Foucquet, Nicolas

, marquis of Belle-Isle, wag born in 1615. His father was a counsellor of state; his mother, Mary de Meaupeou, was almost canonized for her charities, and lived to the age of 91 (1681). Nicolas Foucquet was early distinguished for talents, and early advanced. At the age of twenty he was master of requests, at thirty-five procurator-general of the parliament of Paris, and at thirty-eight superintendant of the finances, at a time when they were much in want of management, in consequence of wars, and the peculation of Mazarin. Foucquet, however, was not the proper person to restore them; for he squandered the public money for his own use with so little remorse, that he expended near 36 millions of livres (150,000l.) to build and adorn his house at Vaux. This profusion raised suspicions of dangerous designs; and an attempt to rival his master, Louis XIV. in the affections of madame de la Valliere, contributed to irritate that monarch against him. His ruin was completed, | like that of Wolsey, by his magnificence and pride. The king visited him at Vaux, and there saw a feast more splendid than he was used to give himself, and a place, more beautiful than St. Germain, or Fontainbleau. His motto and device were also offensive: the latter was a, squirrel pursued by a snake, (coleuvrc, the arms of Colbert), with these words, “Quo non ascendam” “Whither shall I not rise” From this moment his disgrace was fixed. The entertainment was given late in August 1661, and he was arrested at Nantes early in September. He was tried after a time by commissaries appointed for the purpose, and, in 1664, condemned to perpetual banishment; but the sentence was changed to perpetual imprisonment. He was confined in the citadel of Pignerol, where he is supposed to have died in March 1680, at the age of 65, a memorable example of the folly and danger of extravagance and ambition. It has been pretended by some authors, that he died in private, among his own family, but in the utmost obscurity. His best quality was that of liberality, during his elevation, to men of letters, some of whom he pensioned, who did not forget him, such, as Fontaine and Pelisson, which last has greatly extolled his resignation after his disgrace. 1


Moreri. Dict. fliati Sir Robert Talbot’s Letters on France. Voltaire’s Age of Louis XIV.