Angélique - The Road to Versailles
Angélique -' The Road to Versailles' is the second half of the original hardback tome entitled Angélique, Marquise of the Angels (or to give it its original French title Marquise des Anges).
In this half of the book Angélique finds herself an outcast from society and like her predecessor Scarlet O'Hara ('Gone with the Wind' was published in May 1936 even though it was set in the American Civil War - 1861 to 1865) determines to win back what is rightfully hers. (She does it with chocolate!) Most likely as difficult a proposition for a woman in the 1660s as in the 1860s - two hundred years separating the heroines but with little support for women's rights. This my favourite from the 'Old World' selection and I did not appreciate the richness of content until I re-read it some years ago as my review date attests and then read the book in Polish. Each language adds or subtracts something from the whole but being able to follow the books in two languages and sometimes three fills in lots of gaps - gaps which are further being enhanced now by Anne Golon who continues to work on her Intégrale.
Exactly what did happen to this woman when her husband was accused of sorcery, was divested of his titles and sentenced to burn in the Place de Grève? She becomes persona non-grata - society shuns her - who will help her? Her husband has no direct family to speak of, his friends at court are all looking over their shoulders to see if they might be next, her sister Hortense, wife of a lawyer realises the implications to her own life and refuses to take her in save for a short while and until Angéliques money runs out. Her rivals at court are laughing their heads off at their own good fortune - another obstacle to the King removed from their own paths of glory. Her younger sister Marie-Agnés, a court courtesan and her brother, Gontran the painter are helpless Josselin is in the New World or dead, the family in Poitou are scraping a living and Raymond has become a Jesuit - so where is left to escape from the Sun King? The Paris Underworld appears to be the only safe haven for Angélique at this time. From Heaven to Hell - from the Sun to the Moon and its dark and ugly side (a magnificent engraving by Johannes Helvius from 1645 shows the style of the day).
The Paris underworld, also famous as the 'Court of Miracles' so called because this was the place where all beggars and the afflicted where 'cured' and 'relieved' of their ailments when darkness fell. How could this cure be effected? These beggars and tricksters were not genuinely crippled or sick - they mimicked their symptoms in the most ingenious ways to gain sympathy and money from the unsuspecting, but as they returned to their lair, gone were the crutches, the scabs, the festering wounds,the toothless grins, the blind, the limbless as they unravelled their limbs or tore off their makeshift make-up and produced the bounty that would be shared and would pay benefits to their survival.
Image of men with wheelbarrows courtesy of Paris en images attributed to Gravure de Jacques-Adrien Lavielle d'après Racinet.
Victor Hugo introduced us to this macabre world in the 1800s when we met the 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' a genuinely crippled outcast who couldn't remove his 'hump' at night.
This is how Paris will have looked at the time of the action in the mid-1600s:
This would have been the location of the Court of Miracles :
And finally engravings by Gustav Doré, Master Engraver, of what the Court of Miracles might actually have looked like:
Page refreshed : 23rd December 2016