Parisians would probably like to think they know of all the major Châteaux in their vicinity. There is of course Versailles, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Fontainebleau, and the hunting palace of Chantilly. But just a fifteen minute drive from the heart of Paris, nestled deep within thick forest walls, lies a jaw-dropping chateau, or a not-so-mini version of Versailles, that very few Parisians even know is there…
Satellite pictures on Google Earth show it’s definitely there however; the intricate details of its perfectly manicured topiary lawn, clearly visible from space. “But it’s like it came out of nowhere!” protested my born & raised Parisian boyfriend, who had earlier discovered the chateau while checking Google Earth for an overview of his route to a nearby meeting.
And to be fair, it kind of did… come out of nowhere, that is.
“Risen from the ground”, built in under three years on 23 hectares of garden with over 53,000 square feet of living space, this colossal “17th century” chateau is actually a brand new fairytale palace, finished in 2011.
Curious to know and see more, we did some internet digging and found that our Google ghost mansion is named Château Louis XIV, in an unabashed nod to the infamous “Sun King” who was behind the palace of Versailles as we know it today.
The man behind this palace is an insanely wealthy Saudi Arabian property developer, Emad Khashoggi, who, in a historic construction project, ensured the château met the exact standards and rules of proportions and ornamentation established from Antiquity, the same French standards required for Historical Monuments. The Beirut-born, French educated businessman has without doubt built the most amazing estate seen in the last 100 years, but there’s just one minor detail– it’s completely uninhabited. No one is living or ever has lived in it since the last limestone brick was laid in 2011.
Despite boasting the splendours of Versailles with the comforts of the high-tech revolution, Kashoggi never moved in to Château Louis XIV, not even for a summer. But the estate is not for sale either, at least not on any market the public would know about. Nor is it open to public visitation like most other French palaces of its size– then again, it could perceived as a little strange inviting tourists to see what is essentially a “fake” 17th century monument.
The Château Louis XIV does have it’s own website however, which introduces the estate as a “unique historic monument born from the fertile imagination of our design team”, with gardens that “evoke the genius of Le Nôtre” (complete with lighting and water jets that can be controlled from a smartphone App).
What feels like an online sales brochure, except it’s not, is accompanied by dozens of overly-photoshopped images of the vast property, including a few cheesy stock photos of a woman dressed in Cinderella-style evening wear, climbing the stairs– before it strikes midnight and she realises Prince Charming never moved in, and her fairytale castle is a big empty replica show home.
The five meter high ceilings with copycat trompe l’oeil frescoes as seen at Château Vaux-le-Viconte, hide perfectly silent air conditioning vents. Hidden under the palace’s very own moat is a “meditation room” inside a giant glass bubble for admiring the marine life within the giant aquarium.
Also built in the moat is an underwater 50 square meter safe, enclosed by two heavy armoured doors with a real vault and a garage that can hold eight vehicles. An entire floor is dedicated to leisure, with an indoor and outdoor heated pool, which you can dive into from the terrace above, a squash court, gym, a movie theatre and even a disco with its own bar.
The vaulted wine cave holds 3,000 bottles. This is where the only remains of the original ruins of an 18th century château that once stood on the land before, ravaged during the French Revolution. There are original sculptures still embedded in the wall of the cellar.
Designed by renowned French architect Pierre Bortolussi, no expenses were spared for the Château Louis XIV, hiring the best artisans and traditional craftsmen available. Up to 120 workers were employed everyday during construction, including marble masons, clockmakers, sculptors, mosaic artisans, iron craftsmen, bronze casting artisans and coppersmiths. Numerous companies certified as Living Heritage Artisans and Companies took part in this project using age-old trades, which also enabled them to train new craftsmen.
And for what? So not a living soul would inhabit it, leaving its gilded halls to echo with silence, checked on only by a team of 10 gardeners who come twice a week? In 2014, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West reportedly visited the Château Louis XIV as a possible wedding venue, but ended up opting to get married in a genuine 16th Italian fortress instead. Emad Khashoggi’s did few interviews himself concerning the château except one he granted in 2012 with a subscription magazine, Conaissance des Arts, after completion of construction. An undertaking of that size, just fifteen minutes out of Paris had unsurprisingly attracted some outside curiosity, but for the most part, the affairs of the of Château Louis XIV remain somewhat a mystery.
Based on the knowledge that property of this calibre can generally valued at up to €30,000 per square meter, it’s been estimated that the château would be worth around €150 million (or nearly $170,000,000). At least.
Khashoggi’s own company, COGEMAD, to which the estate officially belongs, specialises in “developing haute-couture estates and interiors”, such as the replica Venetian palace he had built in Cannes or the state of the art renovation of Pierre Balmain’s old Parisian apartment. Funnily enough, they also offer a “concierge service” which specialises in property management, maintenance and “on-site inspections while you’re away”– something Kashoggi seems to have considerable personal experience with. On the company website, Kashoggi’s listed properties include six estates in France alone, three in Geneva, as well as palaces in Russia and the Middle East, but none specify if they are for sale, for rent or event hire.
These properties are from a world where prices are not advertised and it goes without saying that access to them is reserved for the privledged few. The COGEMAD site calls them “The Collections”, sub-categorised by region, because for that is perhaps precisely what the Cháteau Louis XIV and the rest of these remarkable properties are: they are one man’s collector’s items, to be kept in a glass box, rarely to be touched.
Some people collect stamps, some people collect palaces.
Discover the Chateau Louis XIV.