The great Hotels of the world provide a private retreat for Royalty away from their usual palaces and homes. Often designed with famous and often royal guests in mind, Hotels fill a special role not only to provide the comforts afforded to other guests, but also security from the public and in more recent times the media.
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al-Fayed left one of the most famous Hotels in the world, the Hotel Ritz Paris and were both tragically killed in a car accident, pursued by the paparazzi. However the Ritz has a long history of Royalty, in 1705 a private residence was constructed on the site and occupied by several noble families, before becoming the Hotel de Gramont, and subsequently the Hotel de Lazun.
In 1898 after leaving the Savoy in London, Hotelier Cesar Ritz and Chef Auguste Escoffier transformed the Hotel de Lazun into the 210 room Hotel Ritz. The Hotel was designed specifically for the rich, famous and royalty residing in and visiting Paris. In its opening year, the Hotel Ritz hosted the weddings of Compte Jean de Castellane to Princess de Faustemberg and the Vanderbilt-Dresser wedding.
The Ritz was extended in 1910 and after falling ill, Cesar Ritz was succeeded by his son Charles Ritz, Cesar died in 1918. The Queen of Romania stayed in 1919 with her two daughters whilst campaigning for Greater Romania and Edward VII reportedly got stuck in the bath tub with his lover at the Hotel.
After the death of Charles Ritz in 1976 the Hotel went into decline, losing its clientele and profitability before it was purchased in 1979 by Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed for $20 million. The Ritz underwent a full renovation over 10 years without interrupting the operation at a cost of $250 million.
Though Ritz himself was proud of the Hotel’s security record and boasted that trouble never came from the Hotel’s Royal guests. “No assassinations, no murders, no suicides, no robberies, no scandals…” after his death it may be a different matter. Famous people to live and influence the very fabric of the Ritz include Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who lived there for thirty years and died in her two bedroom suite on 10 January 1971 at age 87. Ernest Hemmingway also lived in the Hotel and made quite an impression on the Hotels wine cellar, with one of the bars now named after him.
Since Mohamed Al-Fayed reinjected appeal back into the Hotel, modern celebrities such as Johnny Depp have continued the affiliation of celebrities, donating a stack of Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Cab Calloway records.
Today, the Ritz is again undergoing an extensive refurbishment, however this is the first time since it was founded that it has closed its doors. The restoration began on 1 August 2012 and is scheduled to take 27 months, reopening in 2014. The renovation is being carried out under the direction of Ritz Paris President Frank J. Klein and General Manager Christian A. Boyens.
On 18 October 2011 Mr. Klein said: “The renovation project is indispensable in order to maintain the pre-eminent position of the Ritz Paris. Today, our objective is two-fold: to perpetuate the tradition of excellence established by its founder, Cesar Ritz, in 1898, and to ensure personalised support for our employees during the closure of the hotel”.
It is almost certain that the Ritz will continue again to attract the attachment of today’s jetset, celebrities and royalty.
As we remember the tragic passing of one of the world’s most loved royals this week, we wait in anticipation for one of the beacons of our industry, in the words of the Ritz Paris; “the apogee of the hotelier’s art” to be unveiled once again!