René de Chambrun

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René & Josée de Chambrun

Count René Aldebert Pineton de Chambrun (23 August 1906 Paris – 19 May 2002 Paris), was a lawyer at the Court of Appeals of Paris and of the New York State Bar Association and a descendant of Lafayette, as well as a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur, and honorary president of the Sons of the American Revolution in France.


Chambrun was the son of Jacques Aldebert de Chambrun (23 July 1872 Washington, D.C.–22 April 1962 Paris), General, high officer of the Legion of Honour, member of the Society of the Cincinnati of France and of the Jockey Club (France), and Clara Eleanor Longworth (18 October 1873 Cincinnati, OH – 1 June 1954 Paris), sister of Nicholas Longworth, (who married Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the US President Theodore Roosevelt).

He married Josée Laval (1911–1992), the only daughter of Pierre Laval in 1935. René de Chambrun was shareholder and president of crystal manufacturer Baccarat.

Chambrun 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.

Lafayette papers[edit]

Upon Louis de Lasteyrie's death in 1955, René de Chambrun discovered the large cache of documents in the attic of the castle, and he founded a private museum about Lafayette. 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.[1]

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.[2] It took two years and several microfilm teams from the Library of Congress to film the 50,000 pages.[3] Lafayette's papers are now in the Cornell University Library.

Second World War[edit]

Captain René de Chambrun, 1940

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. His mission was not a success. 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, who was Marshal Petain's godson and Pierre Laval's son-in-law tried to reconcile the two men after Laval's dismissal by Pétain in December 1940. Chambrun played a part in the rapprochement between the Marshal and Laval in March 1942.

During the war, Chambrun helped some famous people to escape. Once Laval had given them permission to leave France, his son-in-law obtained visas from the State Department for Golo Mann, Franz Werfel, and Rene Clair to go from Montreal to New York.


He 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.[4]

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, they devoted their energies over the following decades to the cause of his rehabilitation in the eyes of history. 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). Rene de Chambrun wrote three books on the subject between 1983 and 1990. The Chambruns set up a foundation which collected documents on Laval for publication by the Hoover Institute.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ René de Crambrun, Introduction, Adrienne: The Life of the Marquise de la Fayette, André Maurois; McGraw-Hill, 1961, p. x
  2. ^ "Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress". Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "The Story Behind CSU’S Lafayette Collection, Tama Lea Engelking, Cleveland State University". Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Naud, Albert, Pourquoi je n'ai pas défendu Pierre Laval, Paris: Fayard 1948