The very beginning of the story provides a fairly accurate description of the atmosphere that gripped France during the late seventeenth century. The story is set in 1625 during the reign of Louis XIII, and during this time, there was a great deal of religious unrest in France between the Protestants and the Catholics. In addition, France was contending against Spain for power. Both of these volatile situations created unrest, which is reflected in the book.
The opening paragraphs of the book capture the sense of fear and uncertainty common to the people of France during this time:
In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the king. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels who made war upon everybody.
Cardinal Richelieu was an important historical figure and was a close confidant of King Louis XIII. However, his efforts to limit the power of the nobility meant he was unpopular with that class. He was not popular with the common people of the country either.
In The Three Musketeers, Richelieu is portrayed as an evil, scheming man attempting to incite war with England. This is not historically correct.
Cardinal Richelieu did exert a great deal of influence over King Louis, but with his help, France became one of the most powerful countries of the era.