Revealing the Secrets of a Mansion II

Earlier this week I started dissecting a 350 year old French country mansion, and telling you about its owner and fascinating history.

Vaux-le-Vicomte

Vaux is nothing short of magnificent, just as Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis of Belle-Ile, Viscount of Vaux and Melun, intended it to be.  Hundreds of years later, it still stands in all its glory.  At the height of his day, Fouquet was the Superintendent of Finance for Louis XIV.  He held the country’s purse strings.  Not just any country.  France was the most powerful nation in Europe at the time.  Population: over 20 million.  The population of Paris alone was over 100,000!  That’s HUGE for 17th c. standards!

Fouquet purchased the Vaux estate in 1641. The construction on this enormous and very expensive project began in 1656 on a stretch of property that spanned the area of three villages. It took 18,000 men and a constant supply of funds made by Fouquet before Vaux-le-Vicomte was completed. He even had a river rerouted through his estate to add to the scenic landscaping. (See the bottom right-hand corner of the pic above.)

At times it was said that Fouquet co-mingled his personal funds with the Crown funds. Though this practice wasn’t illegal at the time, it was used against him at his three-year-long trial. 

In fact, it was the most sensational trial in French history.

Louis XIV was a young king when Mazarin — his godfather/First Minister — died.  In his early twenties, King Louis XIV was more interested in dancing (he opened the first school of ballet!) and in being with his favorite mistress.  Running the country was boring to the twenty-two year old.  He left matters in Mazarin’s hands, who had run the country for him since he was a boy.  Now that Mazarin was dead, Louis realized just how powerful Fouquet had become.  Some were actually calling Fouquet the true King of France.

That angered Louis — and frightened him.  He wasn’t about to lose his throne.  Not to anyone.  So how do you reassert power when your subjects have written you off?  Why, you take down the most powerful one around you — and your biggest threat.

Nicolas Fouquet.

By all accounts, Fouquet was a brilliant man.  A lawyer, a member of parliament, a patron of the arts, a man who’d replenished the realm’s depleted treasury with his financial skills.  Yet, he never foresaw his own doom.

He got too cocky.

But what really helped to sealed his fate was none other than the opulent mansion he built for himself –Vaux-le-Vicomte.  Oh….and the teeny, tiny party he through on August 17th, 1661 once the chateau was completed. . .

For six thousand of his closest friends. 

The party was in honor of the King, and to show off his spectacular Vaux.  You see, Vaux-le-Vicomte was superior to any chateau that belonged to the King. The lesson here: never eclipse the Sun King (a name by which Louis XIV is known). And never consider yourself indispensable.

Each guest was served on gold and silver plates, and given gifts of silk, diamonds, horses and jewelry. Fouquet spared no expense in entertaining and catering to those in attendance. Now that’s a party I would have loved to have been at!  He even had the King’s favorite playwright, Molière, write a play in honor of Louis. It was quite an elaborate performance, performed that very night for the King and the French court in the gardens at Vaux.

The King’s Bedchambers at Vaux.

This is part of the King’s apartments built for King Louis at Vaux-le-Vicomte, if ever he came to visit. Ironically, no King has ever slept here. On August 17, 1661, the night of Fouquet’s infamous party, Louis arrived at 6:00 p.m. and left by 1:00 a.m.

There are many who say the King became jealous after seeing Fouquet’s wealth and popularity that night. But Louis had carefully planned Fouquet’s arrest long before. True, seeing Fouquet’s popularity rubbed in his face, the expenditure of funds for Vaux and the over-the-top grandiose party did anger the King that evening, and he did want to have Fouquet arrested on the spot, but his mother, Anne of Austria, convinced him to wait.  He did. Two weeks. Fouquet’s arrest date: September 5th, 1661, Louis’ 23rd birthday. A present to himself? :-)

The charges: embezzlement of Crown funds.

Original architectural plans for Vaux!

See the highlighted secret passages? In actual fact, those are the servants’ corridors.  Servants were not to be seen.  They moved in the darkened hallways between rooms to serve the master and mistress of the house.  If you click on the image, you will get a larger view of the pic.

