Billionaire gives £2.6m to save Victor Hugo's Guernsey home

Hauteville House in Guernsey Image copyright Visit Guernsey
Image caption Hauteville House in Guernsey, where Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables

A billionaire businessman has donated £2.6m (3m euros) to save the home where French author Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables.

The celebrated writer of The Hunchback of Notre Dame lived at Hauteville House in Guernsey from 1856 to 1870.

Art collector François Pinault will pay for the extensive renovation.

Mr Pinault, whose Kering group owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Puma, said of the house: "It is itself a work of art."

Image copyright Visit Guernsey
Image caption Hugo's writing room, the Crystal Room, has panoramic views across St Peter Port
Image copyright Paris Musées
Image caption The writer's imagination is reflected in the house's decor

Hugo moved to the Channel Islands in 1855 after being exiled from France for opposing Napoleon III.

Hauteville House was the author's home for 14 years, and Guernsey was the inspiration for many of his novels, including Toilers of the Sea.

The property was donated to the City of Paris in 1927 and is now a museum dedicated to the author, attracting 20,000 visitors a year.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

  • French author and poet
  • Exiled in Guernsey between 1855 and 1870 for opposing Napoleon III
  • Wrote the celebrated works Les Miserables, Toilers of the Sea, The Man Who Laughs, The Legend of the Ages, Ninety-Three at Hauteville House in St Peter Port.

Image copyright Roger Viollet/Arsène Garnier/Maisons de VictorHugo
Image caption Victor Hugo in his writing room, and on the balcony in 1868

The building's intricate design, coupled with the effects of the weather, has made the structure fragile.

It is letting in water, causing damage to the décor - including wallpaper, flooring, furniture and textiles.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said the city could not afford the 3.6 million euro repair bill and the project was put on hold until François Pinault came forward with his donation.

Mr Pinault, 81, is an art connoisseur with a collection boasting almost 3,000 works.

The businessman said: "I am pleased to support its full restoration to a state worthy of the original and to renewing the décor that formed the backdrop for the creation of so many masterpieces."

Image copyright Visit Guernsey
Image caption The house's intricate interior has fallen into disrepair

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