Posted 8 years ago
In 1907 Septimus and Clara Miller visited Brussels and at first I thought that they might have stayed in this hotel opposite the Park off the Place Royale. The name of the hotel is the Hôtel de Belle-vue. It is also the name of one of my favourite pubs here in Sydney: The Bellevue in Paddington.
But when I looked further into the history of the Hôtel de Belle-vue I found out that the Millers could not have stayed there; in 1905, the Bellevue stopped receiving hotel guests.
The history of the Hôtel de Belle-vue is in many ways the history of Belgium. It was built on the site of the old Palace of Brussels that was destroyed by a fire in 1731. The Empress Maria-Theresa authorised Philippe De Proft to build a high standard hotel at the north east corner of the Royal Square. The building was erected according to the blueprints of Barnabé Guimard in the Louis XVI style of the entire Place Royale.
Some of its first distinguished guests were French nobles, including several members of the royal family, fleeing to Brussels after the 1789 revolution. It was "the place" where foreign dignitaries, heads of state, aristocrats, politicians and artists stayed when in Brussels.
Napoleon Bonaparte dined there (because he stayed at the Grande Bretagne hotel) and the Duke of Wellington purportedly met there with his general staff a few days before the battle of Waterloo.
More on that topic later!
"The Bellevue found itself right in the middle of fighting during the Revolution for Belgian Independence (23rd-26th September 1830). The façade facing the Parc de Bruxelles ended up riddled with bullet holes and shrapnel. The Bellevue became a national monument (memorial) at the end of the fighting."
"Many illustrious travellers chose to stay at the Bellevue, including Honoré de Balzac (1841), the family of the Prince of Metternich (1849), Louis Adolphe Thiers (1852) and Franz Liszt and his daughters (1854)."
King Edward VII of England, Wilhelm I of Germany, Tsar Alexander II of Russia, Empress Eugenie (wife of Napoleon III), the emperor of Brazil, king of Denmark, the Italian kings Umberto I and Victor-Emmanuel III, the king of Sweden, king of Spain…
General Ulysses Grant (President of the United States), Benjamin Disraeli, (British Prime Minister), Cecil Rhodes (South African Prime Minister), the banker James de Rothschild, the industrialist Alfred Krupp, actress Sarah Bernhardt, the painter Jean Meissonier, etc. "
The list goes on .....
But in 1902 the hotel was sold. King Leopold II had his eye on it. He wanted to transform the site into a royal residence for his youngest daughter Princess Clementine. Clementine had become an important figure after the death of her mother. She became the First Lady of Belgium.
"The hotel was transformed from top to bottom so it could fulfil its new role. The bedrooms were replaced by drawing rooms, the galleries by large corridors and the small stairways by a grand marble staircase with fountain. All the floors were refurbished, the gate of the Place Royale was walled up, running water was installed in the bathroom and electrical lighting was put in everywhere. The cellars also underwent major renovation at that time, as did the roof."
"Princess Clementine lived in the Bellevue from 1909 to 1910, just before her marriage to Prince Victor Napoleon. Her living quarters were on the first floor."
"The Duke and Duchess of Brabant, future King Leopold III and Queen Astrid, lived in the Bellevue for four years (1926-1930)".
"In 1953, King Baudoin placed the Bellevue at the disposal of the Red Cross during the floods that ravaged Belgium. Following that, the Bellevue was then used in 1960 to house refugees from the Congo."
"The Musée de la Dynastie (Museum of the Belgian Dynasty) was set up on the second floor of the Bellevue in 1992."
"On July 19th 2005, the BELvue museum officially opened its doors, inaugurated by Her Majesties the King and the Queen, as well as by Queen Fabiola.
Great events throughout the history of Belgium and out of the lives of its sovereigns are illustrated in a two stages itinerary. More than 1500 historical documents, movie trailers, old pictures and ancient objects bring the visitor back in time, to relive prominent events of the country’s history, from its foundation in 1830 till today."
All quotes are taken from "http://www.belvue.be/en".
A postcard published by Th. Van Den Heuvel in Brussels around 1900, number 62.