French royal treasures returned to claimants
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A court ordered Friday that items left by a member of France’s defunct royal family to a public foundation in the 1970s must be handed back to his heirs, but properties including two châteaux and a chapel will be left under the foundation’s control.
A French court ordered Friday that a collection of items once owned by a member of France’s defunct royal family must be handed back to his heirs.
However, the heirs of Henri d’Orleans, who styled himself as the Count of Paris, failed in their bid to win control of his former estates, including two châteax and a chapel, donated by the Count to a public foundation in the 1970s.
Olivier Baratelli, the heirs’ lawyer, told the AFP news agency, that the items to be returned are valued in the order of “tens of millions of euros” and consisted mostly of artworks.
Henri d’Orleans, a descendant of King Louis-Philippe and the former head of the Orleanist royal line, left a vast amount of his estate to the Saint-Louis Foundation in 1976. He died in 1999.
As well as significant paintings and antique furniture, the foundation’s properties, which are managed by the French Interior Ministry, include the Château d’Amboise (pictured) and the Château Bourbon-L'Archambault, as well as the Royal Chapel at Dreux, the traditional burial place of the French royal house of Orléans.
The count also gave the foundation jewellery estimated to be worth 50 million euros.
But the late Count’s nine children and one grandchild had claimed that contrary to French law, under which children cannot be completely disinherited, too much of his estate had been given to the foundation at their expense.
At the opening of the civil trial in May 2013, the Saint-Louis Foundation agreed to make concessions to the claimants, including handing over part of the furniture, art and other valuables.
But at least two of the children - Prince Jacques D’Orléans and his sister Princess Hélène d’Orléans – also sought to have the two châteax returned to family control, criticising the way the Saint-Louis Foundation runs them and arguing that they should become museums dedicated to the kings of France.
“What we want is for these family heirlooms to be once more a genuine home to the rest of the property so that they can be put on display for the public,” said Baratelli before Friday’s verdict, who said some paintings, done by a young Louis XIV, were “languishing in the back of a drawer”.
Contacted by FRANCE 24, the late count’s eldest son, Henri d’Orléans, Count of Paris, refused to comment on the outcome of the case.