René de Chambrun

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René de Chambrun
Born 23 August 1906
Paris, France
Died 19 May 2002
Paris, France
Resting place Montparnasse Cemetery
Residence 6 bis, Place du Palais-Bourbon,[1][2] Paris, France
Château de la Grange-Bléneau, Courpalay, Seine-et-Marne, France
Nationality France
United States
Alma mater Sciences Po
University of Paris
Occupation Lawyer, businessman
Spouse(s) Josée Laval
Parent(s) Aldebert de Chambrun
Clara Eleanor Longworth
Relatives Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette (great-great-grandfather)
Nicholas Longworth (maternal great-great-grandfather)
Nicholas Longworth II (maternal grandfather)
Nicholas Longworth (maternal uncle)
Adolphe de Chambrun (paternal grandfather)
Charles de Chambrun (paternal uncle)
Pierre de Chambrun (paternal uncle)
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (paternal uncle)
Pierre Laval (father-in-law)

Count René Aldebert Pineton de Chambrun (23 August 1906 – 19 May 2002), was a French-American aristocrat, lawyer, businessman and author. He practised law at the Court of Appeals of Paris and the New York State Bar Association. He was the author of several books about World War II and his father-in-law, Vichy France Prime Minister Pierre Laval, to whom he served as legal counsel. He defended Coco Chanel in her lawsuit against Pierre Wertheimer over her marketing rights to Chanel No. 5. He was the chairman of Baccarat, the crystal manufacturer, from 1960 to 1992.

Early life[edit]

René de Chambrun was born on August 23, 1906 in Paris, France.[3] His father, Aldebert de Chambrun, was a general in the French Army, and his mother was Clara Eleanor Longworth, sister of Nicholas Longworth, (who married Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt).[4] On his paternal side, he was a member of the aristocratic Pineton de Chambrun family. Moreover, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza was one of his paternal uncles.[5] Chambrun's godfather was Philippe Pétain.[6]

Chambrun was a great-great-grandson of Lafayette.[7][8] As a result, he was both a French and U.S. citizen.[8] His honorary U.S. citizenship was questioned by members of the United States House of Representatives in 1942 due to his support for his father-in-law.[9]

Chambrun graduated from Sciences Po.[3] He received a PhD in Law from the University of Paris.[3]


Chambrun was a lawyer at the Court of Appeals of Paris and the New York State Bar Association.[7] By 1935, he helped establish a Franco-American cultural center in New York City to promote bilateral relations. The center was aimed at students and businessmen.[10]

When the Second World War broke out, Chambrun served as a captain, but, with the collapse of France looming by mid-May 1940, the Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud, sent Chambrun as a special emissary to Washington to stiffen President Roosevelt's resolve to help the Allies. Between his first meeting with Roosevelt on 16 June and his last on 1 August, Reynaud's government had fallen. Later that year Chambrun published the book I Saw France Fall, which helped to alert American opinion about the fate of his country. Chambrun was a defender of Laval:

Father-in-law wants a big trial which will illuminate everything, If he is given time to prepare his defence, if he is allowed to speak, to call witnesses and to obtain from abroad the information and documents which he needs, he will confound his accusers.[11]

The Chambruns threw themselves into the task of assisting Laval in his defense before the High Court of Justice. After Laval's sentence and execution in October 1945, Chambrun was put on police watch in Paris on the suspicion that he may have helped the Nazis during the war;[12] in 1942 Chevalier had been named on a list of French collaborators with Germany to be killed during the war, or tried after it.[13] By 1947, Chambrun officially applied for a U.S. passport.[14][15]

Meanwhile, Chambrun and his wife devoted their energies over the following decades to the cause of his rehabilitation in the eyes of history.[16] For example, he wrote a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower in which he objected to his characterisation of Laval as "Hitler's most evil puppet" in his 1948 memoir entitled Crusade in Europe.[17][18] Chambrun based his argument on another book authored by Spanish Foreign Minister Ramón Serrano Suñer in which the latter quoted Hitler describing Laval as "no better than De Gaulle".[17] By 1949, Eisenhower agreed to remove the passage from subsequent reprints.[17][18] A decade later, in 1959, his wife wrote the foreword of Tout ce qu'on vous a cache, a book based on "German secret files" authored by Jacques Baraduc, Laval's lawyer.[19] The book attempted to show that Laval "refused repeatedly to yield to German demands for a reduction in the number of United States agents in French North Africa and a limitation on their activity."[19]

