An anthology of projects and a notable increase in attendance, to the detriment of the monument's conservation mission. The Court of Auditors is looking at the thirteen years in office of Jean d'Haussonville, former general director of Chambord and current French ambassador to Monaco.
Appointed in 2011 when Chambord was a sleeping beauty, the former general director deployed extraordinary energy to restore the nobility of this 5,440 hectare estate. Regularly claiming the very particular status of Chambord - at the same time national heritage dependent on three ministries, while being placed "under the high protection of the President of the Republic" - he had free rein to act. Working in “splendid isolation”, he launched all-out projects, brand policy, patronage and festivals. Under his era, the number of visitors increased by 25%, activities were launched in the park and inside the castle, including an exhibition policy - which the Court welcomed.
Also read: Chambord, the estate of Jean d’Haussonville
Thanks to this, she recalls, the “average basket” per visitor (tickets, purchases in store and activities) increased from €11.15 in 2011 to €20.60 in 2021. Own revenues have for their part , double. At the same time, and the two being linked, the subsidies paid to Chambord have not increased (apart from the Covid period).
But what could have appeared as good management of public funds is now being criticized against the former director. Because by launching new projects, Chambord ended up running in all directions. “Some of them, including the creation of a vineyard or a vegetable garden in permaculture” remain in deficit today, or have an uncertain future.
While following his thread, the former director would have neglected certain parts of the monument. Overall, the court considers that Chambord has been maintained and enhanced. Between 2011 and 2021, nearly 43.5 million euros were invested in the heritage (restoration of the lantern tower, the double revolution staircase, etc.) and in the surroundings of the castle (French gardens. ..). But in “the absence of a work programming and monitoring committee, the board of directors does not have a regular report of the work” she affirms, speaking of a “source of weakening » for heritage. Today, and according to her, “the sanitary state of the monument is worrying, with the degraded stability of certain parts of the castle”.
The part in question is the François I tower, whose floors are said to be in poor condition, to the point of having been closed to the public in 2023. The court also points to “the poor availability of the chief architect of historic monuments, which would pose risks to the good condition of the estate. It must be said that Chambord was unlucky: in 2019, Philippe Villeneuve had to suddenly leave his position to concentrate on the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris. He has since been replaced by François Chatillon, architect also in charge of the current work on the Grand Palais - another major time-consuming project. “This situation is not worthy of the historical and heritage importance” of this castle, classified as a historic monument in 1840 and included on the UNESCO world heritage list. In addition to the castle, the estate concerns an entire village, five farms including one in activity (the Pinay), eight pavilions or forest houses, ten bridges, two churches, various buildings (including the stables of the Marshal of Saxe) and a wall of 32 km enclosure. The park has been a listed site since 1923 and the entire area is protected as a listed historic monument.
It is up to the new director general, Pierre Dubreuil, appointed in January 2023, to take up the magistrates' remarks. “He has taken note of this and will present a project for a Chambord 2030 establishment to shape the future,” the estate is told.