The captivating story of the famed Savoy Hotel’s founders, told through three generations—and one hundred years—of glamour and high society.
For the gondoliers-themed birthday dinner, the hotel obligingly flooded the courtyard to conjure the Grand Canal of Venice. Dinner was served on a silk-lined floating gondola, real swans were swimming in the water, and as a final flourish, a baby elephant borrowed from London Zoo pulled a five-foot high birthday cake.
In three generations, the D'Oyly Carte family and London's Savoy Hotel pioneered the idea of the luxury hotel and the modern theater, propelled Gilbert and Sullivan to lasting stardom, made Oscar Wilde a transatlantic celebrity, inspired a P. G. Wodehouse series, and popularized early jazz, electric lights, and Art Deco.
Following the history of the iconic Savoy Hotel through three generations of the D'Oyly Carte family, The Secret Life of the Savoy brings to life the extraordinary cultural legacy of the most famous hotel in the world.
About the Author
Olivia Williams graduated with a Master’s in Modern History from Oxford University. She has been a guest on Bloomberg, Sky Arts, and CBS News. She is contributing writer to The Economist, House & Garden, and the Evening Standard. This is her first book to be published in America.
“Thorough and entertaining. Who has stayed at the Savoy? Who hasn’t? The Savoy is where Vivien Leigh met her future husband, Laurence Olivier. It is where Oscar Wilde disastrously canoodled with young Lord Alfred Douglas. It is where the famous Parisian courtesan Marguerite Alibert — a former lover of Edward, the Prince of Wales — quarreled with and then murdered her husband, the Egyptian aristocrat Ali Kamel Fahey. Monet and Whistler painted scenes from the windows; the French author Emile Zola lived it up at the Savoy while, hilariously, visiting London “to observe its poor.” — Sarah Lyall
“Lively. Williams has unearthed a wealth of fascinating details about three generations of the eccentric, secretive D’Oyly Carte family.” — The Wall Street Journal
"Entertaining anecdotes document legal wranglings, eccentric guests, titillating scandals, and accounts of unimaginable extravagance. Music theater enthusiasts, celebrity cognoscenti, and social history buffs will enjoy this account of timeless elegance and unparalleled service." — Booklist
"Williams does not hang back when writing about how ornate and luxurious this hotel was. The reader will come away from reading about the Savoy with an intimate knowledge of this grand hotel." — Florida Times-Union
Advance praise for The Secret Life of the Savoy:
“A real triumph, beautifully written, with many wonderful stories of the Savoy.” — Lady Anne Glenconner, New York Times bestselling author of Lady in Waiting
“An elegantly crafted, yet spritely and sparkling book, perfectly befitting its subject. Williams uses group biography to beautifully illuminate some of London's greatest hotel and theatre landmarks.” — Ophelia Field, author of The Favourite
“A thoroughly entertaining account of some of London's most treasured history, with the beloved The Savoy at the heart of a fascinating and delightful plot. Bravo to Olivia Williams and her fantastically colorful cast of characters.” — Lady Kinvara Balfour, director and producer
“A cracking good read and a fascinating story that—amazingly—has not been told before.” — The Daily Telegraph
“This is a fascinating story, and it could not be better told. Elegant, great fun, and with a finely-judged personal touch: much like the Savoy hotel itself.” — Laura Thompson, Edgar Allan Poe Award nominated author of Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life
"Williams writes with authority and style, making her ideal to chronicle the story of the Savoy.” — Bloomberg News
"The story of how one family's vision shaped not only an institution but the very idea of luxury. From Belle Epoque scandals to Hollywood gossip, and from kitchen politics to corporate swashbuckling, Williams' writing isdeliciously alive with the type of behind-the-scenes drama that will transport you back in time.” — Francesca Cartier Brickell, author of The Cartiers