Villa Allerton

63 Avenue de Roi Albert 1er, Cannes, Cote d'Azur

Built in 1883, for John Grant Morris (1811-1897) and his wife, Mary Picton Baines (1818-1892). Morris was a colliery owner, coal merchant and the former Mayor of Liverpool who named his new winter home for the road outside Liverpool off which he'd already built Allerton Priory. Both Villa Allerton and Allerton Priory were designed by the same architect, Alfred Waterhouse, the same man who designed London's Natural History Museum. It was leased to Andrew Carnegie at the end of the 19th century and became known as "Chateau Mont-Joli" under the ownership of Grand Duke Michael of Russia before being purchased by the "American Prince of Wales"....

This house is best associated with...

Andrew Carnegie

Founder of the Carnegie Steel Company; Industrialist & Philanthropist


James John Van Alen

James J. Van Alen, "The American Prince of Wales" of Wakehurst etc.


James Laurens Van Alen

"Jimmy" L. Van Alen, of New York & Newport


Daisy (Post) Bruguiére

"Daisy" Margaret Louise (Post) Van Alen, Bruguiére "The Last Gilded Age Hostess"


J. Grant Morris purchased 8-acres on the Californie Hills in 1881 and in the following year he commissioned Liverpool native Alfred Waterhouse to build his house here using local stone. It stood just above - and was built at the same time as - the Villa Mariposa, the home of another Mayor of Liverpool, Bernard Hall. Morris' stood within a large garden with a pond, shooting range, and a caretakers cottage for servants. It was furnished with, "plate... books, statuary, pictures, prints, drawings" etc. In February 1886, Mrs Grant Morris held a fancy dress ball that was reported to be, "very successful... as the dresses showed to great advantage in the spacious rooms of the Villa Allerton".

Carnegie in Cannes

According to his obituary in June 1897 Morris, "spent a considerable portion of his time at Cannes, and only returned from the latter resort a short time prior to his death". Having outlived his wife, that September his heirs leased the villa to the industriliast Andrew Carnegie whose doctors had advised against returning to New York for the winter.

In mid-November Carnegie wrote: "I'm sitting here in my spacious library in shirt sleeves - windows all open. The blue sea in the distance - all I need now is the coming yacht (chartered in Glasgow and due to arrive in January)". Mrs Carnegie loved the villa and another member of their party remarked: "the restful out-of-door life has brought new vigour to Mr Carnegie and really there is not a trace of his recent illness left. He climbs the hills with the greatest ease and really is in the best of spirits". Before leaving the following April, he met with the Prince of Wales who, "spoke favorably of Americans".

The Grand Dukes of Russia

Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich was the great-uncle of Tsar Nicholas II who was murdered with his family by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution of 1918. Already widowed, he lived here from 1907 and died here just two years later at the end of 1909. He had seven children, one of whom he outlived and three of whom were also put to death by the Bolsheviks. His eldest surviving son (Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich) renamed the villa "Chateau Mont-Joli" and sold it in 1921 to "the American Prince of Wales".

"The American Prince of Wales" and the Van Alens

James J. Van Alen was a New Yorker but was educated between America and England during which time he became an ardent Anglophile. He bore a striking physical resemblance to the Prince of Wales and built Wakehurst at Newport modelled after an Elizabethan mansion as well as owning Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire. Disgusted by America's "lack of liberty" over Prohibition he moved permanently to Europe in 1920.

Having spent the previous winter in Beaulieu, Van Alen purchased Mont-Joli but died just two years later when he left the villa (the Van Alens only ever referred to is as "Villa Mont-Joli") to his only son, Jimmy. Jimmy came every winter but only survived his father by four years and died in 1927. His widow, Daisy (remembered in Newport as "the last Gilded Age hostess") had the property properly surveyed and valued by a local architect, François Arluc. He put a minimum price of 6,116,000 Francs on the estate (not taking into account the luxurious mansion and gardens laid out by Edouard André), but if the lot could be sold for development then he estimated it to be worth 9,936,000 Francs. Either way, Mrs Van Alen did not sell - aside from her own and her husband's fortune, she was also the principal heir of her aunt's husband, Frederick William Vanderbilt

Chateau au Mont Joli

Among those who leased Mont-Joli during this period was Paul Dubonnet (1900-1961) who rented it in January 1935. He was a partner in his wife's family's parfumerie (Coty) and since the end of Prohibition in 1933 had represented his family's popular aromatized wine (founded by his father) in New York. Daisy (by then Mrs Bruguiére) eventually sold the estate in the year before she died (1968) when the mansion was demolished and replaced by the apartment block that stands in its place today, the "Chateau au Mont Joli".

You May Also Like...


Contributed by Mark Meredith on 18/10/2021 and last updated on 19/10/2021.
Main Image Courtesy of the Archives Municipale de la Ville de Cannes 


Be the first to connect to this house. Connect to record your link to this house. or just to show you love it! Connect to Villa Allerton →