THE MAN WHO OUTSHONE THE SUN KING by Charles Drazin
Love history? Love France? Love the Sun King stories? Cardinal Richelieu? the Musketeers? It's all here, in a fascinating true story of their lives, and that of Nicolas Foucquet.
Nicolas Foucquet, the man who dared to outshine the Sun King was once King Louis XIV's finance minister, and builder of the breathtaking chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte. He lived a grand life, serving the King, being a collector of books and fine arts, a lover of women....until he was charged with embezzlement and treachery, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He was a man who could charm anyone, beguile them, yet he was also cunning, and the mapmaker of his own destruction.
In yet another piece of history in this tale:
"Cardinal Richelieu would comment shortly before his death, "I know only one man who could succeed me, though he is a foreigner." On his deathbed he advised Louis XIII that he should rely on Mazarin for guidance in state affairs. When the King himself died, Mazarin seemed able effortlessly to win over the Queen. His relationship with Anne was so close it was rumored that they had married in secret.
One of the wild conspiracy theories even maintained that it was Richelieu who had deliberately encouraged a romance to develop between his admired Mazarin and the Queen, a woman who had lived in a state of virtual separation from her husband ever since their marriage in 1615. Louis XIII, who much preferred the company of the young gentlemen of the court, had turned a blind eye while the Italian lover gave Anne the kind of satisfaction that Louis had been so loathe to provide. When, to everyone's surprise, in 1638 Anne gave birth to a baby boy after more than twenty years of marriage, Louis, the King, was happy to go along with the fiction of a sudden rapprochement......
Then Louis XIII died.
The new King, Louis XIV was only four years old. By long custom his mother, Queen Anne of Austria, would have been expected to become, for the duration of his minority, the regent ruler of France, as Marie de' Medici had in 1610 when the nine year old Louis XIII acceded to the throne of Henry IV. But Anne had been involved in far too many plots to be trusted.
But you ask, what do the trials and tribulations of Nicolaus Foucquet have to do with Louis? A lot of problems arose between the two during their lifetimes, but one major one turned the young King against Foucquet.....the building of Foucquets home; Vaux-le-Vicomte,
which like Louis's Palace of Versailles, is still a charming place 300 years later. To visit today is to step into a marvelous dream. Nestling comfortably in the countryside some three miles outside of the city of Melun, France it is spared the thousands of tourists that throng to Versailles every year, which some call a vulgar offspring of Vicomte.
The serenity, grace and elegance of Nicolas's house were an affront to the young King. No one should dare out do Louis. In any way. It had to be diminished somehow, for no subject should be allowed to display more style than the monarch he was supposed to serve. Few who visit Versailles will have heard of the house that inspired it, or the man who Louis sent to prison for having the audacity to build it.