A sequel to The Three Musketeers

TWENTY YEARS AFTER by Alexandre Dumas (1845) is the first sequel to The Three Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers was the first and maybe the best of the swashbuckling action-adventure novels.  I enjoyed it a lot, and I enjoyed this sequel, too.  It would make a highly enjoyable TV miniseries.

The first novel ended with the 20-year-old D’Artagnan being rewarded for her heroism with a commission as lieutenant in the King’s Musketeers.  As this one begins, he is a hardened veteran of 40, somewhat embittered  at never having been promoted further.

Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII are dead.  France is ruled by Cardinal Mazarin, an Italian, and the widowed Queen Anne, a Spaniard,  who is regent for the 10-year-old Louis XIV.

D’Artagnan happens to command a military escort to protect Mazarin from the rebellious Paris mob one night, and Mazarin, impressed by his professionalism, takes the trouble to learn his history.

He asks D’Artagnan to reassemble his team—Aramis, who’s entered the Catholic priesthood; Porthos, who’s married a rich widows; and Athos, who has resumed his life as a high-ranking nobleman.

But D’Artagnan only succeeds in recruiting Porthos.  Unknown to him, Aramis and Athos have joined the Fronde—a coalition of rebellious nobles and commoners united against oppressive taxation and foreign influence.

Mazarin wants them to carry a message to Oliver Cromwell that he will not oppose Cromwell’s overthrow of King Charles I and persecution of Catholics if Cromwell will not support the Fronde or attempt to protect French Protestants.

Also unknown to him, Cromwell’s emissary, Mordaunt, is the son of the evil Lady De Winter, who has sworn vengeance on the musketeers for supervising the execution of his mother for her crimes.

When D’Artagnan and Porthos reach England, they meet Athos and Aramis, who persuade them to change sides. 

D’Artagnan’s idea is that as a soldier, his duty is to obey orders, and that, as a Frenchman, he has no concern with what happens in England.

But Athos convinces him that he has a higher duty, a duty to the idea of royalty, which stands for everything that noble and honorable.  Oliver Cromwell, in this version, is neither; he is suspicious, cunning and ruthless, like a Mafia don.

The four attempt to save King Charles, but D’Artagnan’s various plans are thwarted by Mordaunt, who nearly succeeds in killing the four musketeers as well.

Mazarin is naturally angry at D’Artagnan’s disobedience of orders, but through a combination of force, blackmail and Queen Anne’s influence, he gets a promotion to captain and rewards for all his friends.

The theme of the novel is how to maintain your integrity and sense of honor in a corrupt age—which is still relevant today.

Athos is a model of an ideal aristocrat, who never deviates from his code of proper behavior.  All the others look up to him.  But his sense of chivalry is exploited by the unscrupulous Mordaunt and almost costs him his life.

D’Artagnan, like the hero of a hard-boiled detective story, manages to balance doing his duty and maintaining his self-respect with looking out for himself.  He can’t be tricked or fooled.

All four have a strong sense of honor and loyalty.  Honor means, among other things, always keeping your word and never backing down from a fight. Loyalty, including loyalty to a king, is personal.  It is loyalty to individuals, not to a religious or political faction.

Athos’ belief in royalty, though, is loyalty to an ideal, which is independent of the personal qualifies of actual existing monarchs.  I can understand this.   I believe in certain ideas about American freedom and democracy that I was taught as a schoolboy, which are independent of the qualities of the people who happen to occupy political office.

All four characters in the original novel had servants, who were just as brave and resourceful as they were, but were content to be servants.  Three of them sill serve their original masters, but D’Artagnan’s Plancet has struck out on his own, and turns up as member of the Fronde when the rebels take control of Paris.

D’Artagnan has the mission of smuggling the royal family out of Paris.  When they pass a checkpoint manned by Planchet, he unhesitatingly lets them pass.  Personal loyalty comes before factional loyalty.

Athos has a foster son, Raoul, who joins the French army as a junior officer at age 15 and goes off to fight the Spanish.  He receives no military training, although, as a well-brought-up young aristocrat, he knows horsemanship and the use of weapons.

Evidently people grew up more quickly in the days when life was shorter.  Louis XIV will assume his full powers as king at age 14.

One aspect of the novel that would never be depicted on TV today, although it was perfectly acceptable in action-adventure movies in the 1930-1960 period, is D’Artagnan’s treatment of women.

He lives with his good-looking landlady, whose husband has run off—possibly because he is scared of D’Artagnan.  When D’Artagnan is wounded and missing in action, the landlady takes in another boarder, a giant Swiss mercenary soldier.

D’Artagnan returns and challenges the Swiss to a duel.  He punctures the Swiss a couple of times and leaves him with a non-mortal wound and an address for alternative housing.

He then returns and tells the landlady that, because of her unfaithfulness, he is moving out.  She begs him at length to reconsider, and he relents.

I do not, of course, read Alexandre Dumas’ historical novels for their implied philosophy of life.  I read them for enjoyment.  If you ever enjoyed an Errol Flynn movie, you might enjoy them, too.

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2 Responses to “A sequel to The Three Musketeers”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    “The Man in the Iron Mask”, which is a section of this larger novel, has been made into a movie several times, most notably with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons and Gerard Depardieu. I agree that the novel in toto would make a marvelous mini-series.


    • philebersole Says:

      Actually The Man in the Iron Mask is the third part of a second sequel, entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, or Ten Years Later. I may get around to reading and reviewing it one of these days.


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