In 1969, Chambrun made an appearance in Marcel Ophüls's documentary on collaboration between the Vichy government and Nazi Germany during World War II, The Sorrow and the Pity (Le chagrin et la pitié). Chambrun wrote three books on the subject between 1983 and 1990. The Chambruns set up a foundation, the Josée and René de Chambrun Foundation, which collected documents on Laval for publication by the Hoover Institution. After Laval's death, the Chambruns brought flowers to his grave every October 15, to commemorate the day he was executed.[20]

After World War II, Chambrun was hired by Peter II of Yugoslavia when the latter filed for divorce in 1953;[21] the couple reconciled two years later. Meanwhile, Chambrun defended fashion designer Coco Chanel when she sued manufacturer Pierre Wertheimer to regain the marketing rights to her perfume, Chanel No. 5.[22] Wertheimer settled the case, and Chanel became a millionaire as a result.[22] Meanwhile, in 1970 Chambrun also defended Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos over false allegations that he killed his ex-wife, Eugenia Livanos.[23] Additionally, Chambrun was hired by Somerset Maugham's daughter to prove that she was indeed his daughter.[24]

Chambrun served as the chairman of Baccarat, the crystal manufacturer, from 1960 to 1992.[3][25][20]

Personal life and death[edit]

6 bis, Place du Palais-Bourbon.
The Château de la Grange-Bléneau in 2008.

Chambrun married Josée Laval (1911–1992), the only daughter of Pierre Laval in 1935.[8][26] Their wedding was held at the town hall of the 7th arrondissement of Paris, followed by the Sainte-Clotilde the next day.[27] They resided 6 bis, Place du Palais-Bourbon in the 7th arrondissement.[1][2] In 1956, he bought the Château de la Grange-Bléneau, a castle in the commune of Courpalay in the Seine-et-Marne département of France, from his cousin, Louis de Lasteyrie, a descendant of La Fayette, in 1935, with a life tenancy.[28]

Upon Louis de Lasteyrie's death in 1955, Chambrun discovered the large cache of documents in the attic of the castle,[29] and he founded a private museum about Lafayette.[30] News of his discovery brought many historians to his door, but Chambrun denied access, except to André Maurois whom he authorized to write a biography of Adrienne de Lafayette.[28][29][31] Chambrun produced a book using the documents he discovered covering the period of 1792–97 when Lafayette was in an Austrian prison. He organized and described the family archives, a collection dating from 1457 to 1990. The papers were microfilmed at La Grange in 1995 and 1996, for the Library of Congress.[32] It took two years and several microfilm teams from the Library of Congress to film the 50,000 pages.[33] Lafayette's papers are now in the Cornell University Library. Meanwhile, Chambrun purchased a sword used in battle by Lafayette in 1976,[34] outbidding the Smithsonian Institution.[35]

Chambrun served as the honorary president of the Sons of the American Revolution in France. He became a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur.

Chambrun died on 19 May 2002 in Paris, France.[3] His funeral, held at Sainte-Clotilde, was attended by Diana Mitford, the widow of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley.[5] He was buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery.[26]


