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

Even though we used to take Sara and Philippe to a fairly impressive Christmastime "Enchanted Forest" at one of the local department stores when they were small, they were a wee bit envious of the children dressed as princes and princesses at the Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte last Monday. Proudly wearing the period costumes that may be rented on weekends, bank holidays and school vacations for 4€, the little royals gasped in delight at the towering Christmas trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and at each room that was more magnificently decorated than the last. The effect was pure magic.

Intrigued by Nicholas Fouquet, the man who built the castle that inspired King Louis XIV to build Versailles and wishing that I would have bought a copy of The Man Who Outshone the Sun King: Ambition, Triumph and Treachery in the Reign of Louis XIV from the gift store during our first visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte in November, I'm currently engrossed in the fascinating tale of his life:

From a glittering zenith as King Louis XIV's finance minister, builder of the breathtaking chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, collector of books, patron of the arts and lover of beautiful women. Fouquet had fallen like Icarus. Charged with embezzlement and treachery, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Charles Drazin's riveting account brings to life the rich, hazardous and Machiavellian world in which Fouquet lived. His charm, cunning and charisma enchanted and beguiled those around him, but in them lay the seeds of his destruction.

Alternatively, if you'd prefer to watch a dramatized miniseries on the life of Fouquet in French, Stéphane, Sara and I really enjoyed Le roi, l'écureuil et la couleuvre.

Please click on any of the photos that you would like to enlarge and enjoy a December visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte. For additional information about the castle, please refer to this earlier post.

As the sky was overcast when Stephane and I visited Vaux le Vicomte last month, we felt fortunate that Monday was an exceptionally beautiful December day. 

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.


  1. I love your December day pictures! Beautiful.

    From the book I love so much, and highlighted on my blog, The Very Rich:

    "Next Fouquet showed off the chateau itself, the masterpiece of France's foremost architect, Louis Le Vau. Its splendid rooms with their soaring columns and endless murals had been decorated by the third of Fouquet's resident talents, Charles Le Brun. Everything seemed to bear out the motto that Fouquet had chosen for his armorial bearings: Quo non ascendiam? (How high can't I rise?)"

    Of course, the King Louis didn't appreciate the spectacle. My book says that when the king commented on the plates at dinner, Fouquet corrected him and said, "Pardon, Sire, it is not plate, it is gold."

    Let the lesson be learned. I'm so glad you shared this.

  2. Thanks for sharing the excerpt from The Very Rich. Was there an entire section on Fouquet? According to the mini-series and the book that I'm reading, he seemed to be rather ignorantly innocent that his ascendancy would so infuriate the King. When Louis refuses to spend the night at Vaux-le-Vicomte after Fouquet's grandiose display, Fouquet offers to give him the castle. When the King replies that everything in France already belongs to him, Fouquet says, "In a certain manner" to which the King replies, "Non, in a manner certain." (It sounds better in French).

    It has also been interesting to learn about his mother, whose health potions and cures were collected together into a book. Even though she saved the life of the Queen (according to the mini-series) the King didn't show any sympathy to Fouquet when he had him arrested. Fouquet's mother was one of the most admired women of her time. I keep finding things in the book that tie in with places in Paris.

    Thanks again!

  3. It's a small section in the book about him, but they recount the same story of the king's displeasure. I've not heard mention of his mother and her potions--that's most interesting. What's the name of her book?

  4. This is lovely, thanks so much for sharing. The photos are wonderful, as always!

    -Mark Craft, Paris Insiders Guide

  5. What a fantastic place and I think it's a wonderful idea to let children dress up in period costume. I shall have to read about Fouquet now. My grasp of French history is feeble to say the least.

  6. Joseph, The book with Mme Fouquet's health potions is "Selected Remedies, Tried and Tested against Common Ills, Both Internal and External" and was one of the bestsellers of the age. In between having 15 children, Marie spent much of her time assisting the patients at the Hotel-Dieu (near Notre Dame), a "hospital" that "made Bedlam seem like a place of quiet repose".

    Mark, Thanks for commenting. I noticed that people can book a tour to Vaux-le-Vicomte via your website. That's useful to know.

    Steph, If reading about Fouquet inspires you to visit his castle, Vaux-le-Vicomte offers adults the opportunity to dress up in period costumes in May!


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