When my boyfriend and I decided to spend a few days in France, Vaux le Vicomte was top of our list of places that we’d love to visit and we knew that we’d made the right decision when we drove past on our first morning and saw it in all of its glory. ‘Wow,’ we both said in unison. ‘Did you see that?! Wow.’ I have visited a LOT of palaces, châteaux and stately homes over the years and very few have enchanted and bewitched me as much as Vaux le Vicomte – in fact, even now, when my boyfriend and I chat about our favourite places that we have visited together, Vaux still consistently comes out as leader of the pack.
Built between 1658 and 1661 for Louis XIV’s superintendent of finances, Nicolas Fouquet, Vaux le Vicomte is everything that Versailles wishes that it could be and in fact was a major inspiration for Louis XIV’s palace. It’s said that when he visited Vaux le Vicomte for a lavish party in August 1661, he was so stricken with envy that he set out to make his own bigger version – certainly, Fouquet very quickly fell from power soon after entertaining his king, although the seeds for his downfall had been sown much earlier on. One of the guests at Fouquet’s party, indeed the guest of honour besides her brother in law Louis XIV, was Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d’Orléans, subject of my second book. She was heavily pregnant at the time and had to be carried about the gardens in a litter. There’s a gorgeous portrait of her in the bedchamber as a pendant to one of Louis, but I wasn’t able to get a good photo, alas. One day!
The château had a chequered history after the fall from grace of its original owner but is nowadays owned by the Vogüé family, who have lovingly restored it to its former glory. Some of the stately homes that we have visited have been pretty neglected and not especially pleasant to visit but not so Vaux le Vicomte, which really is a top notch and wonderful experience from the minute you arrive. I can’t wait to go back again one day.