An echo of Englishness recalling happy times
This is a wonderful setting to host a gathering as it is to enjoy deep tranquility. It is easily accessible by train from London, and a short train ride from Paris for day trips, yet here the city finally yields to deep countryside.
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was the former country weekend residence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Edward VIII abdicated from the British throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. In exile after the war, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor settled in Paris. Le Moulin - a grey stone converted 18th-century mill house with a welcoming air - was the only house they ever owned and their main residence on the large site. You will find an echo of Englishness in the furnishings and much to recall the Windsors’ happy times here.
Not the miller’s daughter...
The large first floor sitting room is at its heart and opens onto a terrace, where the Windsors and their guests would play canasta. Naturally, the finest of the bedrooms and bathrooms are those formerly the Duke’s and Duchess’s, and we have created another palatial bedroom suite in what used to be the Coach House. The other bedrooms are more conventionally scaled. The Duchess’s jeu d’esprit, created for her by decorator Stéphane Boudin, still presides from the wall of the large first floor living room – ‘I’m not the miller’s daughter, but I have been through the mill.’
Scene of many glittering weekends
The Windsors were leading lights of international café society, and entertained the glitterati of the 1950s and 60s here, including Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton, and Cecil Beaton. Edward especially was captivated by the site and commissioned English garden designer, Russell Page, to design the gardens, which he tended himself and whose layout remains today. The buildings are set around a courtyard behind huge oak gates, and the grounds open miraculously to views of the valley beyond. Each Landmark has a private terrace, and all who stay can wander the extensive grounds, parterre merging into ancient rocky woodland full of birdsong, where the Windsors buried their beloved pugs.
‘glorious views out over the grounds’
Weekend residence of the Windsors
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie is best known as the former weekend residence of Edward, Duke of Windsor, and his wife, formerly Wallis Simpson. Theirs was one of the great love stories of the 20th century: in 1936, Edward VIII renounced the British throne in order to marry Mrs Simpson, an American divorcée.
Under English law at the time, a divorcée could not become Queen, something Edward could not accept. After the war, the Windsors settled in France, where they were offered tax free status. Their main Paris residence was 4, Champ d’Entrainement in the Bois de Bologne, but in 1952 they bought this site in Gif-sur-Yvette to be a weekend retreat. It was the only house they ever owned together.
However, the site clearly has an earlier history. There is thought to have been a mill here since before 1500, although the current main building (Le Moulin) can be dated by its sundial above the main entrance to 1734. The motto on the sundial, Lex His Horis Una Tibi, means ‘The rule of this sundial (or timepiece) is the only one you need.’ Until renamed Le Moulin de la Tuilerie by the Duchess of Windsor, the mill was known as the Moulin Aubert after an earlier owner, although the mill probably owes its current form to one Jean Guillery, who revived it around 1734. Guillery practised a specialised form of milling to extract the maximum amount of flour from the bran from the first milling. There was a working mill on the site until 1908.
Sometime after this, the Moulin Aubert was bought by the artist and illustrator, Adrien Étienne, who became known as Drian. Drian is well known as an illustrator of women’s fashions in the 1920s and 30s but was also an accomplished painter. Drian used the house as a weekend retreat from Paris. In the 1930s, he met Edward, then Prince of Wales, and also painted a portrait of his then mistress, Wallis Simpson, so the Windsors were already acquainted with the painter when they took a year long lease of the site in 1951. The Duke especially loved the place so much that in 1952 they bought it from Drian and sold it only after the Duke’s death in 1972. The site was then owned successively by a Swiss business man and a Lebanese doctor.
The Windsors at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie
After buying the site in 1952, the Windsors spent two years renovating the main house and creating guest accommodation in the outbuildings (La Maison des Amis and La Célibataire). The Duchess renamed the site Le Moulin de la Tuilerie after the group of nearby houses and oversaw the internal works under the guidance of Stéphane Boudin, a well known interior designer. Only a few traces of their work survive today. Almost every weekend when they were resident in Paris, the couple would make the expedition out to Gif, he in a Chevrolet, she in a blue Cadillac, preceded by their staff in a Citroën to get everything ready. Joining them most weekends would be a glittering guest list of nobility and celebrities of the day.
La Célibataire and La Maison des Amis
The Duchess called all her guest accommodation les célibataires (or bachelor’s quarters). The ground floor bathroom in today’s Célibataire (the unit for two people) has its original 1950s half bath and taps. The paneling in La Maison des Amis is also from the Windsors’ day. Guests were always impressed by the Duchess’s thoughtfulness – from a favourite cocktail to china that matched the bedspreads when the maid brought breakfast in bed.