Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2059
Louis XIV, the young king of France, was en route to Spain to ask for the hand of Marie Theresa, the Spanish Infanta. He stopped overnight at the castle of Blois to visit his uncle, the Duc d’Orleans. There he met for the first time Louise de la Valliere, the lovely stepdaughter of the duchess’ steward. Louise was betrothed to Raoul, the Vicomte de Bragelonne, son of the Comte de la Fere. Another arrival at Blois during the royal visit was the Stuart pretender, Charles II, who came to ask for a loan of a million livres and French aid in regaining the English throne. When Cardinal Mazarin, chief minister of King Louis, refused to lend the money, Charles then turned for assistance to the Comte de la Fere, who had been an old friend of his royal father. The comte was a former musketeer who had been known as Athos many years before, when he had performed many brave feats with his three friends, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan.
Disappointed because Mazarin and the king refused to help Charles, D’Artagnan resigned his commission as lieutenant of the King’s Musketeers and joined his old friend, Athos, in an attempt to place Charles upon the throne of England. Planning to capture General Monk, leader of the Parliamentary army, D’Artagnan visited Planchet, a former servant who had been successful in trade. Using funds borrowed from Planchet, he recruited fourteen resolute and dependable men and sailed with them for England. In England, in the meantime, the troops of Lambert and General Monk prepared to fight at Newcastle. While the armies waited, Athos arrived to see General Monk. He hoped to obtain the general’s aid in recovering a treasure left by the unfortunate Charles I in a vault in Newcastle. This treasure was to be General Monk’s bribe for restoring Charles II to the throne. On the general’s return from Newcastle, D’Artagnan daringly captured the Parliamentary leader, concealed him in a coffin, and took him to France. Athos, who had promised General Monk to remain in England for a time, was arrested by Monk’s soldiers and accused of complicity in the general’s disappearance.
In France D’Artagnan took Monk to Charles. After a satisfactory interview with the pretender, Monk was released and sent back to England. On his return, Monk secured the release of Athos. Won over to the Stuart cause, Monk planned for the return of Charles to England, while the pretender made like preparations in France.
When Charles became king, he made General Monk the Duke of Albemarle and commander of the English armies. The grateful king gave the Order of the Golden Fleece to Athos. For his part in the restoration D’Artagnan requested only Monk’s sword. After he had received it, he resold it to Charles for three hundred thousand livres. General Monk gave D’Artagnan lands in England. After paying off his men D’Artagnan went to Calais to see Planchet, whom he approached with a long face and a sad tale of failure. When Planchet exhibited his true loyalty to his former master, D’Artagnan did not have the heart to tease the merchant any longer; he acknowledged the success of the venture and paid Planchet one hundred thousand livres in return for the funds he had advanced.
Louis XIV had been completely dominated by Cardinal Mazarin, his minister, but Mazarin’s death eased the king’s unhappy situation. After Mazarin’s death, the ambitious Fouquet, as finance minister, and Colbert, as intendant, began a race for power. Suspicious of Fouquet, the king sent for D’Artagnan, commissioned him a captain of the King’s Musketeers, and sent him to Belle-Isle-en-Mer to secure a report on Fouquet’s mysterious activities there.
At Belle-Isle D’Artagnan found his old companion in arms, Porthos, now Monsieur du Vallon, busy with plans for fortifying the island. The former musketeer was working under the direction of Aramis, now Bishop of Vannes and also known as Monsieur D’Herblay. D’Artagnan hurried back to Paris to the king to give him the details of the situation at Belle-Isle, but he was beaten in the race to arrive there first by the two conspirators, who reported to Fouquet the discovery of the plot to fortify the island. To prevent trouble, Fouquet at once rushed to the king and presented to him the plan for the fortifications on Belle-Isle. He glibly explained that the fortifications might be useful against the Dutch.
Athos, the Comte de la Fere, asked the king’s consent to the marriage of his son Raoul, the Vicomte de Bragelonne, to Louise de la Valliere, now a maid of honor at the court. Louis refused on the grounds that Louise was not good enough for Raoul. In reality the king, a passionate lover of various ladies of the court, had, in spite of his recent marriage to Marie Theresa, fallen in love with Louise. He dispatched Raoul at once to England to be rid of him as a rival.
Aramis and Fouquet were plotting to replace the king with a man of their choice; to this end, they annually paid a large sum of money to Monsieur de Baisemeaux, governor of the Bastille. These schemers also attached themselves to Louise de la Valliere after they realized the power she would have with the king.
Also among the court plotters were Mademoiselle de Montalais, a lady in waiting, and her lover, Malicorne, a courtier. They were interested in all court affairs, particularly in the relationship between Mademoiselle de la Valliere and the king, and they stole letters with the idea of blackmail at an opportune time.
D’Artagnan moved to an estate close to the court to watch for palace intrigues. He was particularly interested in the plans of Aramis, who was trying to become a cardinal and planning to betray the king to secure his ends. D’Artagnan, interested in adventure for the sake of adventure, was devoted to the king.
