Hélène Beaumont (1894 – 1988) was one of the great figures of the Côte d’Azur. She and her American born husband, Louis Dudley Beaumont were among the founders of the glamorous social life of the French Riviera during the pre-war era but are also known and remembered for their extreme generosity and philanthropy.
Hélène Beaumont was born Hélène Thomas in 1894. She trained as an opera singer and made her London debut in 1917 at the Aeolian Hall, situated off New Bond Street, and a building coincidentally now owned by Sotheby’s.
After a short career as an opera singer, she married Louis Dudley Beaumont (1857-1942) an American entrepreneur and one of the founders of the May Company, among the most important chains of department stores in the United States. His story is that of an American dream. Born in Dayton, Ohio, son of a veteran of the Mexican War, he moved to a small pioneers’ mining town Leadville, where he opened a store with his brothers. In 1880 he left to join his brother-in-law, M. May, in Denver. Here they founded jointly a chain of stores which was soon to become one of the most important in the United States. When he moved to France Louis Dudley changed his name from Schonenberg to Beaumont and became one of the first patrons in the early days of aviation. He was president of the American Aeroclub in France, committee member involved in organizing the first intercontinental flights and his invaluable support to aviators during the First World War earned him, in 1920, the title Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.
After their marriage, the Beaumonts moved to Cap-d’Antibes, taking up residence at Villa Eilenroc, one of the most beautiful villas of the Riviera situated in a 22 acre park on the tip of the Cap. This magnificent villa had been built in the 1860s by the architect Garnier, for Hugh Hope London, formerly governor of the Dutch Indies. It was he who named the Villa Eilenroc from the anagram of Cornelie, the name of his wife. The original “neo-baroque Côte d’Azure style” of the villa was later transformed by successive owners into a more neo-classical building, and in the hands of Englishman James Willie the park was landscaped by Ringuissen. The Beaumonts guided by Wells Bosworth filled the villa with exquisite objects, including the finest 18th century French furniture, much of it acquired at the great Rothschild sales in England in the 1920s. Until the death of Mr Beaumont in 1942, the couple did not cease to collect magnificent works of art to adorn their villa. After World War II, on her return to France, Hélène Beaumont moved with her sister into a smaller house on the property where she remained until 1982 when she donated the Villa Eilenroc to the Municipality of Antibes. From then until her death in 1988, she divided her time between a flat in Monaco and her chalet in Vaduz, continuing to support a large number of charities both in Europe and in the United States. The magnificent contents of the Villa Eilenroc including the finest 18th century furniture were sold at Sotheby’s Monte Carlo in December 1992.
This magnificent emerald and diamond necklace is yet another testimony of Hélène Beaumont’s good taste, and it provides an elegant statement of her style.
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