When The Grosvenor Hotel first opened, it was considered to be the grandest hotel in London, and drew many fashionable and aristocratic guests to its smoking lounges, bridge rooms and bedrooms – most notably, the illustrious Parisian courtesan Cora Pearl, who was refused entry in 1870.
Now, the Grosvenor has opened a luxurious suite in the style of a courtesan’s sumptuous boudoir in honour of its most notorious visitor. Read on to find out more about the famous Miss Cora Pearl and the hotel suite that she has inspired.
The life and times of Cora Pearl – a famous French courtesan
Born into a humble family and into obscurity in 1830s England, Cora Pearl rose to become one of the most feted courtesans of nineteenth century France. Courted by noblemen, millionaires and royalty, Cora entertained only the wealthiest men during the late 1800s and enjoyed the finest extravagancies that money could buy.
It is rumoured that Cora danced upon the rare orchids showered upon her by lovers, bathed with her suitors in vintage champagnes and received gifts of stables, fine homes, silk dresses, jewels and even books which contained exorbitant cheques rather than money.
Cora’s extravagant lifestyle made her name, then and now, a byword for Victorian decadence, glamour and romanticism.
Cora Pearl and The Grosvenor Hotel
In the 1870s, Cora made a rare visit to London and, after arriving at Victoria Station – the most fashionable gateway into London at that time – booked a suite at The Grosvenor. Naturally, as the hotel was the grandest accommodation in the capital, boasting London’s first working elevator or “lifting room” as well as an early version of the telephone called “speaking tubes” which connected each of the hotel’s floors, she would have seen it as the perfect and most fashionable place to stay.
Even though Cora was a fabulously wealthy woman, with exceptional connections and the finest wardrobe and jewellery collection in Europe, she was immediately refused entry to the hotel when stories of her illicit and hedonistic lifestyle surfaced, scandalising London society and The Grosvenor’s respectable patrons.
The Courtesan’s Boudoir: Our Cora Pearl Suite
On 23 February 2012 – Cora’s birthday and The Grosvenor’s 150th anniversary year – the specially designed and lavishly furnished ‘Courtesan’s Boudoir: The Cora Pearl Suite’ opened to guests.
We worked with historian Katie Hickman – the author of the bestselling biography ‘Courtesans’, which features a chapter on Cora – to ensure that The Grosvenor’s courtesan’s suite truly reflects Cora’s spirit, tastes and life story.
With Katie’s help, we were able to identify key motifs and luxurious furnishings that would have delighted Cora, hence the suite’s rococo design, glass chandeliers, feather-trimmed lamps, oversized dressing table, custom-made floor fittings and extravagant free-standing ‘infinity’ bath, which is elevated on a marble tile plinth.
In fact, the bath tub in our Cora Pearl suite is an exact replica of the personally engraved bronze bath that Cora had specially cast in Paris – and which she famously filled with vintage champagne in which to bathe with her suitors.
Katie believes that the ‘Courtesan’s Boudoir’ has fully embraced the extravagance of high-class social circles of the time and reflects absolute Victorian glamour.
Katie recently told us: “I’m very confident Cora would have loved the idea of a suite created in her honour. It gives her the limelight she truly deserved and brings to the foreground a time in women’s history where barriers of class, sexuality and independence were challenged. With all its lavish finishes and close attention to Cora’s passions, the suite certainly represents the hedonistic lifestyle Cora herself enjoyed.”
The Tears of Cora Pearl
Our homage to Cora does not end with the opening of the Courtesan’s Boudoir. In honour of Cora’s hedonistic lifestyle and love of champagne (indeed, she often bathed in vintage cuvees even though she tended not to drink herself), The Grosvenor’s glamorous Reunion bar has created a champagne cocktail called ‘The Tears of Cora Pearl’. Our Cora Pearl cocktail contains U’Luvka vodka shaken with Crème De Cacao Blanc, Domain De Canton ginger liqueur & fresh strawberries, topped with champagne and garnished with a strawberry slice coated in 24ct Gold leaf – a drink with a sense of Cora Pearl luxury.
What do you think of Cora and of our Cora Pearl Suite? Please let us know by sharing a comment below …