25 June 1673, 340 years ago during the French siege of Maastricht, the 62 years old captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan, died in battle.
“My son, be worthy of your noble name, worthily borne by your ancestors for over five hundred years. Remember it’s by courage, and courage alone, that a nobleman makes his way nowadays. Don’t be afraid of opportunities, and seek out adventures. My son, all I have to give you is fifteen ecus, my horse, and the advice you’ve just heard. Make the most of these gifts, and have a long, happy life.” (Alexandre Dumas, “The Three Musketeers”)
|Jean Alaux (1785 - 1864): Musketeers in the storming of Valenciennes, March 17, 1677|
The man whose name became a byword for “musketeer”, “daredevilry involving bladed weapons” and Van Dyke beards was born around 1610 at the family castle of Castlemore near Lupiac, halfway between Bayonne and Toulouse in Gascony. His father probably was a Gentleman at Arms of King Henry IV and died in his service during one of the many assassination attempts on lo nòstre bon rei Enric. If the House of de Batz-Castelmore really was impoverished nobility as Dumas narrates in his novel is improbable. His mother’s side, de d’Artagnans, a side branch of the Dukes of Armagnac, certainly wasn’t.
|Mousquetaires du Roi -19th century imagination|
Young Charles used his mother’s name to gain acceptance in Paris society, and by influence of a friend of the family, the Comte de Troisville (fictionalised as Monsieur de Tréville by Dumas), found reception in the Compagnie des Essarts des Gardes Françaises and saw action in Roussillon and Flanders during the early 1640s. D’Artagnan joined the Musketeers of the Guard in 1644 and was noticed by Cardinal Mazarin who used him as courier and bodyguard of his godson King Louis XIV, who seemed to came to trust the musketeer captain since he was entrusted with various secret missions, the best known being the arrest of Superintendent of Finances Fouquet who tried to scheme himself into the role of Mazarin at Louis’ court. When Fouquet’s death sentence was changed into lifelong imprisonment, d’Artagnan was charged with guarding him, probably because of his alleged incorruptibility.
|Maurice Leloir (1851-1940): The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (illustration of the Appleton edition)|
In 1667 d’Artagnan was promoted captaine-lieutenant in the newly formed “grey musketeers”, the first company of the Musketeers of the Guard, and created count for his services to the crown. During the Franco-Dutch War(1672 – 78), d’Artagnan took part in the siege of Maastricht and, leading his company to take a bastion in the Dutch defense works, was hit by a musket ball in the throat and died. 27 years later his life was fictionalised by the novelist Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras in the style of memoirs, the source for Dumas’ three d’Artagnan Romances (“The Three Musketeers“, “Twenty Years After“ and “The Vicomte de Bragelonne“ (“The Man in the Iron Mask”))