The Great War in Chantilly

Domaine de Chantilly in the Face of War: 1914–1919

Aerial view of Chantilly's castle and the city (1917) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

The grounds of Domaine de Chantilly were sheltered from the combat during the First World War. However, they were vulnerable to attack from the rear, and were under threat of invasion and destruction. 

But what would become of the museum's collections?  What about the buildings in the Domaine? Were the staff at the Condé Museum going to participate in the war effort? This virtual exhibition offers visitors the chance to discover this captivating story of the Great War. 

Gustave Macon in the English garden of Chantilly (1910) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Gustave Macon at the service of the Institut de France in Chantilly 

On September 3, 1914, one month after war was declared, soldiers of Kaiser Wilhem II entered Chantilly. The curators at the Domaine and the Condé Museum protecting the buildings and works. During the conflict, Gustave Macon guaranteed the integrity of the Estate against the military authorities.

The last private secretary to the Duke of Aumale, Gustave Macon (1865-1930), became the museum's first assistant curator in 1898. 

Still in his post in 1914, he was the first representative of the Estate—along with academician Élie Berger (1850–1925)—to meet German soldiers.

The Hotel du Grand Condé, chair of the Grand Headquarters (1914) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

A few weeks after their departure, the French Grand Quartier Général (GQG), the military command center for the war, moved to the Hôtel Grand Condé in Chantilly in November 1914. It is thus at a respectable distance from the front and close to Paris.

Gustave Macon and two French soldiers at Sylvie's fountain in the park of the Chantilly Castle (Vers 1916) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Gustave Macon paid a visit to the Domaine de Chantilly to visit the officers and to spend time with the soldiers being treated in the hospitals of the town and its surroundings. He shows them the masterpieces of the museum and accompanies them in the park.

The Painting Gallery of the Condé Museum after the departure of the Germans (1914) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Occupation of the Château and the exodus of collections

When the German soldiers infiltrated Chantilly, some of the collections had already been evacuated from the museum. The troop set up camp on the terrace of the Château d’Enghien, an 18th century building raised to the right of the Honor Gate. 

The floors of many rooms of the castle were covered with straw, providing makeshift bedding for soldiers. On September 4, 1914, the Germans left Chantilly: the Domaine was spared.

The collections had to be transported to the Louvre, in case Chantilly was invaded. 

The Deer Gallery of the Condé Museum after the departure of the Germans (1914) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

From August 11, 1914, Georges Lafenestre (1837-1919) and Élie Berger, both curators at the Château, had nineteen cases prepared. The larger works remained in place, or were transferred to the ground levels of the Château. On August 29, the Chantilly cases left for the Jacobins Church in Toulouse.

Enemy air raids intensified in the Chantilly region in the spring of 1918. In May, the stained-glass windows of the castle were removed, with those in the Psyche Gallery removed as priority. Between June 22 and July 12, 1918, Macon evacuated the works still on site. Seven wagons carried 390 cases of manuscripts, archives, and works of art to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon.

Two French soldiers in front of the castle of Chantilly in a Peugeot type 43 or 48 (Vers 1914-1915) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

A Domaine under military requisition

The war pushed the army to requisition real estate and land holdings from the Institut de France in Chantilly and its region. Soldiers were everywhere. The Army invested in the territory, and exploited, occupied, and requisitioned the forests.

Macon and two French soldiers on the terrace of the castle of Enghien (vers 1916) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

The first solicited buildings of the Domaine de Chantilly were the Château itself and the Château d'Enghien, part of which was rented out to French soldiers in the summer of 1916.

Domaine de Chantilly : CQG. The Great Stables used as car garage (1916) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

The Great Stables were also requisitioned. From August 1916 onwards, soldiers were already stationed there. A camouflage section partially occupied the premises on February 1, 1917, and did so for over a year. 

The vehicles of the Grand Quartier Général were parked and repaired there.

The Brazilian pilot Luciano de Mello Viera (1918) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Created in 1834, the racecourse was requisitioned until the summer of 1919. It served as a makeshift airfield. Brazilian pilot Luciano Antonio Vital de Mello Vieira (1892–1918) and Second Lieutenant Charles d'Albert de Luynes, Duke of Chevreuse (1892–1918), crashed there in January 1918.

Group of six "little camouflage girls" of the camouflage section of Chantilly (1917-1918) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

In 1917, at the end of the racetrack, on the town side, the Petite Pelouse brought together the infrastructure of a camouflage section. .

