The Nobility of the Robe
My first trip to France, over 20 years ago, was to research the places my ancestors came from when they immigrated to Canada mid 18th Century. It was the beginning of a love affair with a place and a culture where I’ve returned many times. Inspired by some of my own experiences on those trips and the discovery of an amazing woman who lived in Paris in the early 17th Century, I decided to combine those things in a single novel.
It was a journey of pure delight as I wove the real: my actual experiences, a real woman from history, and my imaginary character who took my place in the story.
Jacqueline Arnauld, was born in 1698 to a family of barristers, called the Nobility of the Robe; a new class of people who served the crown as legal advisors. Sent to be an abbess of an abbey outside of Paris at 8 years old, she took the name le Mere Angelique and went on to reform the abbeys of France and become one of the most influential people of her time.
Intrigued by this powerful woman who lived in a time when women had little power, I set out to learn everything I could about her and about the time in which she lived.
As her story unfolded I sought out the places where she’d lived and worked: her parrish church, her country abbey, her Paris abbey, are still in existence and finding them was thrilling. The Francois Mitterrand Library where I did research was a treasure of information and though my knowledge of French language is limited, I can read fairly well and gained everything I needed to flush out both the woman and the time in which she lived.
An old map of Paris showed me where St. Merri’s was located and also the Paris Abbey. Fortunately most of the street names are the same today, so with the aid of a current map I found both the church and the abbey which is now a maternity hospital and during the revolution was a prison.
One of the most important finds in my research about Angelique was the discovery of a book about her with drawings of the major players and the places they lived.
The above images are of Pt. Royal des Champs; the original country abbey.
Physics and Time Travel
Fascination with the past is a form of time travel that I enjoy. I wanted my heroine, Claire, to have the ability to go to Angelique and directly experience what was going on. However, I wanted her to have a viable option for that travel. My research into modern physics allows for that possibility. According to my sources, if there is a large enough source of energy many experts