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WORLD FOCUS: For sale: Villa La Pausa

September 17, 2011
According to The New York Times, the asking prize is $56 million and one of the potential buyers is said to be the Chanel Foundation.

La Pausa, a chateau of “sophisticated simplicity” was built on the French Riviera for Coco Chanel, the world-famous fashion designer, by her lover, the Duke of Westminster. Subsequently, in 1953, La Pausa has become the home of Emery and Wendy Reves.

With its spectacular views of Monte Carlo and the Mediterranean, five-acres of exotic gardens, pool, seven bedrooms and a vast reception hall, as well as its long and colorful history involving some of the world’s best known artists, musicians, writers and political personalities, as guests, La Pausa, is a unique property.

It went on the market as part of the estate bequeathed by Wendy Reves. According to her original will composed and signed in September 1989, at her Chalet L’Ermitage in Glion, Switzerland, she directed that “40% of the income of the original, compiled, invested capital should be given to the Wendy & Emery Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William & Mary.” The institute, she has endowed.

Having an astute business mind, in her will Wendy instructed the executor to hire Sotheby’s or Christie’s to sell La Pausa dispose of furnishing, artworks and decorative items. “Money is our objective,” she wrote, “to be added to the capital of the Reves Foundation.”

She added: “Attention: Every item at La Pausa, has value…Even the antique kitchen utensils plus a marble table in the kitchen, which I was offered $40,000 from one of the great chefs of France.”

She believed that items auctioned off from La Pausa would bring premium prizes. “They are associated with guests who visited or stayed at La Pausa, such as Winston Churchill, Gen. De Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, Greta Garbo, Somerset Maugham, and many others,” she used to say.

Sotheby’s International Realty, in its marketing ads of La Pausa put emphasis on the past ownership of the estate by Coco Chanel. Whether this decision was a wise one, is an open question.

A book, “Sleeping with the Enemy,” by Hal Vaughan, a Paris-based American historian just published, claims that during the Second World War, Coco Chanel served as a Nazi agent.

French and German archival material discovered by Vaughan, contains at least 40 official reports on the relationship between Chanel, and her lover, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German aristocrat, who was an agent of the German Abwehr.

According to Vaughan, the documents prove that Dincklage has recruited Chanel, as a spy for the German military intelligence. In fact, during the war years, Chanel lived in luxury at the Hotel Ritz, was traveled to Berlin and was sent on a secret mission to Spain.

Considering the role the Villa La Pausa played in the life of Coco Chanel, no wonder that the Chanel Foundation would like restore ownership. In history books, however, La Pausa will always be remembered as the place where Winston Churchill spent about a third of each year during 1956, 1957 and 1958, as a guest of the Reveses.

“We put an entire floor of La Pausa at the disposal of Sir Winston,” Wendy told me. “He had a large bedroom there; Anthony Montague Brown, his private secretary, an office; Lady Churchill, her own suite; and there were numerous guest rooms. They were never empty while Churchill was at the villa. He could invite anybody, and he did.”

It was at La Pausa where Churchill wrote and edited part of his four volume “History of the English Speaking People.” It was also from where, “Reves, he idealist, sold Churchill to the world, making him a wealthy man,” as the Times of London put it.

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.


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