The property dates back in part to the 17th century but was extended and modified in the 1960s by the famous architect, André Svetchine. Originally of Russian origin, he established his reputation for creating classic masterpieces along the Riviera with commissions for Christian Dior, Marc Chagall, Aimé Maeght and the re-design of both La Mauresque (main residence of Somerset Maugham) and the Villa Claudia on Cap Ferrat. Many visiting the Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul-de-Vence assume that the building has been there unchanged for centuries. In fact, this world-famous auberge was remodelled by André Svetchine and completed in 1950.

Early History

Overlooking the junction of the Estragon and Var rivers, St. Marguerite features the remains of a 12th century Knights Templar Castle and the small Chapel of St Marguerite, originally built in the 14th century and later rebuilt in 1602 after earthquake damage. Records from the late 17th Century report that Martini acquired part of the fiefdom, including the ruined Templar Castle, “Given their attributes of justice”, (a reference to him being the 2nd Consul of Nice) whilst chose to reside in the greater area of La Bastide Germaine according to the survey of 1734. In documents they were often called: “De La Germaine.” In 1697 Bishop Francois de Berton de Crillon, Bishop of Vence authorised construction of a Chapel for the Martini Family at Germaine. The Chapel was visited in 1715 by his successor Bishop Bourchenu during his pastoral tour.

Documents quote, “The house is situated on a terrace overlooking an olive grove and enjoying a superb view over the Var Plain and the Maritime Alpes. On the ground level of the old part is a vaulted room with arched barrel timbers and paired brick, the old Chapel.” Later in the 18th century it was deconsecrated by Bishop Bourchenu.

Modern History

Little is currently known of Monsieur and Madam Spindler who commissioned André Svetchine to extend Germaine. It is believed that M. Spindler worked for the law enforcement agency, INTERPOL.

Germaine was later acquired by Sir Donald Arthur Rolleston Albery and his wife Nobuko. Sir Donald Albery was an English Theatre impresario who did much to translate the adventurous spirit of London in the 1960s into theatrical reality. Born into a theatrical family, his father was director, Sir Bronson Albery and his first job was to manage Sadlers Wells Ballet during the air raids of World War II. In 1953 he launched the Donmar company and championed plays by Graham Greene, Tennesee Williams and an adaptation by J.B.Priestly of an Iris Murdoch novel. He also produced the first London production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot . In 1960 he produced Beyond the Fringe in London and again in New York in 1962. From 1964 to 1968 he served as director and administrator of The London Festival Ballet. Lady Nobuko Albery was born in Kobe, Japan and attended Waseda University and later New York University where she received her Master’s in Drama. She is an author and Theatrical Producer.

In 1985 Germaine was purchased by Lord Sandberg CBE. Michael Graham Ruddock Sandberg was Chairman of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), overseeing substantial expansion and acquiring a controlling stake in Marine Midland Bank whilst establishing Hong Kong Bank of Canada and Australia. His wife, Lady Carmel Sandberg is an Irish born accomplished artist.

Present Day

In 2012, the eldest daughter and son-in-law of Lord and Lady Sandberg, Marion and Robert Lawrence purchased the property which they’d always loved so much from the family.

The Honourable Marion Lawrence was born in Hong Kong and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Woldingham and in Paris where she later worked as a designer at Nina Ricci. In a change of career, Marion studied Drama at Webber Douglas Drama School before having a successful acting career both in Australia and Los Angeles where she was a member of Holly Hunter and Ed Harris’s theatre group.

Captain Robert Lawrence MC (Scots Guards Retired) was educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh. A former army officer, he was severely wounded in the Falklands War. The account of his experiences during and after the war was later adapted into the controversial BBC Film Tumbledown, starring Oscar-winning actor, Colin Firth as Lawrence. His book, “When the Fighting is over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown and its Aftermath”co-written with his father John Lawrence was a best seller. Robert is a director of Global Adventure Plus and President of the Tumbledown Veterans and Families Association. He is also a Patron to Tickets for Troops, The Healing Foundation, Veterans In Action and Guiding Forces.