This past weekend my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the Chateau Veux-le-Vicomte, a French palace located just outside of Paris in the small town of Maincy France.
The estate, which was opened to the public in 1967, is the largest privately owned chateau in the country.
The tour of the chateau starts in the stables which houses an assortment of horse drawn carriages, some of which are larger then I would have ever expected them to be. Many were also quite extravagant with their shiny trim and a thickly lacquered paint job. They actually reminded me of 150 year old concept car show. I regret not taking any photos, but we were trying to get ahead of a busload of tourist, so regretfully we kind of rushed through a few sections.
I did however manage to take a shot of my wife with the sheep that are kept on the property. She always gravitates to sheep for some reason. But who doesnt love a good sheep, or in this case a ram?
Something else that I appreciate in a castle is a good mote. This one comes complete with a draw bridge located at the back of the chateau and some fish. I assume that they are a type of koi fish.
This is a particularly neat time to visit the palace as well, because each year it shuts its doors for a month or so to prepare for the holiday season. The rooms and much of the grounds were decorated quite nicely for the Christmas.
The decorations even extended into the kitchen that are located in the basement of the chateau. I personally found this section quite interesting because it's the first castle kitchen I've seen so far.
Many of the rooms also had their fireplaces lit as well, which not only provided warmth and light, but also really added to the Christmas ambiance of the estate. It was pretty neat to see the fires in use, as again, I've never actually seen a castle fireplace in use. Note: the painting above the fireplace is of Nicholas Fouquet (more on him later).
Though the christmas decorations did add a little something extra to the experience, I actually found that learning about the estates history was far more facinating. Veux has a really interesting story as part of its history and I will share it in the next section of this article.
The chateau was built between 1658-1661 by the 26 year old Nicholas Fouquet. During the construction, Fouquet was a member of parliament and acted as Louis XIV's superintendent of finances. Not a bad gig for a 26 year old.
In order to satisfy his grand ambition for the project and obtain the necessary land for its completion, Fouquet purchased three small villages and had them destroyed to make room for his future estate.
Not to worry though, Fouquet made it up to the villagers who were displaced from their homes and lands by employing them at his chateau. There they worked in his home and on the grounds maintaining the lavishly decorated gardens located on the property. It is said that the estate actually employed around 18 thousand employees at its peak. Where does one get that kind of money?
Fouquet was a patron of the arts and in order to impress King Louis the 14th he had his palace luxuriously decorated with a wide assortment of paintings, tapestries and sculptures. He even dedicated a portion of the palace to the King himself. To unveil his new home, Fouquet threw an extravagant party in the Kings honor.
Unfortunately though for Fouquet, instead of impressing the King he actually made him jealous. Why should the countries finance minister have a nicer home then the king himself?
These acts, which may have been a genuine sign of affection towards the king or perhaps a sign of youthful arrogance or naivety, ended up leading to Fouquets downfall in the end.
Jean-Baptiste Colbert plotted against Fouquet and convinced the King that the palace was constructed using misappropriated public funds.
Believing the word of Colbert, the king had Fouquet arrested and imprisoned. He also sent Fouquets wife and son to exile. Soon after, Colbert himself became the minister of finances for France.
All of this took place within only a few years of when the chateau was completed.
Fouquets wife eventually did regain possession of the Veux property and she was able to retired there with her son. However, most of the artwork contained within the chateau, along with all of its statues, tapestries and even the orange trees from the gardens, were confiscated or bought by Louis XIV. He needed them to decorate his own Palace - Versailles, which was designed and construction shortly after Fouquets imprisonment by the same architects and artists that had designed and built the Chateau Veux-le-Vicomte.
Throughout its recent history the chateau has been featured in several film productions, including the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo Decaprio "The Man in the Iron Mask."
The chateau boasts 33 hectares of gardens and 20 working pools.
The fountains within the garden still work in the same manner in which they were originally designed, by gravity.
The chateau's estate employs at least 70 people who work in the building itself, the gardens, restaurant, gift shop, and whom run the horse drawn carriages that take people around the property for an additional 5 euros.
The estate generates an annual revenue of approximately 8 million Euro and has over 300 thousand visitors per year.
Overall the location was one of my favourite places that my wife and I have visited in France and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys visiting castles or taking in a countries history.
Before heading out my wife and I sat in some lawn chairs and enjoyed a coffee that we bought in the little canteen located on the property. We both agreed that it was a pretty cool spot for a cafe. No one could complain about the view.