Le notaire de Châteauneuf - 1
LE NOTAIRE DE CHÂTEAUNEUF - Inspector Maigret and the Missing Miniatures - The Three Daughters of the Lawyer - Georges Simenon, 1938 (La Rochelle)
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The story - a summary
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Maigret is disturbed in his tranquil retirement by Maître [1] Motte, the notary of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire.
The notary, a collector of miniature carved and engraved ivory statues, has noticed that several items of great value have disappeared from his collection. He calls on the former police chief to discover the thief.

Maigret goes, rather grudgingly, under a false name, to the home of the notary where he can observe the daily life of the family. The notary has three daughters. One of the girls, Armande, will soon marry Gérard Donavant, the son of a famous swindler called The Commodore. Is Gérard the thief? Or is there someone who would like to discredit him by making him look suspicious?
The first clerk of the notary, Jean Vidier, for instance. He would have liked to marry Armande in order to inherit the notary's study [2] one day. Or the notary himself. Maybe he shams a theft so that he can avoid welcoming in his family, which he wants to be harmonious, the son of a swindler?
La nuit du
carrefour
La guinguette
à deux sous
In fact, Maigret discovers that the truth is very different: Armande 's 16-year old sister, Emillienne, is madly in love with the alluring Gérard.
In her jealousy, rather than see him marrying her sister, she risks to expel him from her life by concealing some of the ivories and pitting the blame on him. [3]
L' inspecteur
Cadavre
Les larmes
de bougie
The notary of Châteauneuf
Vente à la
bougie
The notary of Châteauneuf, who is naturally one of the main characters in this story, but who also plays a role in several other Simenon-novels, was inspired on the real notary of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, Me Olivier Goussard.
In 1934 Simenon buys the property "Le Bois Bezard" near Seichebrières, a village in the middle of the Fôret d'Orleans. On this piece of land (28 ha - 69 acres) stand the ruins of an old farm building which he wants to demolish. On that spot he plans to construct a house of tree trunks.
After a while however, he finds that the surroundings and the climate in the Fôret d'Orleans are disagreeable and disheartening and he decides to resell the property and buy a country house on the island of Porquerolles in the Mediterranean [4].
Because the notary of Châteauneuf is charged with the formalities of drawing up the notarial deeds, he has to meet Me Goussard a number of times. Both men like to talk together and to discuss a gamut of subjects and develop mutual respect and trust.
And apparently the notary makes an impression on Simenon. His personality, his family and his home are of considerable importance in this short story.
La maison
du juge
Mon ami
Maigret
Maigret à
Vichy
l'Affaire
Saint-Fiacre
L'Auberge aux
noyés
Le notaire de
Châteauneuf - 1
Le notaire de
Châteauneuf - 2
M.Gallet, décédé
Le charretier de
"La Providence"
Me Olivier Goussard
The notary's competence
Chez les
Flamands
In countries under a Latin law system the functions and duties of a notary are considerably different from those of the notary public in the common law system.
In "Latin law"- countries the notary is a high-ranking official with considerable legal skills and training. Unlike the U.S. Notary, he drafts documents, provides legal advice, settles disputes and archives documents.
Like an attorney, a notary is a professional legal adviser with clients who pay for his advice, but like a judge, a notary is appointed by the Crown or by the President 'for life'.
The second important feature: a notary is independent and more importantly, he is impartial. Unlike a legal advisor or an attorney-at-law, a notary does not act for just one party. Instead he is required to weigh up and balance the interests of all the parties in a certain legal matter. A notary stands, as it were, above the parties. When real property is conveyed, a notary for instance acts for both the vendor and the purchaser. A notary who is always academically trained, is a legal expert on family law, the law of inheritance, business law and property law.
A notary does not appear in court. A notary also records agreements, either because the law requires it or at the parties' request. The formal document drawn up by a notary is a 'notarial deed'.(5)
Analysis of the locality
The town of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire (7.143 inh.) is situated in the Loiret (45) department at about 140 km (87mi) south of Paris and 45 km (28mi) from Meung-sur-Loire where the retired Maigret lives.
The notary of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire who inspired Simenon, Me Goussard, had his study in the Rue Gambetta. The entrance of the dwelling-house however was on the backside of this building on the Place des Douves, Although these streets are situated in the center of the town, less than 100 m from the town cathedral and the main street, La Grande Rue, it is a remarkably quiet, small, almost triangular shaped square.

