| Vaux le Vicomte
London, June 1: One of France’s architectural wonders, the 17th century Vaux le Vicomte, widely acknowledged as the finest chateau and gardens in all France, is to be the idyllic site of the wedding and dinner when Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter, Vanisha, 23, marries her 25-year-old banker fiancé, Amit Bhatia.
The management of the estate, in Maincy, 55 km from Paris, which is normally open to tourists, has issued a warning: “Exceptionally, on June 22, 2004, the chateau and gardens will be closed to the public after 1 pm.”
An estimated 1,200 guests, including family members, close friends and senior executives the steel tycoon deals with in the course of his global business, have been told to clear certain dates, but the venues have not been disclosed.
A spokeswoman at Vaux le Vicomte told The Telegraph tonight: “There will be an Indian marriage party here on June 22. We are smaller than Versailles but from the point of view of beauty we are number one, we think.”
The palace at Versailles, once the home of Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, is also on the menu. The formal engagement ceremony will take place here on June 20, followed by a banquet.
Lakshmi and Usha Mittal have promised Vanisha that her wedding will be “truly spectacular” and they are certainly keeping their promise. The family “sangeet” — the girl’s side is Marwari, the boy’s side is Punjabi — will begin on June 19, with a specially erected stage and an hour-long play written by Javed Akhtar. No one should be surprised if Mittal, playing himself, is persuaded to do a little turn.
Dinner that evening will be held at Jardin de Tuileries, the garden of the Tuileries on the right bank of the Seine in Paris.
The mehndi ceremony is slated for June 21 at a still undisclosed venue, to be followed by a Bollywood night.
Shah Rukh Khan, who performed at the wedding reception for Mittal’s son, Aditya, at the Victoria Memorial Hall in Calcutta, is again expected to come, but there is no confirmation yet from Aishwarya Rai.
A couple of big hotels have been booked for the guests. Travel arrangements are being made for Mittal’s relatives, friends and associates in India.
It may well be that the actors from Bollywood will be moved to use the famous chateau as the backdrop for a future blockbuster.
According to local historians, “in the early seventeenth century, between the royal residences of Vincennes and Fontainebleau, a small castle stood at the confluence of two small rivers. The domain was called Vaux-le-Vicomte: it was then just a place on the map and its reputation had still to be made”.
They add that “in 1641 a 26-year-old parliamentarian, Nicolas Fouquet, purchased the estate. Fifteen years later, the first stone of a unique masterpiece was laid; it was to be the finest château and garden in France. This achievement was brought about through the collaboration of three men of genius Fouquet had chosen for the task: the architect Le Vau, the painter-decorator Le Brun and the landscape gardener Le ôtre.
The artistic and cultivated sensibility of their patron was a great stimulus to their talents. They were not alone; the poet La Fontaine, Molière, playwright and actor, … formed the circle around this great patron of literature and the arts.”
The historians also point out that “resplendent today as it was in former times, Vaux-le-Vicomte stands as a symbol of the intelligence, taste and independence of its creator, Nicolas Fouquet. Vaux was also a haven for leading French artists. Writers, poets, painters and sculptors gave the best of their talents to the glory of Vaux.”
Vaux, by the way, was also the tragic setting of the downfall of Fouquet who was imprisoned for life for an embezzlement he did not commit and because of the jealousy of others and because of his far too lavish hospitality.
In a sense, it has fallen to Mittal, the sun king of the world of steel, to demonstrate that India has as rich a culture which can match and possibly outdo even the French.