The Radziwill Dynasty
For over five centuries, the Radziwills were one of the most prominent Polish aristocratic families. Descended from Lithuanian boyars, or lesser nobility, the family rose to power in the 15th century and held their place in society until the beginning of World War II. The family can be traced to Radvila Astikas, a Lithuanian noble, who had possessions near Kernavé. His father, Kristinas Astikas, was the first to receive the Polish Traby Coat of Arms which was used by several wealthy families in the Kingdom of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This Coat of Arms was used by the Radziwill family whose crest now incorporated the symbol into an eagle and crowned drapery.
The three family lines can be traced to Radvila Astikas's grandsons who began using Radziwill as their family name. During the Golden Age of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th century, the Radziwills were elevated to the title of Reichsfürst, or Prince of the Empire, by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, a very rare honor among Polish nobility. Since the 18th century all descendants are from the Nieswiez-Olyka Radziwill family line who had is main residence at Niasvizh Castle in present-day Belarus. This well-known family produced many exceptional clergymen, military leaders, politicians, and cultural benefactors who significantly impacted European history and culture until the 20th century.
The Princely Bedroom Suite at the Villa des Dunes:
The country house known as the Villa des Dunes in Cannes, France, was built by resident architect Charles Baron during the third quarter of the 19th century. It was the largest house located on the Boulevard of the Small Cross and consisted of the main house as well as a country cottage built in 1868, with further additions in 1909. Originally built for Charles Mallet, the president of La Société du PLM, its fame grew when it became the temporary residence of the Tsarina Marie Alexandrovna of Russia from October 9, 1879 to January 31, 1880 who traveled to Cannes with her entire court to tend to her weak health, thus launching the city as a tourist destination for the European aristocracy.
In 1886, Prince Constantin Radziwill (b.1850-d.1920) bought the Villa des Dunes and furnished it with the present bedroom suite, specifically carved for him and bearing the Radziwill coat of arms on the headboard and the crest of the armoire. Although the suite bears strong Neo-classical decorative attributes, the decorative theme and painting is very much in the French provincial style, fitting with the setting of the house. Interestingly one can notice all the decorative elements that are normally rendered in gilt bronze casting are in the present suite carved in the masse, such as the flowerhead pattern, the scrolled and floral swag-cast escutcheon, the laurel cast sabot, and ribbon tied encadrements. The impressive suite remained in the house until it was sold in 1928-1929 by a subsequent owner.
Peter Paul Bajer "Een korte geschiedenis van de familie-Radziwill: Rijkdom, invloed en prestige") in: "Oost-Europa Verkeningen", Amsterdam, Holland: Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek, December, 2000, p.39-53
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