Since Johannes Badrutt first took over the modest 12-bedroom Pension Faller in St Moritz in 1856, the Badrutt family has been synonymous with a pioneering spirit in the hospitality sector.
Caspar Badrutt, one of Johannes's sons, bought a hotel in St Moritz and extensively remodelled it, reopening it in 1896 as the lavish Badrutt's Palace Hotel. However, while the Badrutt family has irrevocably changed the landscape of St Moritz, the family’s legacy has certainly been felt further afield.
Actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (left) photographed at the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor with Anton ‘Toni’ Badrutt
The Badrutts in Egypt
The spirit of adventure was unquestionably alive in Johannes’ younger grandchildren, too: Caspar’s nephew Anton Robert ‘Toni’ Badrutt, born in 1888 and the son of Caspar’s younger brother Peter Robert, decided to go to Egypt to seek his fortune. Exactly 100 years ago, in 1920, Toni took over as manager of the now legendary Winter Palace hotel in the southern city of Luxor at the age of 32.
Toni’s reputation as a hotelier quickly grew, as the rich and famous flocked from far and wide to experience the remarkable hospitality offered in this opulent edifice – once the winter retreat for the Egyptian royal family – located on the banks of the Nile.
Just as his grandfather had successfully lured English holidaymakers to the Alps two generations earlier, royalty and luminaries from the worlds of politics, film, art and culture came to experience Toni’s sumptuous facilities and service in Egypt.
Lord Carnarvon with Egyptian officials on the terrace of the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor, 1922
Howard Carter, a guest of Toni Badrutt, seated beside the coffin of King Tutankhamun
Rudyard Kipling, one of Toni Badrutt’s guests at the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor
Agatha Christie, who wrote Death on the Nile during a stay at the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor
Celebrities at the Winter Palace
Perhaps the most important guests of all were the English archaeologist and explorer Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon (the owner of Highclere Castle, the setting for the TV series Downton Abbey). They and their team stayed at the hotel during the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings – one of the most important archaeological finds in history.
In 1929, the hotel also played host to Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Hollywood’s ‘golden couple’ of the age, who also stayed at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St Moritz. Other high-profile visitors to the Winter Palace included the Aga Khan III, the journalist and novelist Rudyard Kipling, and the crime writer Agatha Christie, who wrote her 1937 novel Death on the Nile during her stay in the luxury Luxor hotel.
When Toni returned to St Moritz in 1935, he had accumulated many incredible memories and met a huge number of famous and influential people, helping to further grow the global appeal of the Badrutt family as hoteliers par excellence. Anton took over the management of the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz until 1956, when it was sold by the Badrutt family. Meanwhile, his cousin Hans and later Hans’s son Andrea managed Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.
Toni Badrutt’s guestbook from the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor
Sketches of ancient Egyptians appear on the cover of Toni Badrutt’s guestbook from the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor
Another illustration on the cover of Toni Badrutt’s guestbook from the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor
Letters of thanks from guests to Toni Badrutt, found inside the guestbook
History on display at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel
And now visitors can see the evidence of this remarkable period of Badrutt family history: one of the guestbooks from the Winter Palace in Luxor was acquired by Badrutt’s Palace Hotel at auction in 2013.
The book is bound in parchment and leather and adorned with hand-painted images of ancient Egyptians. It contains many signatures, including one from the English playwright and novelist Somerset Maugham, as well as a thank you letter addressed personally to Toni Badrutt from a guest who had stayed in St Moritz as a child. The last page of the guestbook features a pencil drawing of the famous leaning church tower in St Moritz.
The aim and vision of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is to bring together the widely scattered historical heritage of the Badrutt family here where it all began, and to create an archive as a memento for future generations.
The guestbook from Egypt will be on display during summer 2020 at the entrance to the Embassy Ballroom; make sure you take the time to look at it on your visit to Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.
Published July 2020
Back to top