The Count and Countess of Paris with their children at Dreux in May.
Photograph (c) David Nivière.

This week, the Count and Countess of Paris packed a few suitcases, gathered their five children, and left their home at the Royal Domain of Dreux. This comes as the relationship between the Count, who has the right to live at the domain, and the Fondation Saint-Louis, which manages the estate, has deteriorated significantly. Prince Jean d’Orléans explained to L’Écho Républicain: “This is not an exile or a flight. I am just taking my family to another location until the situation improves.

The Count of Paris believes that the Fondation Saint-Louis, of which he is honorary president, has been slowly trying to make life at Dreux more difficult on the Count and his family. This has included such incidences as foundation staff making derogatory comments about the family’s dog, someone on staff running over one of the chickens that the Orléans children raise, and the foundation’s administration making part of the vegetable garden inaccessible to the family. Prince Jean thinks that the Fondation Saint-Louis has perhaps overextended their security measures by installing CCTV cameras all over the estate, which has created a feeling of a lack of privacy within the Orléans family. Furthermore, during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Fondation Saint Louis instituted new regulations that would limit the daily life of the Count and Countess of Paris and their children. “They took advantage of this period to issue four pages of regulations under the pretext of health security. This document, which I do not recognise as having any legal value, is in fact only a series of measures aimed at us,” Prince Jean stated in his recent comments. “One of the measures obliges us to no longer enter the domain by the main entrance, but to do so by the rampart walk, where they want to install an electric gate: an unnecessary, absurd and dangerous expense since the rampart walk which connects the houses is not made to support cars.

Maison Philidor, home of Madame the Duchess of Montpensier.

This is not the first clash between the Orléans and the Foundation Saint Louis. In 2016, the foundation took measures to try and end the right of Princess Marie-Thérèse, Duchess of Montpensier, to live at the Maison Philidor in Dreux, which has been her home for many years. Ultimately, the foundation relented, and Jean’s mother was able to stay in her home.

Reaction to the news of the departure of the Count and Countess of Paris has been mostly been met with sympathy. The exception to this would be the statement of Marc Métay, Secretary General of the Fondation Saint-Louis: “What happens between the Saint-Louis Foundation and the Count of Paris is a strictly private matter on which I do not have to comment.” However, Stéphane Bern, a well-known French journalist with connections to many European royal houses, is understanding of concerns of the Count of Paris; moreover, Monsieur Bern is also on the board of directors of the foundation. Bern stated, “We cannot attack our honorary president in this way. It shows a lack of respect towards his father and his grandfather. We must not forget that the foundation exists by the will of the latter. It is paradoxical to attack the Orléans family when one belongs to a foundation whose precise purpose is to defend the family’s heritage. The foundation takes refuge behind the law. Of course, we must respect the rules, but we also must respect the princes of the family of France.” The Mayor of Dreux, Pierre-Frédéric Billet, has also weighed in on the situation: “We have met with Marc Métay. The City is keen to establish a collaboration with the foundation to develop the royal domain [according to the foundation’s plans]. We are going to put in the means for that. But, therefore, I have asked to join the council of administration [of the Fondation Saint-Louis] in the same way as the Mayor of Amboise, who is a member already.” Monsieur Billet continued that the royal domain of Dreux “benefits from the presence of the family of the Count of Paris. They have every right to be there. They are part of the history of Dreux. Many Drouais are also attached to their presence.

The Fondation Saint-Louis was established in 1974 by Prince Henri the Elder d’Orléans (1908-1999), Count of Paris and Head of the Royal House of France. The late Count of Paris placed the following assets into the foundation: the Château d’Amboise, the Royal Domain of Dreux, the Chapelle Royale Saint-Louis at Dreux, the Château de Bourbon-l’Archambault, the church Notre Dame de la Compassion, and the colonne des princes de Condé. After Henri the Elder’s death, his son Prince Henri the Younger d’Orléans (1933-2019), Count of Paris, and then his grandson Prince Jean d’Orléans, Count of Paris, have served as honorary presidents of the foundation. The Fondation Saint-Louis is controlled by a board of directors; the current President of the Fondation Saint-Louis is Monsieur François Voss. No member of the Orléans family has a position on the board of directors of the foundation which controls its patrimony. In 2011, the nine surviving children of Henri the Elder, Count of Paris, sought to have the Fondation Saint-Louis dissolved so as to regain control over the former properties of their ancestors; this lawsuit did not result in a victory for the Orléans princes and princesses.

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