Richest People in History Nicolas Fouquet

About the wealthy Frenchmen Nicolas Fouquet, history, biography and worth of one of the richest men in history.



Born in Paris to a wealthy and prestigious family in 1615, Nicolas Fouquet as a young man bought his way into several government posts and soon proved his aptitude for self-aggrandizement. A classic conspicuous consumer, he built a grand chateau called Vaux-le-Vicomte south of Paris and filled it with magnificent works of art; some 50 fountains dotted the property, and soaring columns and priceless murals made every room a showpiece. In his eagerness to display his enormous wealth, however, Fouquet committed an error in judgment which has forever branded him as the prime example of foolish ostentation.

Fouquet held the position of finance minister in the government of Louis XIV, and he desperately sought promotion to the post of the king's first minister. But Louis was deeply suspicious (with good reason) of Fouquet's acquisitive techniques and thought it unseemly that a noble should own a home that rivaled his own palace at Fontainebleau. Totally unaware of Louis's feelings, Fouquet invited him in 1661 to Vaux-le-Vicomte for an elaborate banquet and a viewing of a new Moliere play. Louis accepted and allowed his finance minister to display all the trappings of an enormous fortune.

Three weeks after the party, Louis had Fouquet arrested and charged with embezzlement. Tried, convicted, and sentenced to banishment by the court, the once proud official then learned that his penalty had been "reduced" to life imprisonment by his recent dinner guest. Louis's "generosity" did not extend to Fouquet's property, however. The king confiscated Vaux-le-Vicomte and all of the former finance minister's money; he even took the architectural and landscaping geniuses Fouquet had recently employed and started them working on an even greater palace--Versailles. The disgraced Fouquet survived 15 hard years at the fortress of Pignerol in Savoy before dying there on Mar. 23, 1680.

How Much?

Through the inheritance of considerable wealth, marriage to the affluent Marie Madeleine de Castille, and financial shenanigans as finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet made himself into the wealthiest man in 17th-century France. In addition to his fabulous chateau, he owned a fortified island to which he planned to escape should his financial improprieties come to light. Undoubtedly Louis knew of these plans when he "commuted" Fouquet's sentence.

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