An aristocrat from Paris demands the return of a historic estate following the will of his ancestors

A French aristocrat descended from one of France’s last monarchs demanded the return of a historic castle that once belonged to his family amid an argument over turning part of it into a hotel and accusations of missing works of art.

Jean d’Orléans, a descendant of Louis Philippe I who ruled France during the July Monarchy, wrote to prosecutors to say that Chateau Chantilly – located 30 miles north of Paris – should be returned to his property.

Jean, 56, claims that the current owner of the castle – the Institut de France – mismanaged the property and in doing so violated the terms it was given to them in 1886 by his ancestor, Henri d’Orléans .

The castle and its huge art collection is one of the best known in France, but it has run into financial problems in recent years despite a £ 70million restoration by the Aga Khan and £ 4million government grants from Covid recovery funds.

It appeared in the 1985 Bond film A View To A Kill as the haunt of villainous Max Zorin, with 007 noticing his massive stables as he visited Zorin at the property.

Chateau Chantilly, a French palace located 30 miles north of Paris, has belonged to the Institut de France since it was bequeathed to them by the king’s son in 1886

The house contains the largest collection of works of art in France outside of the Louvre, including works by Raphael, Van Dyck, Ingres and Delacroix

The house contains the largest collection of works of art in France outside of the Louvre, including works by Raphael, Van Dyck, Ingres and Delacroix

The house featured in the 1985 Bond film A View To A Kill when it served as the haunt of villainous Max Zorin, with 007 visiting him there (pictured)

The house featured in the 1985 Bond film A View To A Kill when it served as the haunt of villainous Max Zorin, with 007 visiting him there (pictured)

The Institut de France had planned to transform the Chateau d’Enghien, a large outbuilding of the Chateau Chantilly estate, into a hotel for years before finally accepting proposals in April of this year.

Three applications were made and one was accepted, which would have seen the building rented to a French entrepreneur for 50 years, who would have equipped it with a high-end restaurant and spa, before renting rooms for 650 £ per night.

But the process got bogged down in scandal when Christophe Tardieu, administrator of the domain, resigned in May and was replaced by Didier Selles.

Mr Selles resigned after just 15 days on the job while raising concerns about the bidding process amid accusations of favoritism and insider trading, Le Parisien reports.

This led the French national financial prosecutor’s office to open an investigation into the tendering process in August, the project to create the hotel being abandoned.

News of the investigation hit the headlines in October, and the following month, John and his brother Eudes wrote to the prosecutor’s office asking for the property to be returned to homestead.

According to the couple, Henri donated the Chateau Chantilly with the understanding that no interior or exterior architecture would be altered and none of the works of art would be moved or sold.

In their letter, the couple state that the apparent mismanagement of the hotel supply has led to ‘growing concern’ that the terms of Henri’s agreement are not being respected, while also referring to “suspicions of disappearance of works”, reported La Voix du Nord.

Jean d'Orléans, ancestor of the last owner of Maison Henri and descendant of the last king of France, (pictured with his wife Philomena de Tornos Steinhart) now wants the property back

Jean d’Orléans, ancestor of the last owner of Maison Henri and descendant of the last king of France, (pictured with his wife Philomena de Tornos Steinhart) now wants the property back

Jean claims the institute mismanaged the property and in doing so violated the terms it was given to them in 1886

Jean claims the institute mismanaged the property and in doing so violated the terms it was given to them in 1886

Louis-Philippe I

Henri d'Orléans

Louis Philippe I (on the left) ascended the throne of France in 1830 after the July Revolution, and his son Henri (on the right) inherited the Château Chantilly which he completely renovated between 1875 and 1882

Jean d'Orléans complained to French prosecutors after the plan to transform the Château d'Enghien (pictured), which sits on the grounds of the estate, into a hotel, sparked an investigation for corruption

Jean d’Orléans complained to French prosecutors after the plan to transform the Château d’Enghien (pictured), which sits on the grounds of the estate, into a hotel, sparked an investigation for corruption

Originally built in the 1500s, Chateau de Chantilly was partially destroyed during the French Revolution before being inherited by eight-year-old Henri d’Orléans when his father, Louis Philippe, was crowned king in 1830.

