Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scandalous Places - Vaux-le-Vicomte

Kaleen Koen's new novel BEFORE VERSAILLES, is as much about Nicolas Fouquet as it is about Louis XIV.  One of the places mentioned in the book is Vaux-le-Vicomte (the chateau that Nicolas Fouquet is building during the novel).

Vaux-le-Vicomte still exists and you can visit it either n the flesh or online. The chateau was built between 1658 and 1661 for Fouquet who was Louis XIV's superintendent of finances. It was supposed to be a  monument to his oversized ego and ambition. Fouquet never got to enjoy his chateau for long because Louis XIV had him arrested and imprisoned for life in August of 1661. He was arrested at the chateau shortly after a fete where Moliere's play 'Les Facheaux' debuted.  The King had been suspicious about Fouquet's actions for months and the chateau just served to verify them.  It was too large and too impressive for the King's liking. Fouquet  had actually built a special section of the chateau for the King but it was too late. Fouquet had to go. His enemy Jean-Baptiste Colbert led the King to believe that Fouquet had misappropriated funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle. He spent the rest of his life in prison. Louis XIV then hired the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Notre, and Le Brun) to design what is now known as Versailles.

In this picture you can see the moat that Karleen Koen describes in the book. It looks exactly as she described it.  Looking at the photos, you can see why Louis would have been so jealous and angry.

17th century engraving of the chateau

The chateau changed hands several times over the years after Madame Fouquet sold it. The chateau at one time was owned by the Duke of Praslin who was implicated in the murder of his wife in the 19th century (the 1940 movie starring Betty Davis and Charles Boyer All This and Heaven Too is based on the case).  It was believed that the chateau was where the murder took place but it was actually at their Paris residence. In 1875, it was sold at auction to Alfred Sommier who restored it to its original appearance after years of neglect.  Today his descendants still own the chateau and it remains private property but it is open to visitors, otherwise I bet it would be a huge money pit.

I think someone should put together a Louis XIV tour of France.  One could visit the Louvre, Fontainebleau, Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomtes amongst other places.

1 comment:

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Thanks for the post, I'm reading Before Versailles now!