Monday, July 23, 2012

Clouds of Witness ch 5


CHAPTER V
THE RUE ST. HONORÉ AND THE RUE DE LA PAIX
“I think it was the cat.”
H.M.S. Pinafore


 
Mr. Parker sat disconsolate in a small appartement in the Rue St. Honoré. It was three o'clock in the afternoon. Paris was full of a subdued but cheerful autumn sunlight, but the room faced north, and was depressing, with its plain, dark furniture and its deserted air. It was a man's room, well appointed after the manner of a discreet club; a room that kept its dead owner's counsel imperturbably. Two large saddlebag chairs in crimson leather stood by the cold hearth. On the mantelpiece was a bronze clock, flanked by two polished German shells, a stone tobacco-jar, and an Oriental brass bowl containing a long-cold pipe.
Presumably the polished German shells are shells from a weapon used during WWI. Duds, hopefully.
                There were several excellent engravings in narrow pearwood frames, and the portrait in oils of a rather florid lady of the period of Charles II.
There are several Charles II, but Sayers is doubtless talking about the English king.
Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685)[3] was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. Although the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II King of Great Britain and Ireland in Edinburgh on 6 February 1649, the English Parliament instead passed a statute that made any such proclamation unlawful. England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, and the country was a de facto republic, led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell defeated Charles at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland. Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.

A political crisis that followed the death of Cromwell in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. On 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents were dated as if Charles had succeeded his father as king in 1649.

Charles's English parliament enacted laws known as the Clarendon Code, designed to shore up the position of the re-established Church of England. Charles acquiesced to the Clarendon Code even though he himself favoured a policy of religious tolerance. The major foreign policy issue of Charles's early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, Charles entered into the secret treaty of Dover, an alliance with his first cousin King Louis XIV of France. Louis agreed to aid Charles in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and pay Charles a pension, and Charles secretly promised to convert to Roman Catholicism at an unspecified future date. Charles attempted to introduce religious freedom for Catholics and Protestant dissenters with his 1672 Royal Declaration of Indulgence, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it. In 1679, Titus Oates's revelations of a supposed "Popish Plot" sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles's brother and heir (James, Duke of York) was a Roman Catholic. The crisis saw the birth of the pro-exclusion Whig and anti-exclusion Tory parties. Charles sided with the Tories, and, following the discovery of the Rye House Plot to murder Charles and James in 1683, some Whig leaders were killed or forced into exile. Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1681, and ruled alone until his death on 6 February 1685. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed.

Charles was popularly known as the Merrie Monarch, in reference to both the liveliness and hedonism of his court and the general relief at the return to normality after over a decade of rule by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. Charles's wife, Catherine of Braganza, bore no children, but Charles acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses. As illegitimate children were excluded from the succession, he was succeeded by his brother James.
                The window-curtains were crimson, and the floor covered with a solid Turkey carpet. Opposite the fireplace stood a tall mahogany bookcase with glass doors, containing a number of English and French classics, a large collection of books on history and international politics, various French novels, a number of works on military and sporting subjects, and a famous French edition of the Decameron with the additional plates. Under the window stood a large bureau.
The Decameron, also called Prince Galehaut (Italian: Il Decameron, cognominato Prencipe Galeotto) is a 14th-century medieval allegory by Giovanni Boccaccio, told as a frame story encompassing 100 tales by ten young people. Boccaccio probably began composing the work in 1350, and finished it in 1351 or 1353. The bawdy tales of love in The Decameron range from the erotic to the tragic. Tales of wit, practical jokes, and life lessons contribute to the mosaic. In addition to its literary import, it documents life in 14th-century Italy.

(The extra plates have sexual connotations.)
                Parker shook his head, took out a sheet of paper, and began to write a report. He had breakfasted on coffee and rolls at seven; he had made an exhaustive search of the flat; he had interviewed the concierge, the manager of the Crédit Lyonnais, and the Prefect of Police for the Quartier, and the result was very poor indeed.
Most of the Paris we see today is a result of a nineteenth-century renovation, but its boulevards and arrondissements were but a new grid bisecting quarters built by centuries of Parisian habit; as a result of this, Paris has many quarters (or quartiers) that are not necessarily mentioned on any administrative map.

Although Paris's origins are in its Left Bank, Parisians began to move to the newly-dried swampland of the Right bank around the 10th century, leaving the Left Bank to ecclesiastical and scholastic institutions. Commerce was at its highest around the Châtelet bridge guardhouse and Place de Grève port, a market quarter that would later become Les Halles, artisans tended to keep to the east of the city, and the more noble residences and shops were always near the royal palaces. Although many are split between several arrondissements, most of these tendencies still hold true in Paris today.

Below are a few quarters that have developed or retained a character of their own, usually identifiable by a grouping of commercial activity and named for a neighbourhood landmark.

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