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Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Part 4

 
 
           
 

The Legacy of Vaux-le-Vicomte

Though — over the years — it may have been under threat of abandon or destruction, Vaux-le-Vicomte has managed to survive beautifully, thanks to the unfailing determination of three centuries of dedicated individuals.

 
 

Le Grand Salon
 

Resplendent today as it was in former times, Vaux-le Vicomte stands as a symbol of the intelligence, taste and independence of its creator, Nicolas Fouquet.

From 1705 to today

After Nicolas Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The King seized, confiscated — and occasionally purchased — 120 tapestries, the statues, all the orange trees and much more besides. Madame Fouquet was obliged to wait patiently for ten years to recover her property, and she retired there with her eldest son. After her husband's death in 1680, her son also died. In 1705 she decided to put Vaux-le-Vicomte up for sale.

 
Vaux-le-Vicomte at night
Every year in summer, on Saturdays at dusk, over 2000 candles are lit in the Château and in its surrounding gardens. This light festival is accompanied by classical music — played in the gardens designed by Le Nôtre. From the vantage point of deckchairs, visitors can relive the memorable and sumptuous feast staged by Nicolas Fouquet to please the young king Louis XIV on August 17, 1661.
 
 

The greatest military leader in the kingdom, a Duke and French Peer, the Maréchal de Villars, became the new owner, although he had never even set eyes on the place. This man, who had risen in rank by means of his sword and who won the war against Spain at Denial, grew fond of Vaux where — far from his military campaigns — he could relax with his charming wife.

In 1764 the Maréchal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants were to maintain the property for over a century, until — after a thirty year period of neglect — they put it up for sale.

On 6 July, 1875, a discerning bidder, Monsieur Alfred Sommier, acquired Vaux-le-Vicomte at a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began. When Alfred Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his direct descendants, Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, are continuing work on the preservation of Vaux-le-Vicomte.

In addition, the "Association des Amis de Vaux-le-Vicomte", founded in 1983, serves to unite all those who are keen to maintain the tradition of quality in the estate of Vaux-le-Vicomte. Comprising more than 900 benefactors, donors and ordinary members, the Association has made possible a number of acquisitions and restorations. Membership entitles one to free permanent access to the estate during public visiting hours.

NEXT PAGE » Fountains, Practical Info, Bibliography, Links

 
 

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