Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. C'est magnifique!

Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte
C'est magnifique! (It's magnificent!)

That's what I overheard a little girl telling her parents yesterday and it's what people have been saying about Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte ever since Nicolas Fouquet transformed a small domain into the finest castle of its time in France. Unfortunately for Fouquet, the lavish praise bestowed upon his estate and his extravagant spending so incensed the young King Louis XIV that the King had him imprisoned shortly after attending a particularly opulent celebration on August 17, 1661 during which Fouquet's guests marveled over the gardens, fountains, grottos and the Grand Canal, complete with boats and a giant whale.

Madame Fouquet's closet. The cabinet is made of ebony and blackened wood.

After Fouquet, whose family coat of arms was a squirrel with the motto, Quo non ascendet? ("How far could it climb?"), was arrested and imprisoned for life, King Louis XIV confiscated many of the chateau's tapestries, paintings, statues and even the orange trees. The King also hired the same architect, painter and garden designer that Fouquet had used and commissioned them to design a chateau that would surpass Vaux-le-Vicomte in beauty and splendor. The result was Versailles.

The motto of the story: Don't flaunt your wealth in front of the King and make him jealous.

The library - the room that I would have coveted had I been invited to Fouquet's fete in 1661.

As the chateau is privately owned and expensive to maintain, I overheard a woman mention the shabby appearance of some of the hallways, while another woman commented on the lack of employees in the chateau. Stephane, who was completely captivated by this alluring castle, decided that we needed to become benefactors, so you'll be hearing more about Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte in future posts. We're already planning a return visit to see the sumptuous decorations for Christmas and hope to attend the feast in June where guests wear 17th century attire. Sounds like fun!

The Salon.
77950 Maincy

Think that it's expensive to have a new roof put on your house? Imagine what the upkeep on this place must cost.
The dome is currently being repaired and is closed to visitors.
View of Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte from the Great Water Mirror, which measures 4,000 m2 (13,123 sq ft). On a clear day, the entire chateau is reflected in the Great Water Mirror even though it's 400 meters (437 yards) away. It's a demonstration of the rules of incidence and reflexion.

In Nick Dear's play, "Power", Fouquet is seen writing at his desk at Pinerolo prison:

Power's an illusion. But Louis is the master of illusion....I loved my elegant chateau, the graceful arabesques of my parterres, my sheets and falls of water. I took such trouble to acquire it. Now I will never see it again. I'll never see my orange trees...What drives us to do this to ourselves? What vanity fires the ovens of our over-cooked ambition? Knowing it can end in Pinerolo?

Fouquet died in 1680 after 19 years of captivity.

The arrest of Nichos Fouquet in Nantes on September 5, 1661 by D'Artagnan and an escort of musketeers.


  1. Very cool. I can't wait to see the plaque they install with your names to acknowledge your munificence. Seriously though, that's terrific, it's great that you joined in to save the place, and you'll have such things to talk about. How far is it from Paris?

    You've written a bit about costumes lately, do you have a latent theatrical streak that is just rising to surface now? Might we expect actual stage productions?

    And do you think macarons are from that time? I don't think so, but there they are.

  2. I was kind of surprised that Stephane's argument for becoming a benefactor (which sounds more impressive than it is) was that it's important to preserve the cultural heritage of France. Perhaps he has forgotten that he's Swiss and not French. Anyway, I also think that learning about The Untergunther (the clandestine group that repaired the clock at the Pantheon) inspired him. As for me, I kept thinking about the 1% (or less) who used to live in such surroundings and wondered if the current owners really need our assistance.

    The chateau is about 1 hour from Paris.

    Nope, I don't have a latent theatrical streak, although one of my favorite things is going to the theatre when I'm in London, etc. I also have very good memories of seeing "Wicked" in Chicago.

    I just googled the history of macarons and according to one website they can be traced back to 1533 when Catherine de Medici married the future King Henry II of France. That's what Wikipedia says as well so it must be true! ;-)


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