the Villa Nevada, where he had died in 1884.

The Queen only stayed in Cannes for four nights. She disapproved of what she considered were the immoral activities there of the Prince of Wales. One lady whom he pursued was an American beauty, Miss Chamberlayne, from Cleveland, Ohio, who was doing a Grand Tour of Europe with her parents. He could never see Miss Chamberlayne alone so he entertained her parents as well. His wife, Princess Alexandra, called her ‘Miss Chamberpots.’

The memorial to Leopold, a fountain topped by a statue of St. George, by Paul Liénard, had been funded by subscription from the residents of Cannes. The previous year the Prince of Wales had laid a foundation stone for St George’s Church, the other memorial. In 1974 St.George’s was sold to the Catholic Church and it flourishes today.

St George’s Church is at 29 Avenue Roi Albert, Californie. The Villa Edelweiss, where the Queen stayed and the Villa Nevada and the Memorial Fountain to Prince Leopold are on the Boulevard des Pins, Californie. The Villa Victoria, where Prince Leopold stayed as a child, is at 5 Avenue Docteur Picaud, west Cannes. It was owned by Thomas Woolfield, who introduced croquet to the Riviera, which Prince Leopold greatly enjoyed, and later tennis.

Leopold, who was a haemophiliac, slipped in the Cercle Nautique and died the next day. The Noga Hilton hotel is on the site of the Cercle Nautique.


Prince Leopold Fountain Memorial, Cannes. Photo by HJ Nelson, 1999.

  1. 1891 Grasse

A prime reason for the visit to Grasse was to see the vast gardens of Alice de Rothschild.

As tradition demanded the Queen planted a tree in the Rothschild gardens. Everything went according to a minutely laid down drill when suddenly, in order to look more closely at rare plant, the Queen stepped on a lawn and across a flower-bed, inadvertently crushing several plants. The baroness could not contain herself and roughly told the sovereign in effect to ‘Get out’. Thereafter the Queen always referred to her as ‘The All-Powerful One’.

The English church of St. John had been finished just three weeks before the Queen arrived in Grasse. The Queen thought it very pretty and she went there for the Good Friday service on 27 March.

The singing was not bad, she thought, but the way the lady played the harmonium left a lot to bedesired. The church, which contains three stained glass windows given by the Queen, is now also called the Chapelle Anglaise or the Chapelle Victoria. In 1970 the owners gave it to the French Reformed Church, who had been using it since 1945, on condition the Anglican Church could continue to hold services there. St. John’s Church is at 65 Avenue Victoria.

Alice de Rothschild’s Villa Victoria is at 46 Avenue Victoria. The teahouse of the gardens is now 198 Boulevard Président Kennedy in Super Grasse. The Grand Hôtel, where the Queen stayed, is now appartments and is called La Résidence du Grand Palais. It is at 26 Avenue Victoria.

The Queen bought a magnificent she-ass at Châteauneuf-de-Grasse, which is a pretty hill village 5 km east of Grasse.


Saint John’s Church/Victorian Chapel, Grasse. Photo by HJ Nelson, 1999.

  1. 1892 Hyères

The Queen visited Hyères in March 1892, but overhanging her visit was deep mourning. Prince Albert Victor, known in the family as Eddy, elder son of the Prince of Wales, and eventual heir to the throne, had died on 14 January of influenza and pneumonia. To compound her grief, just as she was about to leave for the Riviera, on 13 March her son-in-law, Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, had died.

She stayed at the Hôtel Costebelle, which was bombed during the Second World War and no longer exists.

Because of their shared grief, the Prince of Wales made an exception to his rule of never staying in the same town as his mother and he visited here there.

The church the Queen attended was the small church of All Saints in Costebelle. The Timescorrespondent described it as a pretty little building of iron covered with lattice work, with a thatched roof. It was the last church at which she regularly attended services on the Riviera. All Saints Church is on the Boulevard Félix Descroix near the Catholic Church of Notre Dame de Consolation. It is now in private hands and is derelict. She paid a visit to the Notre Dame de Consolation. The church was famous for its collection of gifts and pictorial decorations. It was rebuilt between 1953 and 1955 by the architect Raymond Vaillant and now houses treasures of modern art. It is famous for its stained glass windows and its statues.


The Grand Hôtel, Hyères

  1. 1895-1899 Nice

On her first two visits to Nice in 1895 and 1896 the Queen stayed in the Grand Hôtel in Cimiez above Nice. On her next three visits she stayed in the Excelsior Hôtel Regina, Cimiez, which had been built with her needs in mind. She travelled with a staff of 100 and took over the whole west wing.

A highlight of her visits was the Battle of the Flowers on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, where she loved to throw flowers at the young army officers.

She invited Sarah Bernhardt, considered by many British to be an immoral woman, to perform for her.

In the afternoons the Queen usually drove out from Cimiez in her carriage and among the places visited were Villefranche and Beaulieu. The Queen always gave alms to beggars and especially to the funny old one-legged beggar, Charles Alberique, who was on a cart drawn by two dogs, who tried to keep up with the royal carriage.

Church services were usually held in a chapel in the hotel, but on her first visit she attended the Holy Trinity Church in Nice. Her coat-of-arms hangs inside the church. It is at 11 Rue de la Buffa and is still an active Anglican church. It has an interesting cemetery.

The Grand Hôtel and the Excelsior Hôtel Regina are at the top of the Boulevard de Cimiez. The Grand Hotel was turned into a hospital and the Excelsior appartments. The splendid Belle Epoque Excelsior building can be seen well from the outside. In front of the Excelsior is a statue of the Queen erected in 1912.


Queen Victoria Statue, Nice. Photo by HJ Nelson, 1999.

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