Entertainment at Vaux

I promised I’d mention the entertainment available at Vaux. (Besides throwing the one and only extravagant party).

Books anyone?

Fouquet is every author’s dream!  He loved books. This isn’t what his original library looked like.  All those books are gone.  It was said he had up to twenty-seven thousand volumes, including Korans, Bibles and Talmuds.

How about some games?

This is the Game Room at Vaux where popular games like backgammon and basset were played. In The Princess and the Diamonds, found in my latest release, THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED, I use the King’s ban on Basset (which came years later) as part of the backdrop to Princess Gabrielle’s and Mathias’ story.  :-)

How about simply enjoying the gardens?

There are a number of optical illusions in the gardens of Vaux. It was specifically designed that way so that a stroll through the garden was an “experience”.  Today, in the evenings, the staff at Vaux light thousands of candles throughout the gardens and in the chateau itself.  If you’re ever in France, don’t miss this! You can sit in these incredible gardens, with candlelight all around you and a vast starry sky above you, and sip champagne. 

Does it get better than that? *smiles*

 This long path runs beside the manicured gardens at Vaux.  I was told it was often used by lovers. ;-)

I fell completely head-over-heels in love with this time period when I first set eyes on this 17th c. masterpiece.  I could easily see myself living here!   It sleeps 800.  Want to come by for a stay?  Do you think the current owners, Count Patrice de Vogüé, and his wife, the Countess Christina who live at Vaux would notice if we moved in?

Time to reveal some secrets!

Yes, I promised that I would reveal some secrets about Vaux.  And me! 

First cool secret, I have an email written to me personally from Count Patrice de Vogüé!  It’s true!  I’d written to the staff at Vaux to ask some research questions.  I never expected the response would come from the actual count himself!  What a delightful man.  His English was perfect….and he colored the background of his email a pretty pink!  When I realized the email was from the count, I screamed and called my dear hubby and all my friends!  *grins*

Okay, second secret.  

The roof on Vaux is made of slate tiles.  Every hundred years, the state tiles must be replaced.  The cost is enormous.  And the Count and Countess are in a constant struggle to keep Vaux in the black.  It’s very expensive to run such a large estate and maintain the vast grounds.  They had to find funds for this very necessary renovation.  So, they got an idea.  

They decided to sell the old over-one-hundred-year-old slate tiles removed off the roof of Vaux in their gift shop to tourists!  And they sold like crazy!!  It’s a little piece of history!

Though I’ve been to Vaux twice, Mr. DiPasqua has been there three times.  On a business trip to France without me, he stopped into Vaux during their roof reno.  He purchase one of these slate roof tiles for me.  Oh, but that’s not all!  For an additional charge, you could purchase a new slate, carve whatever message you wanted on it, and it would be placed on Vaux as part of the new roof!

This is what my darling carved in my tile.  It now sits on Vaux’s roof and will remain there for another hundred years!!!!

It was so sweet of DH! — Just one of the million things he does that makes me love the man.   :-)

Be sure to come back next Monday to learn Fouquet’s fate at his trial!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Valentine’s Day!  Hope it’s a day filled with love for you all! *muah*

Tell me a place you traveled to that totally captured your heart. . .Or a place you’d like to visit that you’re aching to see?  One lucky commenter will win this lovely glass heart necklace!
One stipulation: You *must* be a Follower of this blog through Google Friend Connect.  :)  This giveaway is my treat to my followers only.  Giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.   

  • I’ve fallen in love with dozens of places over the years. And they’re all in Europe. :D Honestly, the one place I could live forever and ever is St. Mark’s Square in Venice. You know, the one with the pigeons everywhere. Yes, I’d live in the middle of the square if I could. But I feel confident saying that, since it will probably never happen. I’d love to set a story there during Carnavale. Hmmm…the muse has spoken.

    Anyway, great stories and what an awesome gift from Mr. DiPasqua!

  • I fell in love with Las Vegas but there are lots of places that I want to visit that I want to fall in love with. I really want to go to Europe. Hopefully one day.

    Totally loving the gift from Mr. DiPasqua. So sweet.

    Happy Valentine’s Day Lila!

