Repeated holidays on the Riviera of the royal family of England strengthened the reputation of Côte d'Azur in all the British empire. The stays of queen Victoria left a lot of memories particularly in Nice.

Born in London in 1819, Victoria became queen of Great Britain and Ireland at the death of her uncle, William IV, in 1837 , then she was made empress of India in 1876. It was especially her cousin, Albert of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha, whom she married in 1840, that advised her in her leadership. Their nine children got married to members of the main European families. In spite of her authoritarian character, the queen restored the prestige of England. The victorian years marked the highlight of the United Kingdom on the international scene.

Widow in 1861, afflicted by bereavements and illness, queen Victoria decided to spend some weeks on the Côte d'Azur. She followed the example of her wealthy fellow countrymen, as well as of most of the crowned heads, notably her son, the prince of Wales, who will succeed her on the throne, after her death in 1901, under the name of Edward VII.

In 1882, she settled in La Mortola near Ventimiglia, then in 1887, in Cannes, villa Edelweiss and, in 1891, in the Grand Hotel in Grasse. The resorts of Riviera quarrelled the privilege to receive the royal families in particular queen Victoria who attracted around her a numerous suite, as well as an important British "colony". It was Nice that had the privilege to welcome the queen for the spring,s 1895 till 1899. Besides the official receptions and the events owed to the rank of the queen and the problems of security, the municipality improved the road network serving the hill of Cimiez where Victoria chose to live. She stayed at first at Grand Hotel de Cimiez, in 1895 and 1896 , while the Excelsior Hôtel Regina was constructed *, huge luxury hotel of 400 rooms, 200 metres long, looking onto a vast garden, with the sea in the background. Designed to retain in Nice the queen and her escort, as well as to attract, thanks to the royal presence and to an unequalled comfort, the rich winter holiday-makers, the Regina was inaugurated by the queen in 1897. She stayed there until 1899, in the Western tower where she had her apartments.

Once her morning work was finished, escorted by her turbaned Indian servant, she would go through park Liserb in a carriage harnessed to the famous small grey ass Jacquot. The afternoon was reserved for the more distant rides in carriage, escorted by her Scottish highlanders : diplomatic or friendly visits, notably to empress Eugénie, secluded in her villa Cyrnos in Cap-Martin, but also and especially at the discovery of the campaign of Nice. She liked its vegetation and its viewpoints. She travelled along the seaside from Cannes to Menton, and in the hills of Nice from Saint-Isidore to Laghet. Falicon and Gairaut where she stopped as soon as March 25, 1895, constituted one of her favorite rides. The inns where she would have her tea kept the recollection of her passage by taking the names of " Queen’s Hotel ", or of " At the Queen’s tea "

The generosity of the queen, her curiosity and her respect for the traditions of Nice, as the game of bowls, the feasts of the reproaches and of the “cougourdons”, the parades of the penitents, assured her the affection of the local population. The authorities honored her by naming the continuation of boulevard Cimiez towards the place of Commandant Gérôme, the avenue Victoria, by giving her the military honours and by associating her to several official inaugurations as that of the bridge Barla on April 27, 1899. Even the very”niçoise” Acadèmia Nissarda honoured the queen. After her death, the English colony named Queen Victoria memorial hospital, the hospital she made build in 1906 on the road.to Villefranche. And the city of Nice inaugurated in 1912 the statue of the queen at the foot of the garden of the Hotel Regina, on top of boulevard Cimiez, making of this hill another place for British memory, with the Promenade des Anglais.

Jean-Paul POTRON

 

 

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