The History of London’s Iconic Les Ambassadeurs ClubBy Angelica Malin
Les Ambassadeurs Club, located in the upscale London district of Mayfair, is one of the country’s most exclusive venues. Members refer to the club by the affectionate nickname ‘Les A’, and it has welcomed celebrities, aristocrats and society personalities ever since it first opened its doors in 1941.
The building at 5 Hamilton Place and the club itself both have a long and illustrious history. Today Les Ambassadeurs remains an exclusive private members casino and club, with many famous names enjoying membership. From its aristocratic roots to its James Bond connections, here is a closer look at the history of the iconic Les A.
5 Hamilton Place
Before it became the venue for Les Ambassadeurs, the imposing building at 5 Hamilton Place was home to several aristocratic families. Completed in 1810, the first resident was Robert Hobart, Earl of Buckinghamshire, until it passed to the 1st Marquess Conynham and his family. The Conynhams were close personal friends of King George IV, who doubtless visited the house on several occasions.
Sixty years after purchasing the house, the Conynhams sold 5 Hamilton Place to eminent British banker and racehorse breeder Leopold de Rothschild. During the tenancy of the Rothschilds, the mansion became the place to be for Mayfair’s flourishing social scene. Rothschild also made significant changes to the building, remodelling it in a style with Renaissance and Louis XV influences.
After Rothschild’s death in 1917, the building lost its association with the Mayfair social scene. For the next thirty years or so the house remained a private residence for Rothschild’s widow and then Conservative politician Leonard Frank Plugge. In 1950 it was sold to John Mills, who relocated his already successful Les Ambassadeurs Club to the mansion. The club has remained in this location ever since, under various different ownership.
Although it has been at Hamilton Place since 1950, the club itself was established by John Mills almost a decade earlier just a mile away in Hanover Square. During the war Les Ambassadeurs and the Milroy Nightclub, both owned by Mills, were immensely popular with London’s glitterati and became a haven where the rich and famous could temporarily forget about the destruction going on outside.
Mills himself was originally from Poland, changing his name and reinventing himself as a London club owner with great success. As the popularity of Milroy and Les Ambassadeurs grew, Mills needed to relocate to larger premises, and so he brought everything to 5 Hamilton Place.
In 1961, after the Betting and Gaming Act 1960 came into force, Mills opened Le Cercle. This was an exclusive casino gaming club, and only existing members of Les Ambassadeurs were permitted to play there. The setup was impressively lavish, with croupiers brought in from France to heighten the club’s air of sophistication. After briefly losing the gaming license in 1978, Mills continued to run Les Ambassadeurs until selling it to a subsidiary of the giant Caesars Entertainment Corporation in 1981.
Since then the club has remained one of London’s – and indeed the world’s – most sought-after memberships, even as it passed through various different hands. Most recently Les Ambassadeurs was purchased by the owner of Birmingham City football club, Chinese businessman Paul Suen Cho Hung.
Les Ambassadeurs joins the best payout casinos
The most recent phase of Les A’s history was the establishment of Les Ambassadeurs Online. Unsurprisingly for a casino with such an excellent reputation, the online version has extremely high standards and offers a superb online gaming experience. Not only is the site known as one of the best paying online casinos in the UK, but it has won industry awards for social responsibility – making this one of the most reliable online casinos in the country. Aside from the virtual games, players can access exclusive games streamed live from the Les Ambassadeurs casino floor.
Some of Les A’s most famous members include former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, business magnate Sir Philip Green, and decorated football manager José Mourinho. The club was the venue for the negotiations which resulted in Mourinho taking over as Chelsea manager in 2004, marking the start of his illustrious and controversial career in the Premier League.
Perhaps what the club is most famous for, however, is its association with James Bond. The legendary spy is seen attending Les A in the very first movie, Dr No, although this was actually a set at Pinewood Studios and not the real building itself. In real life, however, Bond author James Fleming met with the two founders of EON Productions, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, in the real Les Ambassadeurs during the negotiations to bring his creation to the screen. Although the first meeting with Broccoli did not go that well, EON was formed and continues to produce all the Bond movies to this day. Les Ambassadeurs was, then, the obvious choice of an elegant and stylish casino to feature in the first movie.