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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Is King Charles III Finally Coming to France? A Touching Tribute to Diana Awaits!

Cancelled at the last minute because of demonstrations against pension reform, Charles III’s state visit to France could take place next September. On this occasion, the King of England has been officially invited to visit a residence that once belonged to his family, and that Princess Diana coveted before her death. A place steeped in history. Although Charles III was due to make France his first trip as sovereign last March, his visit was finally cancelled at the last minute because of the risk of demonstrations against pension reform getting out of hand. But as attached to the country as his late mother was, the 74-year-old monarch may well try his luck again next September. During this State visit, Prince William’s father will be invited to visit Villa Windsor, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, reports the Daily Mail. Just renovated, this vast property in the Bois de Boulogne once belonged to his great-uncle, the sulphurous Duke Edward of Windsor and his wife Wallis Simpson. Majestic, it was also an eye-catcher for Lady Diana, before she died.

The last time Charles III was there was at the beginning of 1972, to pay a final visit to the former British king, Edward VIII, before his death in May. The then Prince of Wales was 24 years old and accompanied Elizabeth II to Paris. The Queen was presented with the desk on which her uncle signed his Act of Abdication in 1936. But far from regarding this event as a happy memory for the Crown, George VI’s daughter reportedly replied coldly: “Why would I want an abdication desk?”


Villa Windsor, from Edward VIII to Mohamed Al-Fayed

Built in 1859, Villa Windsor is a private mansion that has changed owners many times over the last century. First owned by the Renault family, then occupied by Charles de Gaulle after the Second World War, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor moved into the house in 1952. For 34 years, the couple, who had been repudiated by Buckingham, lived here happily, surrounded by lush greenery and loyal servants.

Returned to the City of Paris after the death of Wallis Simpson in 1986, the residence was leased by businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, father of Dodi Al-Fayed, Lady Diana’s last lover. At the time, the owner of the famous British luxury shop Harrods signed a fifty-year lease on the villa. Episode 3 of season 5 of The Crown, released on Netflix in November 2022, revisits the wealthy Egyptian’s stay in the Parisian mansion and his friendship with the Windsor’s former valet, Sydney Johnson. On 30 August 1997, the day before the brutal deaths of his son and the former wife of Charles III under the Pont de l’Alma, the couple are said to have visited the Villa. It was then that William and Harry’s mother fell in love with this house with its unique cachet and history.

Since 2018, the house has been empty due to the major works, estimated at several million euros, that it needs. In March 2023, the Paris City Council voted to award the Villa Windsor to the Fondation Mansart, which specialises in heritage conservation and development. Renovation work began shortly afterwards and should, among other things, see the creation of an ultra-chic café-restaurant. The site is currently scheduled to open in 2024.

Photos credits: Bestimage

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