An hour away from Paris by car, discover the wonderful castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte and the tragic story that changed the course of French architectural history.
The inspiration for Versailles
Vaux-le-Vicomte is a project 20 years in the making, built between 1641 and 1661 by Nicolas Fouquet, in charge of the finances of France under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, and one of the richest men of his generation. He bought the land of Vaux (the French plural form of valley) in order to gain the title of viscount, which was given to all the owners of the site. He could afford the best for his project, the dream team in landscaping, architecture and decoration : Le Nôtre, Le Vau and Le Brun.
Outshining the Sun King
After 5 years of work, Fouquet was finally ready to show off his brand new castle, to a brand new king : the 23-year-old Sun King (and the whole court of France, 300 horse-carriages worth of people). He did so during a legendary party, that made Vaux-le-Vicomte famous : on August 17, 1661, in presence of the king Louis XIV and the whole French court, Fouquet unveiled its location with a show that included a play, ballet, fireworks, and even gave out diamonds to the crowd…, hoping to impress the Sun-King.
The real musketeer
Instead of being impressed, Louis XIV became jealous, and threatened by the wealth displayed by Fouquet. Two weeks later, while on a trip, he’ll get arrested by the most famous musketeer of all time – d’Artagnan himself ; he was arrested so unexpectedly that he never had time to finish decoration his cherished castle, with some rooms remaining unfinished to this day.
Another tragic end
Unfortunately, the story of Nicolas Fouquet isn’t the only one that ends badly – he was thrown in prison and stayed there until he died, never seeing his castle again. Amongst all the owners of Vaux-le-Vicomte, one family had to give it up after 1847, when the owner, Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, committed suicide after brutally murdering his wife in their Paris apartment. Before that, the Praslin family had time to renovate the living quarters, which you can visit.
A bird’s-eye view
The last family, and current owners, the Vogué family, have added their touch to the castle in a spectacular fashion, by building an accessible dome on the second floor, from which you’ll be able the admire the entirety of the domain.
If you want to discover this amazing castle, book here: Fontainebleau & Vaux-le-Vicomte Day Trip from Paris from Paris – My Private Paris