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Le Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte

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The attraction of the elegant Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte stems not only from the magnificent edifice and its decoration, but can be attributed as well, to the intriguing part it played in the history of the era.

Nicolas Fouquet (1615-1680) purchased the property in 1641, with the intent of building the most lavish estate imaginable, one that would reflect his status as Financial Secretary to King Louis XIV. Fouquet was born into a family of parlimentarians, a class of privileged advisors to Kings, who were amply rewarded with property, titles and money. Fouquet's father was an advisor to the powerful Cardinal Richelieu.

Unbeknownst to Fouquet, great rumors were being spread, and blame being placed upon himself, regarding the country's disastrous current financial state. Cardinal Mazarin, First Minister to the King, was conspiring with the Monarch to deflect blame away from his own corrupt doings, and place it upon the head of Fouquet, who apart from his excesses, was a loyal and honest subject of the King.

A great party was planned. Nicolas Fouquet had invited the King and part of the Court to visit Vaux le Vicomte, in order to appreciate the recently completed work on the estate. The finest artists and craftsman had been employed in the construction of palace and grounds. Louis Le Vau (1612-1670) was principal architect.

King Louis XIV was so smitten by Le Vau's grand design, that he assigned him the task of transforming the hunting lodge at Versailles, into a palace fit for, "The Sun King". Fouquet also employed the masterful talent of Charles le Brun (1619-1690), as painter and designer of furnishings and statues at Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Le Brun then became First Painter to the King.

Finally, the landscape design was put into the hands of the father of the "Jardin Francais", Andre le Notre (1613-1700).
His novel approach to the use of perspective, symmetry, grandeur, and water elements against a backdrop of forest, was applied to the creation of regal gardens all over France. He also was employed by the King, to design the stunning landscape at the Palace of Versailles.

On August 17, 1661, King Louis XIV arrived with his entourage at Vaux le Vicomte, with the intent of seeking revenge upon a subject who dared to erect a palace rivaling that of the King's. Louis was stricken with its beauty and opulence, jealous and outraged. However, instead of arresting Fouquet during the festivities as the plan was conceived by Cardinal Mazarin and his accomplices (intent on bringing Fouquet down), the King decided to simply enjoy the party. Feasting, fireworks and a theatrical performance by the premier playwright of the time, Moliere (1622-1673), regaled the monarch and the Court in a most lavish, unprecedented way.

Moliere himself performed a piece he wrote for the occasion, a comedic ballet called, Les Facheux (The Unfortunates). Three weeks later, Fouquet was arrested, tried and sentenced to prison for life.

Plan to see the collection of horse-driven carriages and have a bite to eat in the restaurant on the grounds, L'Ecureuil. You can even rent a golf cart to tour around the vast estate. Check the website for special nighttime events when the chateau and gardens are spectacularly lit. There are scheduled summer concerts, and a fountain show the 2nd and last Saturday of each month (from April through October) from 3-6pm. The chateau is closed during Winter months.

Le Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte
Train: From Gare de Lyon to Melun station (55km, approximately a 25 minute ride)
From the Melun station, on weekends and holidays only: Chateaubus runs back and forth to the Chateau
Taxis Are Always Available

Vintage Postcard of Vaux le Vicomte Farm

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