The Lord Chancellor and the Resort

The town of Cannes on the French Riviera,  playground of the rich and famous, home to a world-famous film festival, is noted for the wealth an glamour of its visitors. Somewhat unexpectedly, on the waterfront, and right across from the Palais des Festival that hosts the Cannes Film Festival, is a statue of  Lord Brougham.

What, you might ask, does Lord Brougham—Lord Chancellor of England, a founder of the Edinburgh Review, tireless opponent of slavery, defender of Queen Caroline, inventor of the brougham carriage, and myriad other accomplishments—have to do with a French resort?

The answer is that he is the reason for its existence.

In 1834, Brougham was traveling in the south of France on his way to Nice, which was then part of Lombardy. There was cholera in the area, and he was halted at the border by the quarantine and forced to spend a week or so in the area.

He tried Antibes first, but he disliked the garrison town and thought the hotel dirty. Finally he ended up in the small fishing village of Cannes, staying in the only hotel there.

This turned out to be a serendipitous visit for all concerned. Brougham, who was worried about the health of his daughter, found the climate of Cannes delightful, especially after he was assured that it never froze in the winter. He bought a piece of land there, built a villa, persuaded the French King Louis Philippe that it would be sensible to construct a better harbor there, and extolled the climate to friends in England.

He wrote that he had been “enjoying the delightful climate of Provence, its clear skies and refreshing breezes, while the deep blue of 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."

Brougham spent much of the rest of his life in Cannes, where he died in 1868, and where he came, others followed. At first, visitors came for their health—that “delightful climate” he kept talking about—but soon they came for pleasure.

In no time at all, Cannes was booming. Forty years after Brougham’s arrival, there were almost 50 hotels and numerous luxurious villas. Visitors not only from England but from all over Europe were flocking there. Lords and princes were either taking up residence or making annual visits. Prince Leopold, one of Queen Victoria’s sons, introduced the game of croquet, and an area that had at one point been cleared for the railway was turned into a croquet field. When the passion for croquet subsided, part of that space was turned into a lawn tennis court, the next fashionable sport among the visitors.

The opulent villas and their gardens introduced hitherto unknown plants—the palm trees that line the Promenade among them. Yachts sailed into the harbor.

Cannes became one of the most popular and luxurious destinations for those seeking to escape the dreary British winter—at least for those who could afford it. And now it has a Film Festival.



" groves perfumed the air..."

Given Brougham's description, I would have followed him there, too - assuming I could have afforded to. I do wonder, though, whether the fishermen there appreciated or cursed the new attention to their quiet harbor town. Great post as always, Lillian. Love these historical tid-bits.

Thanks Debora. I trust the

Thanks Debora. I trust the fishermen grossly overcharged their aristocratic visitors to make sure their quiet harbor town was appreciated. *G*

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