The story of this stunning castle in the French countryside just outside of Paris reads like a Hollywood screenplay. Nicolas Fouquet, the chateau’s original owner, was a finance minister and lover of arts and leisure. In the early 1700s, he was incredibly popular and one of Paris’ superstars of the time: bringing France’s top artists and intellectuals to his stunning home in the country. If only Fouquet had not underestimated the jealousy of his superiors, in particular the young French king, Louis XIV.
Like so often, it was a financial scandal that became the minister’s downfall and his fame and fortune couldn’t prevent a precipitous fall on a fateful night in the summer of 1661. Here’s how Voltaire perfectly sums up what happened: “On August 17, at six in the evening, Nicolas Fouquet was the King of France; at two in the morning, he was nobody.” Fouquet, ignorant that his display of wealth had already angered the king, had organized a stupendous party in his honor – pulling out all the stops: with a sumptuous meal, a play written and performed by Molière, and a fireworks display—no one had ever seen before. However, that didn’t go over too well and shortly thereafter, Fouquet was arrested on trumped-up charges of embezzlement. King Louis XiV seized the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte and confiscated all of its contents. While Fouquet spent the rest if his life in prison, the French king hired his artists and architects to work on Versailles. The rest is history — best experienced during a visit to the castle and its stunning grounds.
Sunday, April 9, 2023