  • de Chambrun, René (1932). Les Emprunts sur titres et le marché de l'argent à New-York. Paris: Rousseau et Cie. OCLC 459185128. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1940). I saw France fall. Will she rise again?. New York: W. Morrow & Co. OCLC 395042. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1964). Baccarat's first two hundred years of history, 1764-1964. Paris: Corbeil-Essonnes. OCLC 35184101. 
  • de Chambrun, Adolphe; de Corcelle, Marie Hélène Marthe (1976). de Chambrun, René, ed. Un Français chez les Lincoln : lettres inédites adressées pendant la guerre de Sécession. Paris: Librairie académique Perrin. ISBN 9782262000387. OCLC 3868356. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1977). Les prisons des La Fayette : dix ans de courage et d'amour. Paris: Perrin. ISBN 9782262000738. OCLC 3670435. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1980). Sorti du rang. Paris: Jullian. ISBN 9782863100301. OCLC 7552462. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1984). Pierre Laval : traitor or patriot?. New York: Scribner. ISBN 9780684180953. OCLC 11030312. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1986). France during the German occupation, 1940-1944 : summaries and important selections from statements on the government of Maréchal Pétain and Pierre Laval. A bibliographical supplement. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 9780817983727. OCLC 13821262. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1988). Les 2,600,000 otages français d'Hitler, 1940 : la France, puissance protectrice de ses prisonniers. Paris: Editions France-Empire. ISBN 9782704805983. OCLC 21762580. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1990). Mes combats pour Pierre Laval. Paris: Perrin. ISBN 9782262007614. OCLC 23059292. 
  • de Chambrun, René (1993). Mission and betrayal, 1940-1945 : working with Franklin Roosevelt to help save Britain and Europe. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 9780817992217. OCLC 26722920. 