  • facinating place. I can’t imagine living and trying to keep such a place up (I’d prob get lost and not be found for months).

    Loved both Nova Scotia & Aruba when I got to visit them. The people where freindly and charming & the scenery was lovely.

  • Hi Lila, woooaaah, what a cool mansion. The place is absolutely gorgeos, and breathtakingly beautiful. If I ever make it to France, this place will definitly be on the adgenda.
    Which places have I visited that I found romantic, well the only place I’ve ever really been to is Puerta Vallarta Mexico. The beaches at sunset were very pretty and romantic.
    But one romantic place I “dream” of visiting is Italy. Oh, to roam the museums and art galleries, to walk barefoot across the sandy beaches and gaze out over the seas, to stand and weep over the desolation of Pompeii. Sigh.
    OMG, sorry for rambling on and making such a long post. I’m going to work on getting to be one of the followers on Google.
    Thanks for the great post and best of luck to you with your books.
    Sincerely, Debby Lee

  • @Noelle—Oh wow! We’re kindred spirits! I LOVE Venice and I’ve been in that gorgeous square!! I spent an entire day by myself wandering the streets of Venice. It was the best day EVER. I think it’s about time we get more books set in Venice. I’d be the first in line to by your novel! :)

    Happy Valentine’s Day!
    Hugs,
    Lila

  • Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, dear Danielle! Vegas is WONDERFUL. I’ve had a blast there! Hope you get to see all the places in Europe you want! :)

    Hugs,
    Lila

  • @gamistress66–“I’d prob get lost and not be found for months.”<<<LOL You and me both!! :) I’ve never been to either Nova Scotia or Aruba. I’d love to see both one day. They definitely look beautiful!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!
    Hugs,
    Lila

  • @Debby Lee —You are most welcome to write as much or as little as you want! Anytime. It’s a pleasure to have you drop by! :) Italy is very beautiful. I hope you get to see all the places there that your heart desires.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!
    Hugs,
    Lila

  • Di

    beautiful pictures – I had visisted Versailles years ago & if I ever get back to France I’d love to see Vaux. I really loved Venice – it’s such a unique place – it would be a great setting for a romance.

    Hope you’re having a great V-Day.

  • @Di—Isn’t Versailles stunning?! It’s definitely worth the hour drive to Vaux from Paris. As you can see from the first pic, there’s nothing around Vaux. It’s like stepping into the 17th century! :)

    Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day!
    Hugs,
    Lila

  • If you believe in love at first site be sure to visit Linlithgow Palace Palace on your next visit to Scotland.

    My husband and I had decided to tour the countryside near Edinburgh on our first visit to Scotland when we stubbled upon this wonderful site. We were the only visitors that day to the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The Palace ccupies the top of a slight hill between the town of Linlithgow and Linlithgow Loch and is just north of St. Michael’s Church.

    It had been built,rebuilt to repair and expanded many times from the early 1300’s to 1624. James I and James II both undertook work at Linlithgow and James IV completed the construction. James V was born there as well as his daughter Mary (Mary Queen of Scots).

    Bonnie Prince Charlie was there in 1945 and the trooops of the Duke of Cumberland and his troops left the palace ablaze when they departed in 1746 on their way to Culloden.

    Since we were the only ones there at the time with the wind blowing and ruggling the leaves it was an special moment for someone of Scotch heritage like meself.

    My husband is a stonemason and the fountain is a testament to the art of the craftsman who worked on first building it and of the perservation work that has been done there in recent years.

    It is a beautiful place to visit and feel and reflect upon the struggles of both the English and Scotish who inhabited this magical palce.

  • Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures and story of the mansion. My favorite place is the beach, a place out of St. Augustine.

    lillieblue613(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Great article about Vaux, The pictures are fantastic!
    I think I could fall in love with Vaux. I havn’t been to Europe yet but plan to taka a “European Tour” once I retire. Of places I’ve been I could say I love Bermuda with all it’s tropical splendor.
    Of places to see yet I think Vaux, Stonehenge and Notre Dame (One of the major Druid Sacred Groves was/is located at Notre Dame)are on the top of my list.

