Paris is the capital of France and the country's largest city. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region.
Although vampires perforce move around a lot, never staying for long in any one place, Paris figures largely in the history of Nicolas de Brabant—better known as Nick Knight—and his vampire family, LaCroix and Janette. Indeed, Janette is from Paris originally: she was a prostitute there around 1000 A.D. until she was brought across by LaCroix. Nicholas was on his way home to Brabant from the Crusades, stopping for a while in Paris, when he met Janette there. She seduced him, fascinated him, and introduced him to her master, LaCroix, who brought him over. Paris lies therefore at the heart of the story of Nick Knight.
A number of historical scenes in the medieval and Renaissance period show that he and the others spent much of their time in France, though Paris is not specifically mentioned. It may be in Paris that Nick kidnapped the Dauphin for an enormous ransom; but again the precise location isn't given. Not until LaCroix and Nick flee the city in 1755 to take refuge in a fellow vampire's château near Avignon, do we get another specific mention of Paris. In 1890, during the belle epoque, they are there once again, this time visiting the ballet, where Nick becomes infatuated with one of the dancers. He is also in Paris for a few years in the 1920s: in 1922, he brings across Serena, but flees the city three years later after LaCroix interferes in an attempt to find an herbal cure for vampirism.
There is no indication that Nick has visited Paris since, though he was certainly in France during World War II. The city remains dear to the heart of Janette, however: for her, it is always her true home. When she leaves Toronto, she decides to move to Montreal as the closest equivalent on the North American continent.
Early History of ParisEdit
The earliest archaeological signs of permanent habitation in the Paris area date from around 4200 B.C. From around 250 B.C. the area around the Seine was occupied by a Celtic tribe, the Parisii. The Romans conquered the Paris basin in 52 B.C.; and planted a permanent settlement on the Île de la Cité and the southern bank of the river. This town was originally called Lutetia (or, more fully, Lutetia Parisiorum, "Lutetia of the Parisii"), later Gallicised to Lutèce. It expanded greatly over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre. In 212 A.D., the city was renamed Paris after the local tribe.
The collapse of the Roman empire sent the city into a period of decline. By 400 A.D., it had largely been abandoned by its inhabitants, and was little more than a garrison town on the hastily fortified central island. In 451 A.D., the region was invaded by Attila the Hun, prompting fears that Paris would be attacked. According to legend, the city was saved by the piety of Sainte Geneviève and her followers, whose prayers for relief were answered when Attila's march turned away from Paris to the south. However, Paris was attacked and overrun in 464 A.D. by Childeric I (Childeric the Frank). His son, Clovis I, made the city his capital in 506 A.D. By this time, Paris was a crowded early medieval city with timber buildings alongside surviving Roman remains.
The final king of this line of Merovingian kings was essentially no more than a puppet monarch for powerful governors. He was finally deposed in 751 A.D., and Pépin (Pippin) was proclaimed king of the Franks. He was succeeded by his son Charles, dubbed Charles le Magne or "Charlemagne" (Charles the Great). After Charlemagne moved the capital of his Holy Roman Empire from Paris to Aachen, the city was relatively neglected by the Empire. It suffered grievously from Viking raiders who repeatedly sailed upriver to attack it. Eventually, the weakness of the late Carolingian kings led to the rise in power of the Counts of Paris.
In 987 A.D., Hugh Capet—related to the Counts of Paris—was elected King of the Franks. The French Crown initially controlled little more than Paris and the surrounding region, the Île-de-France, but over the centuries steadily expanded its territory and power. Paris itself developed an increasing degree of importance as a royal capital, a centre of learning and an ecclesiastical centre.
As early as the twelfth century, the distinctive character of the city's districts was emerging. The Île de la Cité, on which the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was begun in 1163, was the centre of government and religious life; the Left Bank (south of the Seine) was the centre of learning, focusing on the various Church-run schools established there; and the Right Bank (north of the Seine) was the centre of commerce and finance. A league of merchants, the so-called Hanse Parisienne, was established and quickly became a powerful force in the city's affairs.
Under the rule of Philippe Auguste (ruled 1180-1223), a new city wall was built, and construction began on the Palais du Louvre. Streets were paved, and a covered market established at Les Halles.
