Reid's Palace

Hotel in Funchal (Madeira)

Reids Hotel Funchal
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Stefan Bellini

eid’s Hotel, originally known as Reid’s Palace, has a rich history that dates back to its inception in 1891. The idea for this luxurious establishment was conceived by William Reid, a man who had arrived in Madeira as a cabin boy in 1836 and went on to amass his fortune in the wind trade. His vision for a grand hotel became a reality in 1891 when Reid’s Hotel first opened its doors. Over the following decades, it became a magnet for celebrities and distinguished guests.

In 1936, the Blandy family, renowned for their connection to Madeira wine, acquired the hotel. Among its illustrious guests was Winston Churchill, who frequented the establishment and spent his time painting the picturesque fishing village of Cãmara de Lobos.

William Reid, who eventually married Margaret Dewey, played a pivotal role in the development of tourism in Madeira. In the mid-19th century, Madeira began to gain popularity as a winter destination for European travelers seeking respite from the harsh northern climate. Many of these visitors would stay for extended periods, renting Quintas or farmhouses. William and Margaret Reid recognized this burgeoning opportunity and started renting Quintas to wealthy travelers, offering personalized services and supervision.

Their first venture in the hospitality sector was the Royal Edinburgh Hotel, which was originally named Quinta das Fontes before being renamed with the blessing of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria.

The Reid family expanded their hotel business to include other establishments such as the Santa Clara Hotel and the Miles Carmo Hotel in Funchal, accommodations in Monte, and one in St. Anne’s (now known as Santana) on the north coast.

Reid’s Palace Hotel was a dream project for William Reid, who purchased the site known as Salto do Cavalo (Horse’s Leap) to construct this luxurious retreat for the wealthy. The hotel’s construction, overseen by architect George Somers Clarke, commenced in 1887 but sadly outlived its founder, as William Reid passed away the following year. The task of opening Reid’s New Hotel fell to his sons, William and Alfred, who did so on November 1, 1891. The hotel quickly gained fame for its Edwardian elegance and modern comforts.

In 1925, financial troubles forced William and Alfred Reid to sell their iconic hotel to the British company Reid’s Palace Hotel (Madeira) Ltd. During the First World War, Reid’s was closed, and the war had a transformative impact on Europe.

Madeira was the final resting place of Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria, who spent his last months on the island in 1921. He arrived with his wife Zita and initially stayed at Villa Victoria, an annex of Reid’s New Hotel, before moving to a nearby villa near Monte, where he passed away on April 1, 1922.

Reid’s Palace continued to attract famous figures during the interwar period, including George Bernard Shaw, the renowned Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics. Shaw spent six weeks at the hotel in 1924, using the time for sunbathing and mastering the Tango.

The Earl of Birkenhead, a former Secretary of State for India and Lord Chancellor between 1919 and 1922, also frequented Reid’s and added a playful note to George Bernard Shaw’s photograph, stating: “Could Birkenhead teach you no law? Do let us have a little less of your perfection, My Dear G.B.S.”

Despite hosting numerous prominent guests, William and Alfred Reid faced financial difficulties, leading to the sale of Reid’s New Hotel in 1925.

In 1937, the Blandy family, known for their Madeira wine company established in 1811, assumed ownership of the hotel. Under their stewardship, the hotel underwent its first major structural changes, including the construction of the East Wing in 1937 and an investment of £35,000. In 1950, the hotel welcomed yet another iconic guest, Sir Winston Churchill, who stayed for approximately ten nights. During his visit, Churchill authored the fourth volume of his war memoirs, “The Hinge of Fate,” and indulged in his passion for painting in the nearby fishing village of Câmara de Lobos.

General Fulgencio Batista, the former dictator of Cuba ousted by Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution of 1959, and his family spent two years at Reid’s, occupying the second floor.

In 1966/67, the Garden Wing was constructed, with completion on December 24, 1967. In 1970, Reid’s joined The Leading Hotels of the World. In 1990, the hotel underwent significant renovations in preparation for its centenary celebrations, including the addition of six suites above the restaurant and the creation of a new restaurant called Villa Cliff.

In 1996, Reid’s Palace was acquired by Orient-Express Hotels, which initiated a program of extensive restoration and renovation. Graham Viney, the renowned designer,


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Visiting Reid's Palace

Address: Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira, Estrada Monumental, Funchal, Portugal
Duration: 20 minutes

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