From The Telegraph:
It was a rare reflection by Mitt Romney on his life as a young Mormon, offered as proof to struggling Americans that despite being born into privilege and amassing a $250 million fortune, he too had known hard times.
A day after being labelled “out of touch” for casually offering a $10,000 bet to a rival candidate, Mr Romney told supporters he had experienced austerity as a missionary in France, using a bucket for a lavatory and a hose for a shower. “You’re not living high on the hog at that kind of level,” he said.
But the Republican presidential hopeful spent a significant portion of his 30-month mission in a Paris mansion described by fellow American missionaries to The Daily Telegraph as “palace”. It featured stained glass windows, chandeliers, and an extensive art collection. It was staffed by two servants – a Spanish chef and a houseboy.
Original painting (Louis XIV by Rigaud. 1701)
Although he spent time in other French cities, for most of 1968, Mr Romney lived in the Mission Home, a 19th century neoclassical building in the French capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. “It was a house built by and for rich people,” said Richard Anderson, the son of the mission president at the time of Mr Romney’s stay. “I would describe it as a palace”.
Tearful as he described the house, Mr Anderson, 70, of Kaysville, Utah, said Romney aides had asked him not to speak publicly about their time together there.
Mr Romney moved into the building following a stay in Bordeaux, after being promoted to assistant to the president, Duane Anderson. He arrived in the spring of 1968, weeks before Paris erupted into riots, and returned to the US that December. He was given a room on the third floor.
In his remarks this week, Mr Romney said of his French lodgings: “I don’t recall any of them having a refrigerator. We shopped before every meal”. Mr Anderson said that as well as a refrigerator, the mansion had “a Spanish chef called Pardo and a house boy, who prepared lunch and supper five days a week”.
It was “well equipped” with all modern conveniences, including a combination washer-dryer machine, Mr Anderson said. “I never saw anything like it in another private home at that time.”
Mr Romney added in his comments that “most of the apartments I lived in had no shower or bathtub”. He said: “If we were lucky, we actually bought a hose and we stuck it on the sink.” He said he was forced to use a hole in the ground and a bucket for a lavatory.
Jean Caussé, a 72-year-old Mormon who met Mr Romney in Bordeaux, said he “would be astonished” if that had been the case. “I never knew missionaries who had to do that,” he said. “I don’t see why he would have lived in conditions like that for two years when it was far from the general case”.
The mission home in Paris was fully plumbed and central heated. “All of the missionary rooms had something like a bath or a shower attached to it,” said Mr Anderson. “The home had several”.
This was in stark contrast to lodgings in working class areas given to other missionaries in Paris at the same time. “It was much better than the other places,” said one, Alan Eastman. “Most of us stayed in rented apartments quite a way from luxurious”.
Regarding spending money, Mr Romney “would have been on the same amount of money as the rest of us, about $125 per month,” said Mr Eastman – about $813 (£524) per month in today’s money.
But Mr Anderson said that while “we made a contribution for the common meals, I remember feeling that financially it was somewhat easier to be in the mission home”. Mr Romney said this week: “I lived in a way that people of lower middle income in France lived, and said to myself, ‘Wow, I sure am lucky to have been born in the United States of America’.”
One of the mansion’s details stood out to several of the young Mormon men, whose faith banned them from courtship, among other perceived vices such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
“It had beautiful stained glass windows, including a woman with bare breasts, which raised some eyebrows,” said Mr Eastman. “The windows depicted the four seasons,” said Mr Anderson. “Summer was lightly dressed, let’s put it that way”.