The royal couple brought three-month-old Archie along for their trip to John's spectacular French Riviera villa

By Mackenzie Schmidt
August 20, 2019 03:45 PM

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle vacationed in the South of France recently, they didn’t check into a luxury hotel. They stayed at the private home of a family friend: Elton John.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited what John calls “the summer house,” a 1920s villa in the French Riviera town of Nice originally built as an artists’ colony that now serves as a getaway for the legendary singer, who was a close companion of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.

A 2000 feature in Architectural Digest notes that there’s a nearby airport that allows John to use the stately property as a home base while touring in Europe, but that it is primarily “a place to reconnect with friends, a place to have breakfast on the terrace and still be sitting there when it’s time for lunch.”

The royal couple and baby Archie, 3 months, took a private jet to the holiday destination, drawing criticism for the seeming contradiction to their stance on protecting the environment. However, John, performed at Meghan and Harry’s wedding reception in May 2018, spoke out to shut down speculation, clarifying that he paid for the private plane ride and the flight was made carbon neutral. (This typically involves calculating how much your flight generates in greenhouse gas emissions and financially contributing to a project that aims to reduce emissions by that same amount.)

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(C) Scott Frances/OTTO
DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AFP/Getty; Inset: Mike Marsland/WireImage

The interior and romantic grounds of the Rocketman singer’s home were featured in an AD spread that spotlighted many of his lavish and playful decorating decisions.

The exterior, for example, was pink for some time, but on a whim, John decided to have it painted pale yellow. “That’s very much Elton’s spirit: ‘I’ve enjoyed it pink; let’s love it yellow,'” his designer, Monique Gibson, told the magazine.

By the pool, which is framed by chaise lounges and flowering vines, there are four Egyptian Deco statues of women representing the four seasons. John hadn’t told his decorator he’d purchased the pieces. They “were among the surprises that appeared one day,” she recalls. Because there was no space left inside the house for the large sculptures, she says, “we put them by the pool.”

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“There’s nothing more relaxing than an afternoon of shopping,” John told AD in 2000. “It’s the only addiction I have left. I’m compulsive—in the past I could never have just one drink; now I have none. I could never have just one car or just one pair of glasses, so I have lots. I shop, and my decorators make sense of it; I give them the pieces, then they put the puzzle together.”

He added at the time, “When I came out of rehab ten years ago, I realized that life is so much more beautiful than my house reflected . . . Ever since then, I’ve always had a decorating project under way, and because I always want to do more, each house is a work in progress. If I weren’t a musician, I would love to be a decorator.”

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In Elton’s French master suite, there’s an Andy Warhol hanging over the bed, which features a bubblegum pink coverlet. While in the dining room, the chairs have eight sets of custom-made slipcovers that coordinate with 14 different sets of china, ready for any type of entertaining — or special guests.

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And in a tower room at the top of the house, white curtains and furniture frame stunning views over the Mediterranean.

Should the Duke and Duchess care to plan another family getaway, John and his husband film producer David Furnish also have homes in London (“Queensdale”), Old Windsor (“Woodside“), Atlanta and Los Angeles.

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