The Three Musketeers is a story written about by Alexandre Dumas (1844) about the exploits of a young Gascon and how he meets a group of French soldiers noted for their muskets and fierce swordplay and swashbuckling exploits. Dumas was famous for taking historical facts and weaving them into a story worth repeating over and over. While the specific events of the book are left to Dumas’ imagination, the people were loosely based upon historical fact. The Three Musketeers has been translated into hundreds of languages and has been turned into numerous movies, television shows, and cartoons. There is even a candy bar named after the famous trio.
Born in the village of Lupiac around 1615 (he was actually older than most of the other musketeers – not a young man as the book suggests) and moved to Auch in Gascony, D’Artagnan’s real name is Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan. He later was made Comte d’Artagnan (Count d’Artagnan). D’Artagnan was a very good fighter and a trusted ally to the king and he eventually made it to become Captain of the Musketeers. He was killed by a musketball to the neck at the Siege of Maastricht in the summer of 1673 – just feet from the great, great, great grandfather of Winston Churchill. According to French Historian Odile Bordaz, D’Artagnan was buried in St. Peter and Paul Church in Wolder, Holland.
Armand de Sillegue d’Athos, born in 1615 is the man who would be immortalized as the melancholy Athos who pined for the woman he had killed. In real life, Athos was a Lord of Sillegue, Athos, and Autivielle who probably didn’t have to worry too much about anything. He was the first cousin, twice removed to the Comte d’ Troisville – the Head of the Musketeers, who’s letter D’Artagnan carried in the book – and was cousins with another famous person, Porthos. According to the Memoirs of D’Artagnan (published in 1700 – 27 years after D’Artagnan’s death), D’Artagnan saved Athos’ life and was made a musketeer in 1640. He was killed three years later, in a duel, and buried near Paris.
Henri, Seigneur d’Aramitz was a clergyman and musketeer – just as Dumas describes him in the story. He was born around 1620 to noble parents and was renowned as a swordsman. His uncle, the Comte d’ Troisville, called him to Paris to fight alongside his other two cousins, Athos and Porthos (do you see where this is going?). He became a musketeer in 1640 along with Athos and met with D’Artagnan only once (remember, Aramis is 9 years younger than the D’Artagnan). However, this was written in the memoirs of D’Artagnan and subsequently made it into Dumas’ book. Aramis stayed in the musketeers until 1648 when his father died. He married and had two children and later became the Abbot of Béarn. Sources are conflicted when he passed on, but it is around 1674.
Isaac de Porthau is the real name of the mighty Porthos. He was born in 1617, the eldest of four children in Béarn where his father was the secretary of the Parliament. He was also cousins with Athos, Aramis and the Comte d’ Troisville. His brother, Jean de Porthau was also a musketeer and may have led to some of the legend formed around Porthos. Porthos, unlike his character, joined the musketeers in 1642 – two years after his cousins, and stayed on until his father’s death in 1654. Then, he returned to Béarn to live out the rest of his days with his family and as the Secretary of the Parliament. Porthos died of a stroke in 1712 and is buried at St. Martin.
Together, the three musketeers were called “les trois frères” (the three brothers) and this is where Dumas got the idea for his famous novel.
5. Cardinal Richelieu: (1585-1642) Richelieu was the King’s chief minister and subsequently was almost dead by the time the three musketeers came around. Even Athos outlived him. In the books, he is the chief antagonist along with his henchmen and the ever-present Duchesse de Winter (who also existed AND stole diamonds from the Duke of Buckingham). She was actually the Countess of Carlisle. Her real name is Lucy Hay, and was a spy during the English Civil War. She died in 1660 – years after Athos would have tried to stop her from losing her head. It’s too bad, too. She spent two years in the Tower of London for her political views.