    Mindy :)
    Birdsooong@aol.com

  • Oh my God, Vaux is amazing and over the top. But how they did live. :) I definitely want to get to Italy and Scotland. My two dream destinations. And what your hubby did was so beautiful. :)
    Carol L
    Lucky4750@aol.com

  • Whata gorgeous place to visit. I’d love tot ake a walk in the gardens or the trail in the woods. I’d do alot of girly screaming too if i got that email. I’m sure it meant a lot to you. Your husband is definitely a keepter. What a sweetheart. Doing that makes you realizes he’s thinking of you when he’s away. sigh…. Nice

    Hope you had a nice Valentine’s day.

    Lisa B
    modokker at yahoo dot com

  • Hi Lila happy Heart day a bit late…
    What a Darling H you have in 100years someone will buy that slate maybe a future GREAT GREAT.
    It’s the type of thing my DH would do.
    Well I was born in England I love it , Lived in Scotland at the time I loved it I now live in Canada but I go back to Scotland to visit my Sister & Mother. Every time I set food on the ground my heart beats fast my head rushes tears flow from my eyes a sense of peace fills my Soul.
    So I would have to say Scotland is the home of my Heart & Soul.
    My DH & I will be going home in May i cant wait.
    have a good one Ann.

  • honestly I want to see all of Mexico and my other place i want to se eis the abby in Ireland I dont think I could site see every where i want in ireland in a week would take months and months

    mortalsinn@yahoo.com

  • Oh wow, Lila! Vaux is truly exquisite!! As you know my heart belongs to Scotland, but I would love to see France and Ireland too! And what an interesting story- I cannot wait to find out his fate! Kind of reminds me of Henry the 8th and how he turned on his most trusted advisor. You are right, in them days NO ONE was indispensible.

    AND how cool was that of your husband to buy you those slates??? What a keeper!!!

    Hope you had a wonderful Valentines day!!

  • oops, forgot to leave my name and E-mail!! sorry!

    Andrea
    atsnider@verizon.net

  • I imagine that many places in Europe would capture my heart. At this point in time I only dream, but one day…

    marypres@gmail.com

  • My heart aches to visit Europe! England, France….sigh! I really want to tour England and see all of the places I’ve read about, or see where they used to be. In France, I would love to visit Versailles. Edinburgh would be my next stop…the history! Ireland my last and longest, as my family comes from there. Oh to travel and dream and walk where so many have walked thru time…!

  • Oh, WOW! What a sweet husband you have!! I would love to visit Vaux one day.

    My husband is supposed to head to the Sudan to build a hospital and I keep telling him that I need to meet up with him in some exotic local after he gets his schedule, lol.

    winslowmarquitaatgmaildotcom

  • Wow! Girl! You are definitely living the life!

    I would give just about anything to tour Ireland and Scotland. Not only is this my family heritage, but the history and architecture are absolutely AMAZING!

    *Sigh* Someday!

    Cheers!
    Kate
    mleger0546{@}rogers[.]com

  • @ Jeanne M—I just Googled Linlithgow Palace. I can see why you love it so. It’s very beautiful! There are some places that really grab your heart. I totally felt that same way at Vaux. Thanks so much for sharing your trip there with me. :)

  • @lillieblue613–Hi Andrea! Sounds like a lovely place! Glad you stopped by. :)

  • @Mindy–So glad you enjoyed my tale about Vaux. I’ve been to all the places you list—except Bermuda. I definitely love to visit there!! It looks so beautiful. :)

  • @Carol L—Thank you very much! Yup, hubby is a keeper. :) I hope you get to Italy and Scotland soon! Italy is beautiful, and Scotland is on my list of places I want to visit, too! It looks so amazing, doesn’t it? :)

  • @Lisa B—Thank you for the lovely comment!! I was so sad I couldn’t join him on that trip. What he did definitely made me smile. Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. :)

  • @alba–Oh, Ann, thank you for the sweet comment! It’s clear that Scotland is very special to you and means a lot. I’m so glad you’re returning soon! How wonderful! :) And…YAY! *claps*–I live in Canada, too! :)

  • @SiNn –Mexico and Ireland sound wonderful! I hope you get the chance to explore both to the fullest. :) Thank you for sharing.

