(Essentials of European Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 2059 words.)