We start by looking at the most famous personage in the novel, Jules, Cardinal Mazarin. Mazarin became a cardinal in December 1641 and died in 1661, so these years are the outermost possibilities. We can do slightly better: Mazarin took over from Richelieu late in 1642, and Charles II, who is still described as "wandering" [Chapter V], took the throne in 1660.
Let's next consider Luynes' comment in Chapter XXII: "We left Paris on a Monday, the fourth of June…". Between 1642 and 1660, June 4 occurred on Monday only in 1646 and 1657. Certainly 1646 is very appealing, since Luynes in Chapter XXI says of his aunt that "Madame de Chevreuse had not … lived six and forty years to no purpose," and the Duchess of Chevreuse, wife of Luynes' uncle the Duke of Luynes, was born in 1600.
Unfortunately, both 1646 and 1657 are impossible. Indeed, a single sentence narrows the limits considerably: In Chapter V, Andrea says " My cousin Anna Martinozzi is destined for the Prince de Conti, my sisters Olympia and Marianne he also hopes to marry to princes of the blood…". Anne Martinozzi married Armand, Prince of Conti in 1654. Further, Olympia and Marie Anne are two of the five celebrated Mancini sisters, nieces of Mazarin. Marie Anne is the youngest and was born in 1649.
How can we reconcile "Monday, the fourth of June" with the fact that the story must occur between 1649 and 1654? The calculations above use the Gregorian calendar, which France adopted in 1582. Clearly Luynes is, for whatever reason, reckoning with the Julian calendar, which was still being used in many places (including England). And in that calendar, June 4 occurred on Monday in 1649.
We get confirmation in Chapter II, where Mazarin says that "we are threatened with a second Fronde". The first Fronde took place from August 1648 to March 1649, the second began in January 1650. Clearly 1649 has the only February [Chapter I] in which a second Fronde could be mentioned in this way. Further, in the final chapter Mazarin is said to have gone into exile "two years later," and he did indeed go into exile in 1651.
(In Chapter VII, Luynes and the Chevalier de Canaples refer to the battle of Rocroi as "ten years ago". That battle was fought on 19 May 1643, actually only six years earlier.)
Having settled the year, we need to determine the month and day. The novel's first day is explicitly declared to be in February. We also know that it was a Tuesday, since Andrea and Luynes arrive in Blois that Saturday [Chapter VII; they met at Choisy on Wednesday, then travelled to Étampes on Thursday and Orleans on Friday]. Which Tuesday in February?
On April 30, Andrea says "It is now two months since we came to Blois" [Chapter XV]. The next day, the Chevalier says "it is over two months since [Andrea] came here" [Chapter XVI]. This would seem to place the Saturday of their arrival late in February—most likely February 24.
But this is wrong; it cannot have been so early. The assignation at St. Sulpice des Reaux took place about ten days after the arrival, and Luynes at that time says [Chapter XIII] that "the moon was showing her large, full face". March's full moon was on the eighteenth. Since the moon was not quite full (it was "well up by nine o'clock" [Chapter X]) the assignation must have been approximately March 15 or 16.
So Andrea's statement is approximate and the Chevalier's slightly mistaken. The arrival in Blois was on Saturday March 3, dating the opening to Tuesday February 27.
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Copyright © 2007 Larry Denenberg