“One for all!” – “All for one!”
Which one of us did not, with his head full of sonsense and a whip in his hand, take this oath before he attacked his friends with a bright red head?
Invented by the French author Alexandre Dumas and since then distributed in numerous penny magazines and television films, the musketeer D´Artagnan is one of the modern archetypes of our culture, comparable only to Don Quixote or Prince Hamlet.
But few know that the figure of D´Artagnan is based on a historical personality whose life was as interesting as that of the invented figure.
Charles de Batz de Castelmore (1613-1673), known as the Comte d’Artagnan, moved to Paris at a young age, where he, like his older brothers, wanted to join the musketeers. But since he had never been in military service before, his application was rejected.
But only a few years later, his achievements in campaigns in Flanders and important supporters, such as the Commander of the Musketeers or Colbert, the Finance Minister of France, made it possible for him to put on the desired dress.
In 1646, however, Cardinal Mazarin, the leading Minister of State, dissolved the Musketeers’ Guard and the soldiers had to find shelter in other regiments. D’Artagnan, however, could do without this humiliating change, because at this time he was already Mazarin’s personal courier (messenger, diplomat and secret agent in equal parts) and accompanied him into exile to Brühl in 1651.
But a few years later, after the Musketeers Company was reestablished, we see him again with the troops, with whom he remained until the end of his life.
Throughout his life D´Artagnan belonged to the closest circle of trust around Louis XIV. Already in the times of the Fronde he had guarded the little prince and when the young king traveled to his later wife, the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain, he was one of the chosen ones who were allowed to accompany the young king.
In 1667, D´Artagnan was finally at the destination of his dreams, when he was appointed Captain Lieutenant of the “Première compagnie des Mousquetaires” (First Company of Musketeers).
In the winter of 1672, he returned to the field and took a command in the Franco-Dutch War. During the siege of Maastricht, he was involved in the nightly storming of an advance bastion of the fortress, which was reconquered by the Dutch the following morning.
Against his better judgement, D’Artagnan was persuaded to launch another attack, which was successful but cost the old Musketeer his life.
On the same evening Louis XIV wrote to his wife: “My lady, I have lost d’Artagnan, in whom I had great confidence.