Built in 1873 and owned by Phillip Perceval Esq, when Cowes first became a renowned yachting centre, the Villa was often frequented by the great personalities of the age - indeed the Prince of Wales (Edward Albert, Queen Victoria’s eldest son & prior to becoming Edward VII in 1901) was known to frequent the property when it was known as ‘Montretout’. It was at this time that he gave his name to the property though his title – The ‘Duke of Rothesay’.
The Perceval’s had four children who grew up at the house. It was here that their eldest son (also called Philip - born 1868) developed his love of sailing: it was only a few steps down the 'Zig Zag' steps to Princes Green where he would have watched the spectacular racing. He would also have visited the Royal Yacht Squadron and other prestigious sailing clubs with his father. He honed his skills sailing small dingy craft and in 1896 he won 50 prizes in 56 starts. He was commodore of the Island Sailing Club 1901-1903.
In 1905 he changed his surname after acquiring an inheritance through the female line of the Hunloke family.
As helmsman on Sorias, an 8 metre yacht owned by the Duchess of Westminster, he won a Bronze medal for Great Britain at the 1908 Olympics held in the UK.
In 1914 he was made Groom-in-Waiting to George V and in 1920 became his Sailing Master. Now began a close association with the Royal Yacht Britannia, a "K" class yacht that was converted to “J” class that graced the Solent during the years between the great wars. He is generally regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest helmsman. He was invested as a Knight Grand Cross, Royal Victorian Order (G.C.V.O.). He became the first President of the newly formed Royal Ocean Racing Club and was instrumental in creating the now world famous Fastnet Race - first raced in 1925.
Without doubt it can safely be said that Sir Philip carried the heaviest responsibility in Cowes Week. As helmsman of Britannia with the King on board, Sir Philip admitted that before the racing season he suffered nightmares connected with the race starting line at Cowes.
After the death of George V in 1936 Sir Philip accepted the responsibility of carrying out the King’s wish to dispose of the Royal Yacht Britannia. On 10 July 1936, after the Britannia had been stripped of her spars and fittings, her hull was towed out to St Catherines Deep off the south of the Island and scuttled using explosives by the Royal Navy.
Sir Philip went on to become the Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron from 1943 until his death in 1947. A plaque in his memory can be found in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes.
The Second World War years saw the Villa Rothsay suffer bomb damage to its Billiard Room, which subsequently became part of the garden terrace. The Villa was converted to residential flats in the 1940's.
Acquired by the Ankers family in 1970, Pixie and her daughters, Margaret & Miranda set about returning the building to its original grandeur and started a Carvery Restaurant in 1981. They were helped and supported in this endeavour by Edward Heath, the Prime Minister of the day who was a regular visitor to Cowes, sailing on 'Morning Cloud' and was one of their first patrons.
The hotel was a natural extension to the restaurant business and started in the summer of 1985. Since then it has attracted the patronage of many of the World's top yachtsmen & international sailing teams, Powerboaters, royalty, business personalities and more than its fair share of celebrities.