Despite his huge wealth and exceptional lifestyle, we know very little about Baron William Williams Hope. He was born in 1802, probably in Amsterdam. His mother was the niece of the banker Henry Hope, whose firm was then famous throughout Europe, and his father was one of the bank’s prime associates. When he was twenty-one, William inherited sixty million francs from his father, making him one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Europe.
When he moved to Paris he lived first in rue Neuve-des-Mathurins then acquired the Hôtel de Monaco at 121 rue Saint-Dominique in 1837, radically transforming it onto one of the city’s most luxurious residences. The huge mansion’s splendour and the baron’s magnificent collection fascinated and marvelled all. To be invited to one of the baron’s receptions was a great honour amongst the Parisian elite. In 1848, to emphasise his perfect integration into July Monarchy society, Louis-Philippe granted him French citizenship. A bachelor with no heirs, when he died in 1855 he bequeathed his estate to a distant relation in England, who rapidly auctioned all his possessions.