King Frederick I of Prussia, Prince Heinrich XXIV Reuss of Köstritz, Baroness Wilhelmine von Geuder, Princess Sophie Dorothea von der Pfalz – these are just some of the titles of the honourable ancestors that hang here on the walls like family trophies, the relicts of eras long since past. The aristocratic line stretches back as far as the 15th Century and can attest to a rich family heritage at the highest echelons of cultivated society. A grand stature and standard of living that the granddaughter of Prince Heinrich XXXIII von Reuss still places great importance on to this day. She carries a pride in her. And with good reason. It was not just her own family that frequented “Castel Mare”, this enchanting luxury residence right by the sea, since the early 1950s. They were joined by His Royal Highness Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia with his wife Kira, the Windsors, and the British author William Somerset Maugham, along with many other illustrious guests and friends of the family. As a goddaughter of the family, Queen Beatrix of Holland also visited this idyllic place known as Cap-d‘Ail as a child. Since the mid-1990s, the residence and garden leading down to the sea has been in the granddaughter’s sole ownership. GG was invited to pay her a visit, at the marvellous place she has been privileged to call her home for the past 20 years.
Situated off the beaten track and concealed from outside view, on a beautiful land plot bordering directly onto the sea, the charming turn-of-the-century residence enjoys breathtaking outlooks that are simply overwhelming. “The sea is never the same. One day it can be wild and tempestuous, and by the next morning it is tranquil and as smooth as silk. The sky too, the form and colour of the clouds, is constantly changing. One never tires of this view,” enthuses the native Berlin lady. Each of the commodious and prestigious rooms has been furnished with the utmost taste and elegance. “I just adore antiques, and love going to markets. I’m at the flea market in Nice every Monday morning at 5 a.m. Browsing the hidden treasures is a great passion of mine.” The vibrancy of this resplendent estate is derived from the interplay of tradition and modernity. Each individual room has its own personal story to tell. “I’m moved every time my eyes catch sight of the view from the entrance hallway into the bedroom and living room. The blue hues of the bedroom flow out into the azure blue of the Mediterranean, whilst the luscious green pines in front of the living room windows fill the interior with life. So I’m always greeted by the glorious sight of the bedroom flooded with blue and the living room radiant in green light,” she laughs. “When I inherited the residence from my uncle there was a treasure trove of invaluable memories in the house. Magnificent furniture upholstered in the finest fabrics, mural paintings, exquisite artworks and craftsmanship – from the intricate floor mosaics and stucco ceiling decorations to the wrought-iron staircase balustrades in the entrance hall,” she recalls. But with the arrival of her family with three small children, this noble house was imbued with a new lease of life. Windows and doors were opened, the interiors refurbished in light colours, valuable furniture re-upholstered with exclusive cloths. The venerated walls of this vast home were enhanced with a cosy warmth.
I think back with such fondness to when the children were little. One year at Christmas, for example, we transformed the cypress in the garden into a quite spectacular Christmas tree. It seemed so small in the garden. But once we had installed it in the living room, and it was only the top of the tree, it was absolutely enormous. Everyone stood around in sheer awe. When my little grandson entered the room he said, ‘It’s like a forest. A Christmas forest.’ There were years when it was still warm enough to swim in the sea in December. And afterwards we would all gather around the fireside. Such moments were so wonderful.” These days she is the lady of the house and adores the peace and serenity here. “I enjoy time by myself. I feel completely at one here.” But guests and family are always more than welcome. “At Easter time my daughter always comes to stay from Paris with her five children. There’s plenty of action around here then. I move into the middle floor so that they have the entire first floor to themselves.” The spacious interior spans approx. 700 m2 in total, divided over three levels. Different parts of the house are used depending on the time of year and the number of residents, be they family or guests. “I love nothing more than sitting here in the alcove of my living room. There is something wonderfully cosy and protective about it, whilst the sea roars beneath me. But I am equally enraptured with my bedroom. When I draw the curtains in the morning and look out to sea, I feel a deep happiness.” Besides the grand entrance hallway, the ground floor also boasts a master bedroom and living room with balcony, as well as two further en suite bedrooms. Two more bedrooms and bathrooms can be found on the middle level, along with a bedroom for staff, a kitchen with a serving hatch through to the dining and living rooms, and one of two impressively large terraces. On the lowest level of the residence, a grand dining room forms a wonderful setting in which to entertain in inimitable style. Alongside a small outdoor kitchen, this wing opens up seamlessly onto the second terrace with a splendid swimming pool area. From here too, the awe-inspiring views along the entire coast are guaranteed. Despite its proximity to Nice, Cap Ferrat and Monaco, the approx. 1,500 m2 land plot in Cap d‘Ail enjoys an incredible serenity, as well as the utmost privacy. The charming residence is ensconced by a beautiful garden, originally created in the 1930s. It is clear to see why this oasis, in its most luxuriant heyday, was officially recognised and awarded as one of the most splendid gardens in the whole of the Côte d’Azur.