Minister was Versailles head

Christine Albanel, the former president of the palace of Versailles, has been named France’s new culture minister and government spokeswoman.

Albanel, 51, was instrumental in opening Versailles to Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” which screened in competition in Cannes last year.

Albanel’s various initiatives to raise money to restore the Palace, and open its doors to diverse arts events such as pop concerts, earned her criticism in conservative French quarters, but were welcomed by others.

Before running the Palace, Albanel was a long-serving behind-the-scenes aide and speechwriter to President Jacques Chirac.

French film orgs expressed their satisfaction Thursday that new President Nicolas Sarkozy had not, as threatened, opted to downgrade the culture minister to a more lowly rank, in an effort to reduce the size of his Cabinet.

The SACD (Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) authors and composers royalties’ org said keeping the Culture Ministry intact “reinforces, in the eyes of our European partners, France’s cultural expectations and ambitions.” 

Albanel, is a big theater-lover, has written a novel and is a member of the Legion d’Honneur.

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