As the affair between Louise and the king continued, Madame, the sister-in-law of Louis, also in love with him, grew jealous and determined to send for Raoul to have him marry Louise at once. The queen mother and the young queen disapproved thoroughly of the flirtation of Madame with the king and told her so. Madame then decided that the quickest solution would be to send Mademoiselle de la Valliere away from the court. At the same time the king learned that Louise had at one time returned Raoul de Bragelonne’s affection. In a fit of envy and jealousy, he decided to forget her. Madame ordered Louise to leave at once.
Brokenhearted, Louise resolved to enter a convent. In her flight, however, she encountered D’Artagnan, who took her under his protection and informed the king of her whereabouts. Louis went to her immediately. Convinced of her love, he returned with her to the court. Plotters in the king’s pay had a secret trapdoor constructed from Louise’s rooms to those of Saint-Aignan, a gentleman of the king, and Louis and Louise were able to meet there after Madame had made their other meetings impossible. In London Raoul heard what was happening and rushed to France. He arrived at Louise’s apartments just as the king was entering by the secret door. Realizing that the rumors he had heard were true, he went away in despair.
Aramis, who had now become General of the Jesuits, was visited by an elderly duchess who wished to sell him certain letters from Mazarin which would ruin his friend Fouquet. When he refused to buy them, she sold them to Colbert, Fouquet’s rival and enemy. Aramis, learning of the transaction, hurried to warn Fouquet, who assured Aramis that the supposed theft of state funds attributed to him in the letters was credited by a receipt in his possession. The receipt, however, had been stolen. Furthermore, Colbert had arranged for Fouquet to sell his position of procureur-general. With his immense financial backing, Aramis was able to rescue Fouquet.
Raoul de Bragelonne was grieved and angry at Louise’s faithlessness. He challenged Saint-Aignan to a duel, and Porthos promised to act as his foster son’s second. Saint-Aignan, however, revealed the matter to the king. Then Athos publicly denounced Louis over the proposed duel. When the king ordered D’Artagnan to arrest Athos, D’Artagnan, by his honest fearlessness, won a pardon for his old friend.
Backed by Aramis, Fouquet grandly and recklessly humiliated Colbert in the king’s presence. He announced a great fete at his estate in honor of the king. Although temporarily eclipsed, Colbert vowed revenge. Fouquet, as minister of the king’s finances, was tottering under the growing strength of his enemy Colbert, and he hoped the fete would secure his position.
Aramis, through his influence with Monsieur de Baisemeaux, the governor of the Bastille, visited a prisoner there and revealed to him that he was actually the twin brother of Louis XIV. The conspirators planned to put him on the throne in place of Louis. Aramis then busied himself to learn the details of the king’s costume for the fete, for he planned to substitute the twin brother Philippe for Louis during the grand ball. Although both D’Artagnan and Porthos were suspicious of Aramis, they could prove nothing.
Aramis freed the young prince from the Bastille and coached him thoroughly in the details of the role he was to play. By means of trapdoors in Fouquet’s house, Aramis overpowered Louis XIV and hustled him off to the Bastille to replace the released prince. Philippe, in gratitude, was to make Aramis as powerful in the kingdom as Richelieu had been.
Aramis, however, made a grave error in revealing his deeds to Fouquet. When Fouquet heard of the abduction of the king, the minister, hoping to win the king’s gratitude, rushed to the Bastille and freed Louis. Aramis and Porthos fled hastily. D’Artagnan was instructed to capture Philippe, cover his face with an iron mask to hide his resemblance to the king, and imprison him for life in the Ile Sainte-Marguerite fortress. He faithfully executed these orders.
Raoul de Bragelonne, who had never forgiven the king for stealing Louise de la Valliere, decided to kill himself as soon as possible and joined the Duc de Beaufort on a campaign to Africa. When he went to say good-bye to his father, Athos realized sadly that he would never see his son again.
Louis XIV insisted that D’Artagnan arrest Fouquet, despite Fouquet’s efforts in the king’s behalf. After a mad chase in which both of their horses were raced to death, D’Artagnan captured Fouquet. Colbert then rose completely to power.
D’Artagnan was ordered by the king to go to Belle-Isle-en-Mer to take the fortress in which Aramis and Porthos were hiding and to shoot the conspirators. D’Artagnan, too good a friend of each of the plotters to take their lives, planned to capture the fortress but to allow the two to escape. Louis had realized that this possibility might occur and had forewarned his officers so that D’Artagnan’s scheme failed and he was ordered to return to France. A fierce battle ensued at Belle-Isle, and Porthos was killed after many deeds of great heroism. Aramis escaped to Bayonne.
D’Artagnan, out of favor with the king over his disobedience to orders, resigned his position as captain of the Musketeers and the king accepted, only to send for him later to ask him to take back his resignation. D’Artagnan agreed and won a pardon from the king for Aramis, who had settled in Spain.
Athos died of shock upon hearing that his son had been killed in Africa; they were buried in a double funeral. Louise de la Valliere, who had been replaced as the king’s mistress by a younger favorite, attended the funeral. There D’Artagnan reproached her for causing the deaths of both Athos and Raoul de Bragelonne.
D’Artagnan remained in the service of Louis XIV and died four years later while fighting against the Dutch. His death came only a few moments after he had received the baton of a marshal of France.
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