LA VIDA BELLA: The Marbella Club

It was once so cut off from real life that its guests slept, sunbathed and partied while the Cuban missile crisis took the rest of the world to the brink of nuclear war. Originally written by NICK FOULKES in Issue 45 of The Rake, he asserts that The Marbella Club’s communications have improved dramatically since then, but this little piece of Spanish heaven remains a perfect refuge in uncertain times.
The swimming pool of the Marbella Club in Andalucia looks out over the sea, 1976. (Photo by Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Marbella Club has many stories, but my favourite concerns the Duke of Windsor, who, after giving up the British Empire for the woman he loved, found he had a bit more time to spend with his wardrobe, his guns, and his golf clubs. The alternative name of the Costa del Sol is the Costa del Golf, so naturally the Duke stayed at the Marbella Club, the famous hotel founded by the late Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who was as fond of retelling the story as I am.

“The Duke of Windsor came,” Alfonso would say, “and at that time the club was full of about 60 really good friends, so I told them I was giving a dinner at the Beach Club for the Duke of Windsor, and asked them if they would like to come. I told the Duke I would collect him at 9.15pm and I told the other guests to arrive at 9.00pm. Everybody dressed up in blue suits with ties, looking like lawyers, and the Duke and Duchess looked down at them. The Duke was wearing a red and white Hawaiian shirt, and he said, ‘Alfonso, I have to go back to the bungalow quickly’.”

The Duke changed into a dark suit and they tried again. “Everybody had seen the Duke of Windsor with a colourful Hawaiian shirt, so everybody had taken off their jackets and ties. We went down to the Beach Club and the Duke was so funny because he took his tie and threw it into the pool. Then he took off his suit jacket and there was a big applause. That was what made him come back again and again, because he felt at home. The people respected him but at the same time made him feel comfortable.”


    July 2020


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