The Prince of Condé, Louis Henri (also a Duc de Bourbon) was prime minister of France for Louis XI from 1723 to 1726. He was also, according to an old tale I really hope is true, sure he would be reincarnated as a horse. He built the stables by which all other stables are judged and found wanting: Chantilly, in a forested area just outside Paris. These “Grandes Écuries” or “great stables” rival Versailles itself: architect Jean Aubert pulled out all the stops to create a facade some 180 m long which still overlooks the race course where the “French Derby” or Prix du Jockey Club is run every June. The town remains central to the French equine aristocracy, as it’s a major training centre, and the Grandes Ecuries survived the revolution and are now a Living Museum of the Horse, stuffed with equestrian art from Thelwell to Stubbs, and a collection of 30 breeds from Indian Marwaris to Shetland ponies.
Your reason to go this weekend? The museum is reopening after a hefty makeover, thanks to the Aga Khan. Tens of millions have been spent restoring the stables and dusting up the exhibition, and you can see some highlights in a slideshow here at CNN. You can also catch displays of equitation and an extensive collection of historic items. As the Aga Khan is not just a hippophile but also a living god, there’s something pleasingly circular about the tale: from a prince who wanted to be a horse in the afterlife, to a horse-loving prince who’s already divine.