Villa Maryland

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Built from 1904, for Arthur Wilson (1836-1909) and his wife Mary Smith (1843-1927). Their 30-room villa was built on an estate of just under ten acres, a stone's throw from the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and the Villa Sylvia. The house itself was designed in the Florentine style by Messrs. Pethaux & Messiah, while the magnificent gardens were laid out by the celebrated English landscape architect, Harold Peto. Arthur Wilson was born and bred in Hull and became Deputy Chairman of the Wilson Shipping Line started by his father. The Villa Maryland - named for his wife, Mary - marked the pinnacle of their social success and Prince Francis of Teck, the Earl and Countess of Darnley, and the Duke of Connaught were regular faces here. It remained in the Wilson family until 1964 and is owned today by the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen....

This house is best associated with...

Arthur Wilson

Deputy Chairman of the Wilson Shipping Line, Hull; High Sheriff of Yorkshire


Mary (Smith) Wilson

Mrs Mary Emma (Smith) Wilson


Muriel Thetis Wilson

Mrs Muriel Thetis (Wilson) Warde, died without issue


Richard Edward Warde

Major "Dick" Warde M.C., of the Scots Guards


Despite the significant competition, the Wilson's villa and their gardens were reckoned to be "among the loveliest" on the Riviera and Maryland was featured in Country Life. During the First World War, the Wilsons invited injured soldiers up from the Queen Victoria Hospital in Nice for lunch and afternoon tea, allowing them to enjoy the gardens.

After Mrs Wilson died, she left her villa to her quite singular and eccentric daughter, Muriel Wilson, who had broken the hearts of some of the most famous names of that era including Winston Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, the Earl of Ancaster and the American Robert Goelet. By then she was married to the penniless but dashing Major Dick Warde, albeit already "unhappily". In 1923, the English novelist Ford Madox Ford was invited to inspect the gardens, "not knowing who the owners were... So, in the Drawing Room - of an impossible gorgeousness - I walk straight up and am introduced - to Muriel Wilson of the Tranby Croft case (a referral to the Royal Baccarat Sandal that unfolded there) - a woman I most intensely dislike! However, she seemed to like me, there being no reason why she shouldn't, and begged me to go to play tennis there any time. I shan't."

Widowed since 1932, as Muriel aged and her fortune declined, she and her companion, Mademoiselle Jeanne Beliac, moved into another house on the estate, Le Clos, which was smaller but no less elegant. This allowed them to rent out the main house while continuing to get full use of the magnificent gardens that she adored. Paul Allen has since ensured their upkeep and although private property, they remain as Peto planned them.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 26/01/2023 and last updated on 26/01/2023.
Image Courtesy of Country Life, Public Domain


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