Special barracks accommodate a workforce of around 200 German prisoners, and numerous women, the Petites Camoufleuses , recruited from the surrounding areas. This section was to leave for Chartres from April 1917

Chantilly. The Channel by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

With the attacks of 1917 and 1918, an increasing number of cars, trucks, and military tanks were traveling along roads that were simply unsuitable. Services of the rear-front line were installed on the grounds and in the forests of the Domaine. 

Many trees were felled to provide shelters, anti-aircraft defense, and listening posts.

An example of "sausage" by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

In September and October, 1918, the heights of Chantilly and the ponds of Commelles are squeezed out to install tethered balloons, the saucisses.

Plan of the Chantilly airfield (1914-1918) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Owned by the Institut de France, the aerodrome of the Vidamée, between Chantilly and Senlis, inaugurated in April 1911, received a service of British aerostats (balloons), then the French military aviation from the first months of the war. 

It became the base for the GQG protection squadron formed in January 1915. The Army still occupied the Vidamée in September 1918, but the airfield did not survive the war.

Target practice airfield in Thiers-sur-Thève (1914-1918) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

In 1915, a military pilot school was also created in the territory of Thiers-sur-Thève (Oise), between Pontarmé and Ermenonville. From November or December 1917, combat units trained in aerial fire, landing and shooting on the ground. 

This camp disappeared at the end of hostilities.

An example of a manoeuvre carried out by the 501st RAS at Avilly-Saint-Léonard by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Near the village of Saint-Léonard, where battle tanks were quartered in late 1918-early 1919. The 501st RAS remained in Avilly-Saint-Léonard until the start of February 1919, and the 8th special artillery battalion was still in Montgrésin, a hamlet of Orry-la-Ville, in August 1919.

Map of the Orry-la-Ville leave camp (1914-1918) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

In April 1917, a camp for the on-leave contingent was created near the Orry-la-Ville station. It was extended on plots of the Institut de France in September 1917, and remaineduntil the departure of the troops in 1919.

Gustave Macon (center) and the guards of the Musée Condé in the main courtyard of the château, 1914-1918 by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

The staff of Domaine de Chantilly were touched by the mobilization and the mourning. The list of names of the employees of the Château was drawn up on August 4, 1914. Five men could be mobilized: Goblet, Demailly, Dodin, Mazille, and André. 

His position as a bookbinder at the Château meant that Auguste Goblet was seconded to the Art Evacuation Army Service in November 1917.

Example of a detachment of Territorial Tree Cutters by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

The Chantilly forest was an indispensable resource in the organization of war. Forest officers from the Domaine de Chantilly, seconded from the Water and Forests administration, had a special assignment with forest hunting companies that supplied the army with timber. 

Aged 48 and over, these men remain behind, the front in the logging industry, in contact with the guards who manage timber theft and poaching.

After the inauguration of the statue of Marshal Joffre in Chantilly, Gustave Macon (center left) takes the President of the French Republic on a tour of the Condé Museum. (1919) by Gaston DoumergueChâteau de Chantilly

The armistice signed, Gustave Macon prepared for the return of the collections. On March 3, 1919, the nineteen cases stored in Toulouse returned to Chantilly. Four other cars arrived at the castle on April 7, and the stained-glass windows were refitted on May 30. 

The reopening was scheduled for June 1, 1919, but it had to wait until July for the return of all the collections.

 Gustave Macon hosted visits for foreign officers one after another, before they left France. Almost 10 years after the armistice, he was still in demand, in particular in 1927. He was requested by the delegate of the Union of the Facially Wounded, who invited him to a charity morning in support of what he called "Broken Mouths" in the Hotel Grand Condé in Chantilly. 

The unveiling of the statue of Joffre in Chantilly on June 21, 1930 was Macon's final tie to the Great War before his death.

Credits: Story

A virtual exhibition from the exhibition: Domaine de Chantilly in the face of war (1914–1919), Domaine de Chantilly, Museum library September 15, 2018 –January 6, 2019. Curator: Florent Picouleau.
 The texts are inspired by those in the exhibition catalog Domaine de Chantilly in the face of war (1914–1919), by Florent Piccouleau, Ysec edition, 2018. 

 Virtual exhibition designed by Jérôme Leclaire

Images ©RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly/ © Source: The Contemporary coll.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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