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Former French home of King Leopold II of Belgium sells for 200 million Euro

By Charles Baugniet - own photo of a drawing, Public Domain,

The historic Villa des Cèdres in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, once the summer home of Belgian royalty, has sold for a jaw-dropping 200 million Euro this month to an unspecified buyer.

The 18,000-square-foot property was built in 1830 and operated as an olive tree farm until it was acquired by the second King of Belgium, Leopold II, in 1904. He used it as a holiday home and spent time on the French Riviera with his mistress, Blanche Delacroix, a former prostitute who was 48 years his junior, and their two sons.

Due to his wealth from exploiting the Congo, the King carried out a series of expansions and improvements to the property, including a winter garden, stables, and garden landscaping by architects Jules Vacherot and Harold Peto. He also commissioned an architect to modify the home’s facade.

When the King died in 1909, the property became a foundation of the Belgian government, and as many grand estates did at the time, it served as a hospital during World War I. The estate was eventually purchased in 1922 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, of Grand Marnier liqueur fame, and the family harvested the bitter oranges used to flavour Grand Marnier in the villa’s orchards.

The property remained in the Marnier-Lapostolle family until 2016, when it fell under the ownership of Italian distiller Campari, who acquired the Grand Marnier group. Under the conditions of the sale by Davide Campari-Milano SpA, the remaining Marnier-Lapostolle family member living on the property must vacate the premises.

Called “the most expensive house on earth” when it went up for sale, the expansive French Riveria property is located between Nice and Monaco and boasts 14 bedrooms, a ballroom, a library holding 3,000 books on flora and naturalism, and a 14-hectare botanical garden. The stunning cedar trees on the property give the villa its name, but its botanical garden contains a reported 14,000 species of plants.

The villa’s sale is expected to be settled in October, and the unknown buyer has purchased the property for private use.

About author

Kristin is Chief Reporter for Royal Central and has been following the British royal family for more than 30 years. Kristin has appeared in UK and U.S. media outlets discussing the British royals including BBC Breakfast, BBC World News, Sky News, the Associated Press, TIME, The Washington Post, and many others.