Claude du Granrut: “Claude, do the job …”

Photography : Camille Noyon - Text : Lucas Delattre
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At more than 80 years of age, Claude du Granrut has behind her a long and rich career as a high-ranking civil servant and elected official: a magistrate for administrative appeal courts, a personal adviser to various ministers, a close aide of Simone Veil, Edgar Faure, Francoise Giroud or Jacques Delors, she threw herself into politics in the mid 1970s under the centrist banner, at the local, regional and European scale, and successively became deputy mayor of Senlis, vice-president of the Regional Council of Picardie, and president of the European People’s Party at the European Union’s Commitee of the Regions.

Success was never given, but had to be fought for. Still a child, Claude du Granrut lost her father Robert de Renty, a Resistance fighter who died while being deported to the Ellrich camp in Germany during the Second World War. But her mother, having survived deportation to the Ravensbrück camp, knew how to transmit her passion for life, whatever challenges had to be overcome. Claude remembers the bicycle rides during the war, to go to a farmer’s house near Paris where the farmer and his wife would serve her slices of bread with butter or potted meat to compensate for the scarcities of the week. To her lost father and loving mother, she dedicated a book, The piano and the cello (Éditions du Rocher, 2013), after creating a few years ago an association of families and friends of former deportees and internees of the Resistance to maintain the memory of their dedication.

Such experiences do strengthen your character. After the war, Claude du Granrut was one of the first women to graduate from Sciences-Po, then went to study in the United States, which was far from common at the time, especially for a girl.

Decade after decade, she has never ceased to come again and again to Senlis, where her great-great-grandfather had bought a family home, which she describes with emotion : “a big house just down from the Montauban rampart, with a bread oven, stables, a big festive garden with apple trees, grapes and a fountain dating back to the Romans. We could live there like in the countryside, and invite a lot of friends over for the weekend “.

It was very natural for Claude du Granrut to choose Senlis to invest herself in politics. She was elected for the first time in 1974 to the city council. Of all the cases and projects she has managed in this capacity, the one that is closer to her heart is historical heritage. She is particularly proud of the renovation of the Saint-Maurice Priory (dating back from the 12th century), the restoration of the cathedral’s bell tower, “one of the most beautiful and most ancient in France”, the rehabilitation of the Museum of Art and Archaeology… “We brought out a past that was buried and gave back visible roots to Senlis “, she says. She mentions the determining role of Claude Brien in all these achievements, one of her very close friends, who was “like a sister” to her: also a deputy mayor of Senlis, she donated her personal wealth in support of the rehabilitation of the local heritage, thus increasing the impact of public investment without putting too much tax pressure on the local community.

Those accomplishments are also the product of another personal struggle: seeing the role of women acknowledged as equal to men in the exercise of responsibilities. Claude du Granrut says she is more than ever a feminist: “when I began my career, women were not taken seriously. I wanted to show that this was unfair. All along my professional life, I have observed that women were accepted because they work hard, but they rarely get to speak, they rather have to work cases… How many times have I been told: Claude, do the job, make it happen …”.

Right now, Claude du Granrut is retired but if one project remains, among those that she carried out, that she hopes to see to the end, it is that of the Seine-Escaut canal, a major lever for the transformation of the regional economy: “to widen the canal, which right now is too narrow for substantial cargo transportation, in order to better connect the Paris area and Northern France to the whole of Europe, while freeing up Highway A1 from all the trucks”. An investment program of more than 4 billion euros in total, of which the funding finally seems guaranteed, that few people would have promoted with as much energy and persistance as Claude du Granrut.

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