THE WORLD OF THE MUSKETEERS
The show throws us into the early 17th Century - specifically, the era of Louis XIII, a monarch who isn't quite as in control of his nation as he thinks he is. No, the real influence belongs to the ominous Cardinal Richelieu: a ruthless schemer who is very much the power behind the throne, and believes his desires happen to be what's best for France.
For all his cunning and awesome might, the Cardinal is not un-challenged. Step forward, Porthos, Athos and Aramis, the three musketeers, and their new young friend D'Artagnan, a farm boy who is determined to join their hallowed ranks. This band of raucous rapscallions may be fond of drinking, laughing and womanizing, but they're also fiercely devoted to king and country, and will do whatever it takes to carry out deadly missions and defy the sinister forces of Richelieu.
WHAT WERE THE MUSKETEERS, ANYWAY?
So do the musketeers of myth bear any resemblance to the real-life soldiers of 17th Century France? Surprisingly, yes. This is one of those rare examples of real-life being every bit as exciting and awe-inspiring as the legend. The real-life musketeers truly were an elite fighting force created by the king, and renowned for their devil-may-care boldness, brash fighting style, and lofty position in society.
Fighting in military campaigns as well as serving in a more domestic capacity as the monarch's trusted guards, these swashbucklers even inspired the creation of a rival group of musketeers who were in service to Cardinal Richelieu, and there was a raging rivalry between the two. As the decades went on, the musketeers were disbanded and reformed, before ultimately vanishing from French society in 1816, several decades before a certain novel by Alexandre Dumas would make them immortal.
REWORKING A CLASSIC TALE
This is the latest adaptation of The Three Musketeers, one of the books that made Alexandre Dumas a huge celebrity of 19th Century France. Dumas, who had an almost magical ability to turn out book after book, also gave us The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask. Thanks to these romantic, rip-roaring sagas, he became one of the richest, most flamboyant figures of his time, known for his big spending, lavish parties and dozens of mistresses.
Dumas did also this while overcoming a fair amount of racial prejudice due to being mixed-race. He was, in fact, the grandson of a Haitian slave woman who had become involved with a French nobleman. His father had also overcome the bigotry of the age by becoming a top-ranking general in the French army, fighting under Napoleon. Dumas Senior's exploits would partly inspire his son's tales of adventure.
THE REAL D'ARTAGNAN
The Three Musketeers wasn't actually the first novel to chronicle the exploits of D'Artagnan and his musketeer mates. Dumas had been inspired by a previous book, The Memoirs of D'Artagnan, by a writer called Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras, who had in turn been inspired by the adventures of the real-life D'Artagnan.
Yes, there really had been a musketeer called D'Artagnan who'd engaged in various escapades on behalf of the French state. And that's not all: his three famous comrades were also based on real musketeers - Isaac de Portau (Porthos), Henry D'Aramitz (Aramis) and Armand d'Athos et d'Autevielle (Athos). Admittedly, the intricate details of these real people's careers have been lost in time, but it's still interesting to know that the dashing, larger-than-life heroes of The Musketeers had historical counterparts who really did strut the streets of France... all for one and one for all.