The Secret Life of the Savoy
and the D’Oyly Carte family
By Olivia Williams
Published by Headline: Distributed by Hachette Australia
RRP $32.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781472271761
A change of pace from our usual military and related history but I was intrigued by how this hotel fared – and hardly missed a beat – during World War II. It played host to famous names – and infamous names.
In fact, the story of the Savoy Hotel, unveiled in 1889, by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte is one of glamour, luxury and hedonism.
This book tells the story of the D’Oyly Carte family through three generations of hotel ownership: Richard (a showman who made his fortune from the Gilbert and Sullivan operas), Rupert (who expanded the family empire through two world wars), and Bridget (the last of the family line).
Unsurprisingly, during World War II, the hotel’s apparent ability to circumvent rationing caused anger in some quarters, prompting protestors to occupy the hotel’s reinforced air raid shelter.
The wartime guest list was a who’s who of the famous and powerful, including Lord Mountbatten and Charles de Gaulle, not to mention trans-Atlantic celebrities such as John Wayne and Clark Gable.
It was at the Savoy that Winston Churchill was dining when, in 1940, he was summoned to form a new government.
Spies too frequented the hotel, including Serbian Dusko Popov, an inspiration for Ian Fleming’s 007.
Verdict: A fascinating look behind the scenes of a London institution.