World / Crime & Legal

Thieves make off with €2 million during raid on famous French chateau

AFP-JIJI

The owners of a 17th-century French castle said to be the model for Versailles were tied up as their opulent home was ransacked Thursday by robbers who fled with a haul worth €2 million ($2.2 million), police said.

The Vaux-le-Vicomte palace, set amid sumptuous gardens about 50 kilometers (30 miles) 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 Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister, 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,” as Louis was also known. 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 (1,200 acres), and attracts some 250,000 visitors each year.

The chateau often stands in for Versailles for movie and television productions, from the Roger Moore Bond hit “Moonraker” to Sophie Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.”

It has become a prize spot for celebrity wedding parties, such as the lavish 2007 bash for French basketball star Tony Parker and “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria.

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