Although modest restoration work had been done before, Henry undertook a complete renovation of the property between 1875 and 1882 – adding the stables on which Bond notices after falling in love with horse racing while living in London.

Exiled from France in 1886 under a law that expelled the families of former monarchs, Henri bequeathed the property to the Institut de France – a university society that also manages certain historic assets – as an act of public goodwill.

In addition to the main house, outbuildings and land, Château Chantilly has a garden designed by André Le Nôtre

In addition to the main house, outbuildings and land, Château Chantilly has a garden designed by André Le Nôtre

He was allowed to return to France three years later as a thank you for his generosity, and the property passed to the Institute on Henri’s death in 1897.

Since then, it has been managed and maintained by the Institute as a public attraction and art gallery, housing the second largest collection of paintings in France after the Louvre.

But the huge maintenance costs caused financial hardship for the property, and in 2005 then-Chancellor Pierre Messmer was forced to beg for funds for a renovation.

Aga Khan, an imam of 15 million Shia Muslims, became a benefactor and donated £ 70million of his personal fortune – estimated at several billion – for the upkeep of the castle, the Times reported.

The project was supposed to last until 2025, but the Khan decided to end his five-year involvement in early 2020.

This left the castle once again struggling for funding, despite a £ 3.8million grant from the Covid Recovery Fund which the government said was “essential in helping this French historical and cultural gem” .

In addition to the historic houses, the stables and the gallery, the Château Chantilly estate includes a 115-hectare garden designed by André Le Nôtre, 6,000 hectares of forest and a tennis court dating from 1756.

Before the pandemic, some 425,000 people a year visited the property and it had an income of £ 6.4million – although that was insufficient to cover maintenance costs.

The castle has experienced financial difficulties in recent years, after billionaire Aga Khan - the imam of 15million Shia Muslims - concluded a £ 70million restoration project.

The castle has experienced financial difficulties in recent years, after billionaire Aga Khan – the imam of 15million Shia Muslims – concluded a £ 70million restoration project.

The castle received some £ 3.8million in government grants from the Covid recovery fund, but was still struggling for money, which led to the idea of ​​turning part of it into a hotel

The castle received some £ 3.8million in government grants from the Covid recovery fund, but was still struggling for money, which led to the idea of ​​turning part of it into a hotel

Olivier Baratelli, the French lawyer representing the Orleans family, told AFP this week: “If the Chantilly estate is indeed as badly managed as rumors say, a lasting solution must be found to save this gem. of the history of France.

“If the facts are true, the family is expected to take over the entire estate.

“It will then remain to be determined to whom to entrust its management: the Family of France is open to finding a French administration or institution, worthy of confidence and capable of keeping this historic gem open to the public.

The Orleans family, as a descendant of Louis Philippe I, has the strongest and best supported claim to the throne of France, should the country ever become a monarchy again.

Donors say he would be the rightful heir because his father was the last king of France, and would therefore inherit the crown.

Rival claims come from the Bourbon family, whose descendants ruled France for hundreds of years and whose ancestor Louis XVI was the last king to occupy the throne before the French Revolution.

Another ancestor, Louis XVIII, then occupied the throne during the brief restoration of the monarchy, just like Charles X who was deposed during the Revolution of July 1830 with the crown passed to Louis Philippe.

Their current applicant is Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, 47, Duke of Anjou.

The third claimant is the Bonaparte clan, who claim that the crown should rightfully be theirs because the ancestor Napoleon III was the last monarch of France – reigning as Emperor from 1852 to 1870, which marked the start of the Third Republic.

About Elizabeth Smith

Check Also

Event anniversaries that remain unresolved dominate the week

This article is an on-site version of our The Week Ahead newsletter. Sign up here …