  1. ^ a b "Laval is Executed After 11th Hour Suicide Attempt". Middletown Times Herald. October 15, 1945. p. 10. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). She was staying at the home of her daughter, Jose de Chambrun, wife of Count Rene de Chambrun, in Place de Palais-Bourbon. 
  2. ^ a b Némirovsky, Irène (2006). Suite Francaise. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 384. ISBN 9781400044733. OCLC 63390753. His address is 6 bis place du Palais Bourbon, VII. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "René de Chambrun (1906-2002)". Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Daughter of French Premier Weds Count Rene de Chambrun". The Winnipeg Tribune. Winnipeg, Canada. August 19, 1935. p. 6. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). The bridegroom is a nephew of Nicholas Longworth, speaker of the house of representatives and husband of the former Alice Roosevelt. 
  5. ^ a b Pourcher, Yves (Spring 2012). "Laval Museum". Historical Reflections. 38 (1): 105–125. doi:10.3167/hrrh.2012.380108. 
  6. ^ Kershaw, Alex (2015). Avenue of spies : a true story of terror, espionage, and one American family's heroic resistance in Nazi-occupied France. New York: Crown Publishers. p. 58. ISBN 9780804140034. OCLC 910239494. René de Chambrun, who was in fact Pétain's godson, and his wife, Josée, were often to be seen at Abetz's parties at the German embassy, in the Hôtel de Beauharnais, at 78, rue de Lille. 
  7. ^ a b "French-American Citizen". The Evening Independent. Massilon, Ohio. August 7, 1934. p. 4. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  8. ^ a b c Dulphy, Anne; Manigand, Christine (2010). "Entretien avec Georges Berthoin". Histoire@Politique. 1 (10): 12. doi:10.3917/hp.010.0013. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  9. ^ Allen, Robert S.; Pearson, Drew (June 6, 1942). "The Washington Merry-Go-Round". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. p. 4. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). Members of congress are toying with the idea of removing honorary U. S. citizenship from Laval's son-in-law, Count Rene de Chambrun. As a descendant of Lafayette, de Chambrun automatically is entitled to U. S. citizenship, but close affinity with papa-in-law may remove it... 
  10. ^ "France Is Courting Favor Of United States. To Established Nongovernmental Bureau To Remove Misunderstandings". Freeport Journal-Standard. Freeport, Illinois. June 19, 1935. p. 12. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  11. ^ Naud, Albert, Pourquoi je n'ai pas défendu Pierre Laval, Paris: Fayard 1948
  12. ^ "French Await Purge for Aiding Nazis". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. December 4, 1945. p. 4. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). The young Chambrun, who has been on police watch for months, was said to have disappeared early this week from his Paris residence. 
  13. ^ deRochemont, Richard (24 August 1942). "The French Underground". LIFE. 
  14. ^ Pearson, Drew (January 2, 1947). "The Washington Merry-Go-Round". Freeport Journal-Standard. Freeport, Illinois. p. 8 – via (Registration required (help)). One thing that gripes heroic European leaders of the underground is the way collaborationists are now welcomed to the U.S.A. Rene de Chambrun, son-in-law of traitor Pierre Laval, is now applying for a passport, while Karol Sidor, one of Czekaslovakia's collaborationists, has already been granted one... 
  15. ^ Pearson, Drew (January 2, 1947). "The Washington Merry-Go-Round". The Delta Democrat-Times. Greenville, Mississippi. p. 4. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). One thing that gripes heroic European leaders of the underground is the way collaborationists are now welcomed to the U.S.A. Rene de Chambrun, son-in-law of traitor Pierre Laval, is now applying for a passport, while Karol Sidor, one of Czechoslovakia's collaborationists, has already been granted one... 
  16. ^ Wallenstein, Marcel (November 2, 1961). "The Lafayettes--Model Wife, Heroic Spouse". The Kansas City Times. Kansas City, Missouri. p. 48. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). The Chambruns have given much of their time since World War II in trying to clear the reputation of Laval, Hitler's French collaborator, who was executed by a French firing squad for his crimes after the defeat of the Nazis. 
  17. ^ a b c "Kin Objects, Ike Deletes". The Tipton Daily Tribune. Tipton, Indiana. March 27, 1950. p. 5. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  18. ^ a b "Eisenhower Obliges Pierre Laval's Kin. Reference To Laval as 'Hitler's Most Evil Puppet Will Be Deleted From Book". New Castle News. New Castle, Pennsylvania. March 31, 1949. p. 18. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  19. ^ a b Armad-Prevost, Jacques (June 30, 1949). "Laval Lawyer Quotes Secret German Files. Book Seeks To Prove Vichy Premier Was Patriot, Not Traitor". The Logan Daily News. Logan, Ohio. p. 14. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  20. ^ a b Brody, J. Kenneth (2010). The Trial of Pierre Laval: Defining Treason, Collaboration and Patriotism in World War II France. Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 260. ISBN 9781412811521. OCLC 351324701. 
  21. ^ "Ex-King To Get Divorce". The Plain Speaker. September 11, 1953. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  22. ^ a b "Sweet Smell of Perfume". The Lincoln Star. Lincoln, Nebraska. February 28, 1971. p. 72. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  23. ^ "Rich Greek Is Cleared in Wife's Death". Pottstown Mercury. Pottsdown, Pennsylvania. September 19, 1970. p. 1. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  24. ^ Lyons, Leonard (April 3, 1969). "Lyons Den". The Times. San Mateo, California. p. 31. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  25. ^ Marcus, Stanley (1979). Quest for the Best. New York: Viking Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780670584703. OCLC 4492062. 
  26. ^ a b Demonpion, Denis (May 31, 2002). "La vie mondaine des collabos". Le Point. Retrieved August 2, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Laval's Daughter To Wed Nobleman". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. August 19, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved August 2, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  28. ^ a b "Books and Authors: Pivotal Decisions by Presidents Discussed". The Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Corpus Christi, Texas. April 9, 1961. p. 18. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  29. ^ a b "News About Books. Out of History". The High Point Enterprise. High Point, North Carolina. May 28, 1961. p. 5. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  30. ^ "Ceremony emphasized as legislature opens". The News. Frederick, Maryland. January 15, 1976. p. 1 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  31. ^ René de Crambrun, Introduction, Adrienne: The Life of the Marquise de la Fayette, André Maurois; McGraw-Hill, 1961, p. x
  32. ^ "Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress". Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Story Behind CSU'S Lafayette Collection, Tama Lea Engelking, Cleveland State University". Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  34. ^ "Lafayette's American Sword Sold at Auction". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. November 25, 1976. p. 73. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)). 
  35. ^ "Count outbids Smithsonian". The Ottawa Journal. November 22, 1976. p. 11. Retrieved August 1, 2016 – via (Registration required (help)).