3 September 2020
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
In 1889, Victorian impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte opened The Savoy, Britain's first luxury hotel. Allowing the rich to live like royalty, it attracted glamour, scandal and a cast of eccentric characters, with the D'Oyly Carte family elevated to a unique vantage point on high society.
The Secret Life of the Savoy tells their story through three generations: Richard (a showman who made his fortune from the Gilbert and Sullivan operas), Rupert (who expanded the D'Oyly Carte empire through two world wars and the roaring twenties), and Bridget (the reluctant heiress and last of the family line).
In this, the first biography of the family, Olivia Williams revives their extraordinary cultural legacy, told through the prism of their iconic hotel and its many distinguished guests.
What did I think about it...
What an education this comprehensive look at the world famous Savoy Hotel turned out to be. I have never been inside this iconic hotel but have, on my very rare visits to the capital, seen the beautiful white and gold facade and wondered what glorious stories the hotel could tell.
In The Secret Life of the Savoy and the D'Oyly Carte Family we are given a privileged look into the complex history of this grand old institution. We go from Victorian London, and the humble origins of the original entrepreneur, Richard D'Oyly Carte, and share in his enlightened vision of what a grand hotel should look like. We get to know his interesting collaboration with the popular operatic duo, Gilbert and Sullivan, and the formation of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. We also get to stay with the family, right the way through to the last owner, Bridget D'Oyly Carte, and her death in 1985, when the hotel slipped out of the family's hands after three generations.
It's been a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era when the rich and famous rubbed shoulders with all echelons of society, from the glamorous stars of the silent movies in the early part of the twentieth century, to the socialites and royalty in the 1960s, there has never been a moment when the hotel didn't leave its mark on London's high society. The shenanigans and machinations of those who wined and dined there and all the fascinating guests who made the Savoy Hotel their home give an interesting and often decadent look at the how the super rich spent their money.
However, its not just about the rich and famous, this is an intimate look at three generations of a family who lived their hectic lives, not without their own personal tragedy, but always with an opportunistic eye on the main chance, using everything that was available at the time to their own advantage, and that, I think, is what makes this such a fascinating and informative read.
About the Author
Olivia Williams graduated with a scholarship in modern history from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where she remained for her masters degree. In her final year, she won the Rupert Murdoch Scholarship for journalism. She worked as a trainee journalist at the Daily Mail before writing her first book Gin Glorious Gin. Olivia lives in London, where she is a freelance writer.