The event: FOUQUET & VAUX LE VICOMTE with Steve Harmer
Where: Vestry Hall, Marden
When: Tuesday 8th January 2019 at 7.30pm 

Steve Harmer, who took us on the highly enjoyable visit to Painshill Park in 2015, makes a welcome return to Marden to talk to us about the development of a new style of garden design in the 17th century.

The  Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque  French château located in  Melun, 55 kilometres (34 mi) southeast of Paris.

Constructed from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle Île, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th-century Europe.  At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the “Louis XIV style” combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden’s pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

The chateau & its grounds were used as the home of the main villain in the 1979 James Bond film ‘Moonraker’, as well as featuring in several other movies.  It has also been a venue for society weddings etc.


Steve told us about the French chateau & garden Vaux le Vicomte, & its owner, Nicolas Fouquet.  Fouquet was the Superintendent of Finances for Louis XIV, the Sun King, and became a very wealthy and influential man.  The chateau gardens were designed and built in the Baroque style by Andre le Notre, the famous French landscape architect and designer. Parterres in the garden are arranged in geometric and symmetrical shapes which should ideally be looked at from above, ie, from the windows in the chateau. The design was a forerunner of the Palace of Versailles which was also designed by le Notre and was effectively a way of the owner showing off his power & wealth.  Creating a garden on such a huge scale was an enormous undertaking and many men were employed to work on it.  A large number lost their lives in the process.

Eventually the King became upset at what he considered to be Fouquet’s extravagance and power, and decided to plot his downfall.  Fouquet was arrested by Charles d’Artagnan, one of the three musketeers, and after a 3 year trial was sent to Pinerol, a prison fortress in Italy.  He was kept there in harsh conditions and eventually died in 1680.

Vaux le Vicomte is now owned by Alfred Sumner and is open to the public.