His grandson Louis IX, renowned for his extreme piety (and later canonised as St Louis) established the city as a major centre of pilgrimage in the thirteenth century with the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité, and the completion of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and the Saint Denis Basilica.
The Hundred Years' War began in 1328 on the death of the direct line of Capetian kings, when the crown was claimed by rival houses. Over the next century, the city changed hands several times as the fortunes of war led to its capture. There were also popular uprisings in the fourteenth century: the first, a merchants' revolt, tried to curb the power of the monarchy and obtain privileges for the city; the second was over excessive taxation. Both were put down by force. In addition, the Black Death hit Europe in 1347, killing many of the people of Paris.
In 1437, Charles VII of France finally retook Paris. However, the later Valois dynasty preferred instead to live in various châteaux in the Loire Valley and Parisian countryside. Over the following century the city's population more than tripled. Francois I had probably the greatest impact of any Valois monarch, transforming the Louvre and establishing a glittering court.
Early Modern ParisEdit
Paris was a predominantly Catholic city. However, Protestantism gained ground in defiance of an increasingly harsh Catholic backlash. Matters came to a head on 23 August 1572 with the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, when Catholic mobs killed an estimated three thousand Protestants on the instructions of King Charles IX. His successor, King Henry III, attempted to find a peaceful solution but the city's population turned against him and forced him to flee on the 12th May 1588. For several years, Paris was ruled by a group known as the Seize ("sixteen"), so called because each member represented one of the sixteen quartiers (districts) of the city. Henri IV proceeded to lay siege to Paris, which suffered greatly. On the 14th March 1594, he entered the city, and was soon crowned King of France. Henri IV faced constant danger from religious fanatics on both sides, particularly after granting religious tolerance to Protestants under the Edict of Nantes. He was eventually assassinated by a Catholic fanatic on 14 May 1610.
Louis XIII became king at the age of only eight, with political power exercised by his mother Marie de Médicis in the role of regent. Although Louis took over when he reached fifteen (the age of majority), the real power was exercised by the brilliant but ruthless Cardinal Richelieu, who greatly expanded royal power.
The greatest heights were achieved under Louis XIV, the "Sun King". There were lavish building projects in Paris undertaken in an effort to make it a "new Rome" fit for the Sun King. The king himself, however, detested Paris, preferring instead to rule France from his vast château at Versailles. The city had by this time grown far beyond its medieval boundaries, with some half a million inhabitants by the mid-seventeenth century
During the latter half of the eighteenth century, Paris became the intellectual and cultural capital of the Western world. It was a centre of the Enlightenment with its salons becoming the center of the new thinking of the "Age of Reason." This was positively encouraged by the state, with Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, supporting the city's intellectuals and prompting the king to construct striking new monuments. However, the French state was by now virtually bankrupt, its finances drained by the Seven Years' War and the French intervention in the American War of Independence.
The French Revolution effectively began in Paris, which the king had garrisoned with foreign troops to quell any unrest. On 14 July 1789, the mob seized the arsenal, where they acquired thousands of guns, and then stormed the Bastille (a medieval fortress and prison in Paris). A brief battle ensued in which 87 revolutionaries were killed before the fortress surrendered. This event marked the first real manifestation of the Revolution, and is still marked in France as Bastille Day.
Paris became the scene of revolutionary ferment, with political clubs taking over buildings for their headquarters. The uprising had, however, badly disrupted food supplies; and in October an angry crowd marched to Versailles to protest. They began attacking the palace, and were only placated when Louis XVI himself appeared and agreed to return to Paris with his family. The royal family were reduced to virtual prisoners
With other European powers mobilising to crush the Revolution, which they saw as threatening their own monarchies, the political climate in Paris worsened. Power passed to the radical Commune de Paris, led by Georges Danton, Jean-Paul Marat and Maximilien Robespierre. Revolutionary mobs hunted down and killed anyone seen as an opponent of the new order.
The monarchy was formally abolished on 22 September 1792, "Day I of Year I of the French Republic." A guillotine was erected in what is now the Place de la Concorde, and was used on 21 January 1793 to execute Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette followed in October 1793. The revolutionaries became steadily more extreme, turning on the "enemy within". This included not just royalists but those accused of simply being not sufficiently revolutionary, including their own leaders.
