Sunday, 15 September 2013

Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle-Île & Vicomte de Melun et Vaux

Portrait Nicolas Fouquet.jpgNicolas Fouquet was born on January 27 1615 in Paris into a family of the Noblesse de Robe. This family connection meant that he was able to be a part of the Parliament of Paris at age thirteen and at twenty he could be yet another title for himself. Nicolas increased his personal fortune by marrying the wealthy heiress Louise Fourché in 1640 who then died just a year after their marriage - this meant that all of her fortune went to him.

Nicolas was patient enough on his way to the top and spent eight years (between 1642-1650) working on different posts. During these years he served in the army of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin which opened up for Nicolas' way into the royal court. Once again Nicolas bought himself a title - that of "procureur général of the Parliament of Paris - which brought him even closer to the glittering court. Nicolas was a loyal man and never forgot that it was Cardinal Mazarin who had made his position possible; he kept a close eye on the Cardinal's possession while the latter was in exile and made sure that the Cardinal was told of everything that went on. Loyal, yes, but also aware of the price of such a loyalty. Cardinal Mazarin returned to court in due time and granted Nicolas (on Nicolas' request) the important position of Superintendent of the Finances in 1653. By this time Nicolas had married again this time to the Spanish Marie de Castille who also brought a fortune with her.

Nicolas Fouquet was a man very capable of holding a position of such an importance. He managed to strengthen the government's credit while also earning even more money himself through his post at the Parliament of Paris. It was a difficult job though since the courtiers were constantly in money problems and more than once he had to use his own credit to balance the scales. In that life-changing year of 1661 when Cardinal Mazarin died it was Nicolas Fouquet who had assumed that he would be in charge of government. But Louis XIV thought differently and abolished the title and took hold of the reins of government himself. It was not only Louis XIV desire to rule as an absolute monarch that had eventually denied Nicolas the post he himself thought he deserved. It was also a great personal dislike for Nicolas on behalf of Louis XIV. The King resented how the wealthy Fouquet was always displaying this wealth of his by an extremely extravagant living. And there was something to it; Nicolas was known to be ambitious and self-righteous.
Nicolas had the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte build at great expense; Louis XIV used many of the same architects and designers as Nicolas had used when the King build Versailles.

Louis XIV was determined to bring about the downfall of Nicolas Fouquet and the plan was set in motion in 1661. Nevertheless, the King had no scruples being lavishly entertained at Vaux-le-Vicomte in August - little did he know that this latest show of splendour was the last drop for Louis. The King knew that Fouquet was a very powerful man and was aware that to bring him down he had to make Nicolas more vulnerable. The first step was to make Nicolas willingly sell his position with the Parliament of Paris while conveniently transferring the money to the Crown. The final blow would be at Nantes where the King had a private audience with Nicolas. Upon leaving the room Nicolas was suddenly grabbed by the royal guards and arrested.
The trial would last for three entire years and the public opinion was definitely on Nicolas' side - after all he was guilty of no crime. It all ended with Nicolas being sentenced to a lifetime in exile but Louis changed the sentence to lifetime in prison. In 1665 Nicolas was taken to the prison Pignerol. He would only see his wife once more before his death on 23 March 1680.

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