The last secrets of d’Artagnan, faceless servant of the Sun King
Everything is false, and yet everything is true. Everything is mixed with d’Artagnan, fiction and reality. Everything is blurred, the legend of a flamboyant hero with a conquering face and the story of a servant of the Sun King with little-known features. Everything is tangled up, fake exploits and real boldness, to the point that many people, including in France, still think today that this character is pure invention. The Gascon musketeer did indeed exist, just like his companions, the Béarnais Athos, Porthos and Aramis. And his real life can rival that of the fiery swordsman magnified by the romantic verve of Alexandre Dumas – and by the shadowy work of his collaborator Auguste Maquet. There is action, mystery, character, heroism. But also some gray areas…
D’Artagnan. Three and a half centuries after his death, his name still stimulates the imagination of children and feeds the fantasies of adults, for whom he remains a hero adorned with all the virtues – courage, solidarity, panache, earthiness and seduction. Published between 1844 and 1850, the famous trilogy by Dumas (The three Musketeers, The Viscount of Bragelonne And twenty years later) was translated into a hundred languages before being taken up in the form of plays, comics, manga and blockbuster films, such as The three Musketeers. D’Artagnan, in theaters since April 5. So many works that propelled the musketeer to the pantheon of globalized heroic figures.
A myth ? Not only. The Gascon hero did not cross the Channel to recover the queen’s studs; he didn’t play hide and seek with the sulphurous Milady, with the tattooed fleur-de-lys; then child or adolescent, he obviously did not participate in the famous siege of La Rochelle. But for the character to come out of the novel and enter the story, it is necessary to disentangle the true from the false, mixed with greed by the duo Dumas-Maquet, who fired all wood on the basis of the Apocryphal Memoirs of D’Artagnan, written by a certain Courtilz de Sandras in 1700.
What do we discover then? An incredible life of baroud and adventures for Louis XIV’s confidant, who carried out the most perilous and delicate missions, sometimes secret, in the service of a sovereign to whom he was bound by unwavering loyalty. The one who will become captain-lieutenant of the first company of the king’s musketeers, “one of the most beautiful offices in the kingdom”, according to Colbert, finds itself permanently at the heart of the ongoing history of the reign of Louis XIV. Until the sacrifice, his death in battle during the siege of Maastricht in 1673. “D’Artagnan and glory have the same coffin”, then declaims the poet Juliani de Saint-Blaise as an epitaph. He speaks of the real d’Artagnan, that of Lupiac, a small village today located in the Gers department. The very one whose France has chosen to commemorate this year on the 350e death anniversary.
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