A group of moderates seized control in July 1794, but had only a shaky grip on power.
In 1795, a young army officer named Napoleon Bonaparte dispersed a hostile Parisian mob by the simple expedient of firing into it with cannons at point-blank range. He was then spectacularly successful at war in Italy, and in 1798 nearly conquered Egypt. He returned with great prestige, seized power in 1799, and was declared first consul the following year.
Under Napoleon's rule, Paris became the capital of an empire and a great military power. He crowned himself Emperor in a ceremony held in Notre-Dame on 18 May 1804. Like his royal predecessors, he saw Paris as a "new Rome" and set about building public monuments befitting the capital of an empire.
Napoleon's military campaigns against the British, Austrians and Russians initially met with great success but hubris, overconfidence and poor planning caused the annihilation of his army in 1813 in the depths of a Russian winter. Russian and Austrian armies invaded France in 1814 and on 31 March 1814, Paris fell to the Russians—the first time in 400 years that the city had been conquered by a foreign power. Napoleon went into exile on the island of Elba, though he returned briefly before being decisively defeated at Waterloo and re-exiled to St. Helena.
The arrival in Paris of the Industrial Revolution prompted the city's breakneck growth, with migrant workers arriving from the countryside on newly constructed railway lines. By now its population was almost a million, making it the second largest city in Europe, after London. Much of the population, however, lived in appalling conditions in diseased slums, prompting popular uprisings, which ended in elections in 1848. The victor was the nephew of the late emperor, who won by an overwhelming majority (receiving 75% of the votes cast). Not content with being a mere president, he declared himself the Emperor Napoleon III on 2 December 1851.
It was under Napoleon III's rule that Paris in its modern form was created. Much of the old city was demolished, and replaced with a network of wide, straight boulevards and radiating circuses. The Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes were both transformed into large public parks.
Napoleon III's rule came to an abrupt end when he declared war on Prussia in 1870, only to be defeated and captured, and forced to abdicate. A Third Republic was proclaimed; but, on 19 September the Prussian army began the siege of the city. Paris held out for four months, by which time starvation had taken hold and the population had been reduced to eating all the animals in the zoological gardens except the monkeys. The city finally surrendered on 28 January 1871 with punitive terms being inflicted on the defeated French in the peace treaty.
Although the Third Republic was widely disliked for its political instability and corruption, it did manage to deliver a golden age—a belle époque—for Paris. The city became renowned as a center for the arts, with the Impressionists taking their inspiration from its new vistas. At the same time, Paris acquired a less savoury reputation as the "sin capital of Europe", with hundreds of brothels, revues, and risqué cabarets such as the famous Moulin Rouge.
Like other French cities, Paris initially welcomed World War I as an opportunity to gain revenge for the defeat of 1870. Within a month, however, the city was full of refugees and the Germans were just 15 miles from the city. The government was evacuated to Bordeaux in the expectation that Paris would again fall to German forces. However, the front lines were stabilized some 75 miles away, and remained static for the next four years. The war was finally ended by the Armistice of 11 November 1918, signed at Compiègne to the northeast of Paris.
The city emerged into an energetic but restless interwar period, enlivened by the arrival of glamorous émigrés such as Josephine Baker. It was a troubled political period, however, especially when the Great Depression hit Paris. Extreme right- and left-wing parties flourished. As a result, France was ill-prepared for the outbreak of World War II on 3 September 1939.
When Hitler invaded France on 10 May 1940, it took the German army only a month to reach Paris, which fell with virtually no resistance on 14 June. The government agreed an armistice with the invaders and moved south to Vichy, while Paris remained—along with two thirds of France—under German occupation. The next four years saw an increasingly brutal occupation regime imposed on the city. On the surface, things continued much as before: Paris was an extremely popular assignment for German forces. Indeed, some Parisians welcomed the occupation forces and accepted their presence and their business, though others became involved in resistance efforts. However, most people simply kept their heads down, enduring the rationing and the humiliation of occupation. In June 1944, Allied forces (including 140 Free French commandos) invaded Normandy. Two months later they broke through German lines and advanced rapidly across France. An uprising broke out in Paris on 19 August, led by the Resistance and the city's Police. German forces retreated, leaving the city open to the Allies.