History Extra logo
The official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed

The Man Who Outshone the Sun King

Nick Rennison is enthralled by this complex potrait of the rise and fall of a dazzling French Renaissance man

Published: August 10, 2009 at 6:17 am

Reviewed by: Nick Rennison
Author: Charles Drazin
Publisher: Arrow
Price (RRP): £8.99 (paperback)


The motto of Nicolas Foucquet took the form of a Latin question: Quo Non Ascendet (To Where Will He Not Climb?). As Drazin’s engaging book makes clear, there must have been times when it seemed there were few heights this 17th-century French financier, politician and patron of the arts might not scale.

Schooled by Cardinal Mazarin in the Machiavellian skills required for survival at Louis XIV’s court, Foucquet emerged from his master’s shadow as the man who held the nation’s purse strings. At its zenith his power reached into every corner of French society. His wealth and taste, symbolised by his magnificent chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, were there for all to see.
Yet he spent the last 15 years of his life imprisoned in a fortress in the French Alps.


Outshining the Sun King proved a dangerous pastime and Louis made sure that his most high-flying subject came crashing to earth. Drazin’s biography provides a convincing portrait of a complex man and brings to life the world in which he rose and fell so spectacularly.


Sponsored content