In France, as in other European countries, a notary has a high social status and because the number of candidates appointed is very limited the position used to be almost hereditary. As a result of this every town and city had his "dynasty" of notaries, passing on the study from father to son. So, there is a real chance that there still is a notary Goussard in Châteauneuf. And in fact, there is!
The present-day Me Goussard is even called, Olivier, after his grandfather who was Simenon's notary in 1934, the man who stood model for Me Motte in the story.
The study is still in the same house, although the entrance is now where the entrance of the dwelling-house used to be, on the Place des Douves. The inside is of course transformed and nobody lives there anymore, it's all offices now.
The house as it is described in the story could well be the actual house of the notary. There are some striking similarities. In any case Simenon's general discription reproduces the character of this house remarkably well.
"Or la maison du notaire de Châteauneuf était, par excellence, la maison de province telle qu'on les bétissait jadis, sans mesquinerie, sans tape-à-l'œil, sans rien de laid ni d'agressif." [6]
"However the house of the notary of Châteauneuf was preeminently a house of the province. Like they were built in the old days, without petty-bourgeois traits, without annoying eye-catchers, with nothing ugly nor aggressive."
For more information on the localities go to the Travel Log.
" Le panonceau doré du notaire n'était pas appliqué près du grand portail flanqué de deux bornes de pierre, mais l'étude avait, un peu plus loin, son entrée particulière et on distinguait à leurs vitraux ses fenêtres parmi les autres fenêtres de la maison. "5
"The gilded sign of the notary was not put up near the main door flanked with two stone columns. The study had, a little further, its own entry and it could be distinguished by the stained glasses in its windows that were different from the other windows in the house."
In that time, in the house of the real notary, the state of affairs was roughly the same. The entrance of the study was on the other side of the house than the family-entrance. In the Rue Gambetta, the way in to the study. On the Place des Douves the doorway for the family.

On the plan the situation in the house is delineated as it was in Simenon's time, when he visited the notary to talk about the purchase of the property in Seichebrières.
A notable distinction with the description are the proportions and the location of the garden.

"La petite bonne lui ouvrit la porte vernie, s'effaça. Referma l'huis et annonça: - Tout le monde est au jardin..." (6)
"The servant-girl opened the glossed door to him and receded straight away to let him pass. She closed the door again and announced: everybody is in the garden..."
In reality this situation would have been unlikely, because one has to pass by the garden to get to the doorway of the family-part of the house. So Maigret would have encountered the family, if they were in the garden, before reaching the door.
The proportions of the garden are not explicitly mentioned but it is suggested that it is rather large. There is a gardener and Emillienne and Gérard are strolling in the garden while Maigret is taking a walk there too. In reality the garden is tiny. It is enclosed by a wall and bounded on one side by the house and on all other sides by the surrounding streets.
It is customary for Simenon to adapt some of the features of the localities and the surroundings to fit the story and to complete the image that he wants to convey to the reader. But the fundamental qualities of the locality are maintained and there is little doubt that the house of the Me Goussard inspired the author when creating the setting in which the story of Me Motte would be placed.
Go to: Le notaire de Châteauneuf - 2
Images
From top to bottom:
- Composition of a drawing of Maigret's silhouette from the cover of: Georges Simenon, "Maigret hesite", Presses de la Cite, Paris and map on http://www.1bis.com/1bis/. Design G. de Croock.
- Maître Olivier Goussard, Photo: coll. Me Jean Goussard.
- Logo Conseille des notaires de France.
- Map by:Route 66, Route Europa 2000, Copyright Route 66 Geographic Information Systems B.V., Ede (NL). Adaptation by G. De Croock.
- House of notary o. Goussard, Front (Rue Gambetta). Photo: G. de Croock
- Gilded sigh of the notary study, Back, Place des Douves. Photo: G. de Croock.
- House of the notary, back, Place des Douves. Photo: G de Croock.
- Plan of the house of the notary of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, G. de Croock.
- Outside the garden and garden-wall, Place des Douves, Photo: G. de Croock.
Notes
(1) Maître (Fr.): Master, form of address in French-speaking European countries for a lawyer, barrister or notary. Abbreviation: Me.
(2) The practice of a notary is called a "study", in French: "étude".
(3) Translation and compilation from: Maurice Piron, L'Univers de Simenon, Presses de la Cité, Paris, 1983, p.451. Translation of excerpt: G. de Croock.
(4) See: Mon ami Maigret.
(5) Adaptation of information on the website of the Koninklijke Notarièle Beroepsorganisatie (the Netherlands), on: http://www.notaris.nl and the website of the National Notary Association (U.S.A.) on: http://www.nationalnotary.org
(6) Georges Simenon, Le notaire de Châteauneuf. In: Oeuvres Complètes, Tome IX, Edition Rencontre, 1967.
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La nuit du carrefour - 1, - 2
La guinguette à deux sous - 1, - 2
L' inspecteur Cadavre - 1, - 2, - 3
Les larmes de bougie - 1, - 2
Vente à la bougie - 1, - 2
La maison du juge - 1, - 2, - 3
Mon ami Maigret - 1, - 2, - 3
Maigret à Vichy - 1, - 2
l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre - 1, - 2
l'Auberge aux Noyés - 1, - 2
Le notaire de Chéteauneuf - 1, - 2
M.Gallet, décédé - 1, - 2, - 3
Le charretier de "La Providence" - 1, - 2
Chez les Flamands - 1, - 2