Fifty-five kilometres (34 miles) south-east from Paris is the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte. The mere name sounds exquisite. I have twice visited the chateau, and once its park. My last visit which was on Tuesday, July 18 this year (2017), happened to be the hottest day of this summer, so I skipped the park. Believe me, […]

Vaux-le-Vicomte Chateau (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Fifty-five kilometres (34 miles) south-east from Paris is the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte.

The mere name sounds exquisite.

I have twice visited the chateau, and once its park. My last visit which was on Tuesday, July 18 this year (2017), happened to be the hottest day of this summer, so I skipped the park. Believe me, it was 36 degrees Celsius, and out in the sun, deep into the 40s! And only mad dogs and Englishman are out in the mid-day sun, as you will probably know …

Vaux-le-Vicomte part of the park (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The estate is privately owned, and has been so since its creation which dates from 1656.

In 1641, Nicolas Fouquet, then a 26-year-old member of the Paris parliament, a young man with a huge ambition, and wealth to go with it (his father was the wealthy and influential Francois Fouquet, a councillor on the Paris parliament), had bought a small insignificant chateau – Vaux-le-Vicomte – which stood amid several medieval villages, one of them Vaux and the other Maincy. The royal residence of Fontainebleau was not far away. (The village of Vaux no longer exists.)

In 1656, nothing insignificant good for a man with ambition, Fouquet had begun to buy up surrounding lands, and the following year of 1657, having become his monarch’s Superintendent of Finance (Louis XIV, the Sun King), he had commissioned the architect Louis Le Vau (1612-1670), along with the landscape architect André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), and also the painter-decorator, Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), all three having already created beautiful chateaux and gardens for his monarch, to create a chateau for him.

In the process, Fouquet had had three villages demolished before he was satisfied with the size of his estate, but it must be said that the thousands of villagers he had put out of their homes, he had then employed as workers on the creation of his dream chateau and its park, and later in their upkeep.

Fouquet – to give his titles: Marques de Belle Ile, and Viscounts of Melun and Vaux –  a passionate patron of the arts, held splendid fetes in his new chateau.

The royal court was always invited, and so was the king, and so splendid were these events that the Louis had become jealous and at the same time suspicious of his superintendent of finance’s finances. And oops: in 1661 Fouquet was not only dismissed from the post, but he was accused of mismanagement of the State’s, therefore Louis’ money, and of high-treason. Put on trial and found guilty, Louis, finding a corner of compassion in his jealous heart, had the compulsory sentence of banishment for life as punishment of those two crimes, commuted to life imprisonment.

In 1680, Fouquet, 65 years old, having borne his incarceration stoically, died in the Fortress of Pignorol in the town of Pignorol. The town of Pignorol is today in Italy (it is close to Turin) but from 1631-1696 it fell within the Kingdom of France, as it had already done from 1536-1574 and would again from 1801-1814). 

Nicolas Fouquet


The fortress, never having more than eight prisoners, Fouquet had at first been kept in isolation and was forbidden even to write to anyone which included his wife and children, and so determined was Louis that this rule of no communication should be obeyed that the prisoner was allowed only black garments, even only black towels, and black ribbons for his hair. This was because not being allowed paper, he would not be able to use the black cloth in lieu of writing paper.

 In 1678, though, he was allowed a valet.

The valet was one of the fellow prisoners, a man named Eustache Dauger, sometimes also named Eustache d’Angers, who according to legend had permanently, even when sleeping, covered his head and face in a black velvet mask in order not to be recognised. This had led to the tale of the Man in the Iron Mask.

Man in the Iron Mask as can be seen in Vaux-le-Vicomte (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Fouquet was, having fallen ill, allowed to have his daughter Marie-Madeleine to live with him for a while, and so too his son Louis. The latter was at his father’s deathbed on March 23, 1680. Marie-Madeline as to become a nun.

The king having impounded Fouquet’s estate on his arrest and having placed its magnificent contents – paintings, tapestries, furniture, books, carpets etc – under seal, the State, in other words the monarch, later put the estate up on auction. That was in 1705, and the chateau having stood empty and abandoned for almost fifty years, it was in a pitiful state.

In 1875, after having changed hands several times, a wealthy industrialist named Alfred Sommier bought the estate. The chateau was yet again in a bad state an, Fouquet’s furnishings were still under seal. The new proprietor there had extensive restoration work done and also refurbished the empty rooms.

In 1908, Sommier having died, and the chateau back to its former glory, son Edme Sommier and the latter’s wife became the new lord and lady of the manor.

Currently, Vaux-le-Vicomte is the property of Edme Sommier’s descentants, Count Patrice and Countess Christina de Vogüé, and the estate is administered by their three sons, Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio.

Since 1968, the chateau and its park have been open to the public.

You can visit them from Spring to Autumn, every day including public holidays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A ticket for an adult comes to € 15.50 (£13.50 / $17.55) and at this price you can visit both the chateau and the park.

To get to the chateau is somewhat of a problem.

If your visit begins in Paris you will need a 5-zone Mobilis transport ticket. This will cost you € 17.30 (£15.50 / $20.25). You would have to take a train from Paris Est station, and it is the train which has as its destination the medieval town of Provins. You would have to descend at the station Verneuil l’Etang: it is the first stop. From this station you would need to take a shuttle bus to the chateau. Don’t fret, you will not get lost – Verneuil l’Etang is but tiny – there are no shops, no banks, not even a pharmacy – and as the arrival of the bus is synchronised to the arrival of the train from Paris, the bus will very quickly pull up. It is not actually a bus, but a luxury tourist coach with air-conditioning.

The ticket to and from the chateau costs € 10 (£9 / $ 12). It is a return ticket. It is not possible to buy a single ticket: as there is no public transport to and from the chateau, you will be obliged to take the shuttle bus back to Verneuil l’Etange station.

There is a self-service restaurant and on a sunny, and not so hot day, you will be able to sit on its terrace. There is also a magnificent souvenir shop: it is indeed the best souvenir shop I’ve ever been to in a chateau.

Vaux-le-Vicomte’s self-service restaurant (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

What is there to see in Vaux-le-Vicomte?

The chateau of course, and the park.

I will down below show you a few photos. I loved the kitchen with its copper pots and pans,

Vaux-le-Vicomte’s kitchen (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins_

and the bathroom with its bath, bidet and toilet. 

Vaux-le-Vicomte’s toilet (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Vaux-le- Vicomte’s bath tub (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Vaux-le-Vicomte’s bidet (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

I also loved the Man in the Iron Mask: I will however allow you to discover him for yourself! The first time I visited the chateau, he gave me a fright, and so too the second time.


Vaux-le-Vicomte – again the Man in the Iron Mask down in the basement (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)


One more word: enjoy your visit.

Vaux-le-Vicomte (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)



Vaux-le-Vicomte (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)


Vaux-le-Vicomte’s wine cellar (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

During WW1 Vaux-le-Vicomte’s owners had turned the chateau into a field hospital as you will see below.

Vaux-le-Vicomte during WW1 (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins) hospital during WW1


Vaux le Vicomte during WW1 (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins

Vaux-le-Vicomte deer, but oh dear not real (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)






Vaux-le-Vicomte: Statue of Hercules.Fouquet saw himself as a Hercules character. cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Vaux-le-Vicomte the chateau (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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