Historians agree that Versailles is one of the most splendid expressions of absolute monarchy in history.
A precedent in the history of great landscape design. There's a marvelous story behind it!
....Andre Le Notre, (the landscape designer of Versailles) had the good fortune years earlier to have as a client Louis XIV's minister of finance, Nicolas Fouquet. Fouquet, a man of luxury, commissioned Le Notre, architects Le Brun and LeVau to transform his small chateau in 1641 to an ambitious masterpiece of landscape architecture - Vaux-le-Vicomte.
The architecture of the building or rather, chateau... becomes secondary to the landscape as a single woodland compartment of gently falling and rising land has been sculpted aggressively. Redirecting two distant rivers at very significant expense and manpower to create a system of water features and canals. It was at the time, the most beautiful garden design.
A historic garden party
According to historian Elizabeth Barlow Rogers -" Fouquet gave a party to celebrate his achievements on August 17th 1661. To it, he invited the entire court and the young King Louis XIV. Not only had Fouquet naively deluded himself with regard to the effect that so much ostentation and fashionable display would have upon the young king, but he also had been foolhardily offering credit to the king's mistress. The party lives on in history"... there were lavish banquets; many performances including Moliere performing a new play, a fireworks spectacle, a mock whale even swam in the canal! Visitors promenaded the grounds, and eventually as the evening wore on lanterns were lit to illuminate the entire landscape and grotto.
This unprecedented, "over-the top", enchanting celebration, the model of royal "fêtes" to come, marked the high point of Fouquet's career,....and the end!.
Only the King, and the Queen Mother knew that he was in fact only hours from his fall. For Louis XIV to witness such applause going to someone else, to visit a home more luxurious than his palaces and magical gardens, these were trials for his self-esteem that were hard to endure, and they fueled his desire to destroy the minister. Were it not for the Queen Mother's advice he would have had Fouquet arrested on the spot. Later Voltaire was to sum up the famous fête thus: "On 17 August, at six in the evening Fouquet was the King of France: at two in the morning he was nobody."
Seems that Louis XIV did not appreciate a cabinet member having more "bling" than him. Fouquet was arrested by D'Artagnan (one of the Musketeers) within a few weeks, prosecuted for embezzlement of state funds and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It is thought that the King seized, confiscated, and occasionally purchased, 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees for what was to become his masterpiece –Versailles. The King also commissioned Fouquet’s landscape designer LeNotre to build this on an even grander scale!