  • @ Andrea (Chicks of Characterization)–*waves* hi! Thanks for the lovely comment!! You’re right, there was constant intrigue at court…no matter whose court. So many ambitious people who couldn’t be trusted. As for hubby, he is definitely going to grin if he reads the comments he’s getting here…LOL :)

  • @ marybelle –So glad you stopped by! I hope your dream to see Europe comes true! :)

  • @Cindyvon –Dearest Cindy, you list so many wonderful places! I hope you get to visit them all!! :) Thanks so much for sharing with me.

  • @Marquita Valentine—First, I’ve got to tell you that I adore your name! It’s very pretty. :) What an incredible thing your husband is doing! I hope you do get the chance to meet up with him in a romantic exotic place. :) Oh and thank you for the kind words about DH. He’s going to love all the attention he’s getting here with this post. LOL

  • @ Kate–I would love to see Ireland and Scotland, too! Don’t they look spectacular? *sighs* Thanks for sharing! :)

  • I love Bar Harbor…the beautiful island off the coast of Maine where the President and his family went for vacation last summer. The ocean, the mountains, the people and culture! But now you have me longing to visit Vaux!

  • Over Labor Day weekend last year I had the opportunity to visit Forks, WA which is actually not too far from where I live. We went of course to scope out the area because of Twlight, but we ended up staying because of the area itself. Going to the beaches, hiking through the forest… it was all very magical and much more than I could have expected. There is just something about that place that is just special. The nights that we stayed there I ended up having the BEST sleep of my life – seriously! I would really encourage anyone to go because the nature there is beautiful and I could have literally stayed on the beach for hours just watching the ocean do its thing. We definitely have plans to go back.

    yadkny@hotmail.com

  • Anonymous

    I’d love to travel all over the world. Especially Europe, the pictures are all so beautiful. One place I’ve been to is St. Helens, Or. The place was beautiful. They have old buildings, breathtaking sceenery, and the most gorgeous waterfalls. I loved it there. They also had a nice used book store. :) I was only there for 2 weeks. Definitely was not long enough. One day, I will go back.

  • Laura T

    Lila, you are obviously my sister from another mother! I absolutely adore French history, architecture, characters (such as the Sun King!). I vow I will travel to France as soon as I can–it’s in my Bucket. LOL

    Thanks for a breathtaking “tour” of this spectacular mansion. I hope it can be a stop on my journey there.

    Laura
    heartoftexasbooks[at]yahoo[dot]com

  • Lila –

    I’m glad that you got a chance to Google Linlithgow Palace it is really magical. After I got home from work my husband got out some of the pictures we took. We forgot how beautiful the fountain was even though it was taken before the latest restoration work on it so we are going to have a picture blown up in size and printed so we can hang over our fireplace!

    I forgot to leave my email before in case you need it.

    Jeanne Miro
    jeannemiro@yahoo.com

    Now you see why I’m not a writer – I have no quirky imagination.

  • I haven’t been to any old castles and chateau’s and I would really love to visit those! especially in Europe!

    The only other castle that I have been is Hearst Castle in San Simeon and Scotty’s Castle north of Death Valley, both in California. I have to say that Hearst Castle is gorgeous! And the antique furniture there is amazing. Although it can’t compare to the ones in Europe!

  • @Diane Pollock–Bar Harbor sounds lovely! And Vaux, well it has an allure of it’s own. ;) Thanks so much for sharing!

  • @yadkny–Sounds like an amazing weekend! And a cherished memory, too. So glad you stopped by to share. :)

  • @Anonymous–Sound like a gorgeous place! And I hope you get to see all the places in Europe you want! :)

  • @Laura T –Yay! A kindred spirit! If I could meet a historical figure, I think the Sun King is on the top of my list. What a fascinating man! I hope you get to France and Vaux–and do all of your bucket list! So glad you stopped by. :)

  • @Jeanne–Oh, that’s awesome, Jeanne! What a special photo that will be over the fireplace! Every time you look at it, I bet you’ll smile.

  • @Zeee –I’ve been to California but never to the places you’ve mentioned. Now you’ve got me wanting to go! :) Thanks for stopping by to share.