André Palasse: Who was Coco Chanel’s Nephew? How did He Die?

Apple TV+’s period drama series, ‘The New Look’ presents a different side of the Second World War. Instead of following soldiers into the heat of the battle, it takes the audience to the streets of Paris, where icons like Christian Dior and Coco Chanel try to survive during the Nazi occupation of Paris while also developing their brands that left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. For Chanel, the story begins with her efforts to save her nephew, André Palasse. It is in saving him that she gets embroiled with the Nazis, an action that heavily impacts the rest of her life. Considering the importance Palasse held for Chanel, one is bound to wonder what became of him. SPOILERS AHEAD

André Palasse was Like a Son to Coco Chanel

Born in 1904, André Palasse was the son of Chanel’s elder sister, Julia Berthe. She died when André was just six years old. According to some accounts, she died of suicide, but whatever the circumstances surrounding her untimely death may have been, it left her young son to fend for himself. Luckily, Chanel loved him too much to let him go. She took the boy under her wing and raised her like her own son. In fact, André was the only member of Chanel’s extended family with whom she had a close connection, and later, Chanel left her entire inheritance to him and his children.

By the time André came under her care, Chanel had already taken huge steps towards making a name in the fashion industry. With financial assistance from Arthur “Boy” Capel, her lover at the time, she opened a millinery shop in Paris. Her good financial standing allowed her to give André all the resources to grow up well and build a better life for himself. She sent him to a boarding school in Britain to ensure that he had the best education.

In 1926, André married Catharina van der Zee, with whom he had a daughter named Gabrielle. In 1940, when Paris fell to Germany and the Nazis took over the city, Chanel, like many other people, moved out of there. She went to Corbère, where André had a house and lived with his family. While his family was there, André wasn’t. He had enlisted in the French army at the beginning of the war and, later, was found to have been held as a prisoner of war in a German stalag. Discovering this fact pushed Chanel to go back to Paris and find a way to get André out of the enemy’s clutches.

As shown in the TV series, Chanel got her nephew back, but it cost her something, too. The Apple TV+ series may have tweaked a timeline a bit because, according to the records about Chanel’s life, she had to do a few things for the Nazis before ensuring André’s freedom. It was through this bargain that she came in contact with Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage, aka Herr Spatz, who also became her lover at the time.

Chanel, believed to be “desperate to have [André] released,” was ready to do whatever it took to get him back. In the winter of 1941, her efforts bore fruit, as the Nazis upheld their end of the deal, and André was sent back home safely. While Chanel’s involvement with the Nazi regime continued for a bit more, André was left mostly untouched by that part of her life. Little to nothing is known about his time in the war and the months he spent as a prisoner of war. However, he did remain close to his aunt for the rest of her life. When she died in 1971, she left most of her estate to André, who was reported to have been living in Switzerland at the moment. He died ten years later, in 1981, at the age of 76, presumably due to natural causes.

Coco Chanel’s love for André is believed to be one of the most important things in her life. The fact that she never married and never had children of her own made André all the more precious to her and has even sparked rumors where it is claimed that André was actually her illegitimate child with Étienne Balsan, one of her lovers. This rumor, however, remains nothing more than a gossip as there is little to no evidence to reflect that. What remains undisputed is that Chanel and André shared a close relationship, and for her, he was as close as she came to having a son of her own.

Read More: The New Look is Based on a True Story. Here Are the Details.