Thieves nab EUR2 million haul from vaunted French castle

BOBIGNY, France (AFP) – The owners of a 17th-Century French castle said to be the model for Versailles were tied up as their opulent home was ransacked yesterday by robbers who fled with a haul worth EUR2 million, police said.

The Vaux-le-Vicomte palace, set amid sumptuous gardens about 50 kilometres southeast of Paris, has been owned by the same family since 1875.

Patrice and Cristina de Vogue opened the estate to the public in 1968, and run it with their three sons.

A police source did not specify which family members were at home when the robbers struck.

The chateau was built by Louis XIV’s finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, who according to legend fell from grace in 1661, shortly after the building work was finished, when he staged an elaborate party there and aroused the Sun King’s envy.

Fouquet spent the rest of his life in jail. The monarch then seized the castle and moved its most precious artworks and other objects to Versailles.

It is the largest privately-owned heritage site in France, sprawled over 500 hectares, and has some 250,000 visitors each year.

The Vaux-le-Vicomte castle. PHOTO: AFP