The Man Who Opened Cannes

Wednesday, 19 August 1891 - Cannes, France

I believe I have mentioned all the British tourists on the French Riviera? The coastal towns are full of villas built by the wealthy of great Britain. Today I visited what was probably the first--villa Eleonore-Louise here in Cannes, France.

Lord Brougham
The villa was built by Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux. Lord Brougham was a prominent politician and served as Lord Chancellor 1830-34 under King William IV and Prime Minister Earl Grey. Lord Brougham supported education, abolition, legal reforms and made Great Britain a better place.

In 1834 he brought his daughter, Eleonore-Louise, to the Riviera after doctors told him to take her to warmer climes. The poor dear was suffering from “consumption,” as tuberculosis was called then. In the 19th century there was no known cure, save rest, fresh air, and sunshine--which occasionally worked.

In truth, Lord Brougham was actually trying to get to Nice, then part of the Italian Riviera. Unfortunately there was a cholera outbreak and his lordship was detained in Cannes, France waiting for the quarantine to be lifted. He fell in love with the little fishing village and decided to bring Italy to it. He bought a large piece of property on the edge of town and built an Italian villa which he named for his daughter.

Villa Eleonore-Louise
Sadly Eleonore died soon after in 1839. Still it is a lovely spot to spend ones last days. Lord Brougham spent the next 30 winters here at this estate. He died here in 1868 at the age of 89 and was buried at the local cemetery.

Now Lord Brougham did more than just build a nice villa. He wrote to the folks back home that he had been “enjoying the delightful climate of Provence, its clear skies and refreshing breezes, while the deep blue of the The Mediterranean stretched before us. The orange groves perfumed the air while the forest behind, ending in the Alps, protected us from the cold winds of the north."

Who could resist such a sales pitch? British aristocrats came to visit his villa. Soon aristocrats all across Europe, all the way to Moscow, began coming to Cannes and the surrounding towns.

Cannes Advertisement
At first people came for their health. I imagine more than one “consumption” victim had asthma rather than tuberculosis. Getting away from the cold, damp and very smoggy British cities would have “cured” them. Soon people were coming just for the pleasure of the area.

The railroad arrived in Cannes in 1863 and things really took off. Hotels sprang up like mushrooms. Wealthy aristocrats built winter villas in droves. Wanting to outdo their neighbors, some were built in the style of Russian Trianons and Indian palaces. Gardeners began to bring exotic foreign plants like mimosa and palm trees. The poor fishing villa was now a prosperous tourist destination.

Cannes Statue to Lord Brougham
Cannes knew who to thank. Soon after Lord Brougham’s death, they erected a statue in the center of town to him. He not only brought in tourists, but helped promote several building projects such as the harbor and the railroad. He is looked upon as a “founding father.” Well, he did “find” Cannes and helped the rest of Europe find her, too.

By the way, the Brougham Carriage was not named in Lord Brougham's honor, like Earl Grey tea was named after Earl Grey. Lord Brougham designed this popular carriage himself  that became a model for some early horseless carriages. One of his minor accomplishments.

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