Jean Baptiste Colbert, chief minister of Louis XIV, wanted a garden to impress at his new chateau at Sceaux. In 1670 anyone with a chateau near Paris, high ambitions and deep pockets turned to the king’s garden designer, André Le Nôtre, for the embellishment of their park. Colbert was no exception. Between 1670 and 1683 Le Nôtre remodeled the landscape of the Sceaux domaine to create two vast axes, lakes, cascades and fountains, together with terraced parterres, potager and orangery on a similar scale. When Colbert’s son inherited the park in 1683 he acquired additional land, extending the park to 225 hectares, and commissioned Le Nôtre to install a grand canal.
After the Revolution the domaine was confiscated as national property and much of the park was turned over to agricultural production. The property was later sold to raise funds for the state coffers and the chateau was demolished to provide building materials. A new chateau, in seventeenth century style, was built by a nineteenth century owner. Successive owners struggled with the upkeep of the vast estate and eventually, in 1923, it was acquired by the Seine Département to ensure its preservation. A third of the estate was sold off to fund the restoration of the remaining 150 hectares, now freely open to the public.
This is the view across one of the newly restored parterres to the main axis of the park. The end of the lawn is about a kilometer away; those hedges enclosing the grass are curtain pruned horse chestnut trees, keeping the wild wood at bay.