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Étienne Balsan

Etienne Balsan (1880–1953) was a French socialite and heir. He was a lover of Coco Chanel. Balsan bred the best horses in France and frequently attended horse races. He was a brother of aviator Jacques Balsan, and came from the family of wealthy industrialists from Châteauroux (Indre) who provided the army with uniforms and originated the famous cloth known as "blue horizon."

An officer in the cavalry, he renounced his career to breed horses and participate in races. A polo-player, he owned Royallieu, near Compiègne (Oise).

He noticed Coco Chanel in Moulins (Allier) and became her lover. They remained friends throughout their lives. In 1909, when Chanel settled in Paris, he lent her his bachelor flat on the ground floor, 160 Boulevard Malesherbes, and helped her to open a boutique in Deauville. Balsan introduced her to Paris society, including Englishman Arthur "Boy" Capel who later became Chanel's lover, and who helped Chanel to finance her early fashion business.

His brother, Jacques Balsan, married Consuelo Vanderbilt, the former Duchess of Marlborough.

He was also a lover of Émilienne d'Alençon. Balsan was portrayed by actor Benoît Poelvoorde in the feature film Coco avant Chanel (2009).


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