When a film is successful, it is the norm for a sequel to be produced, which may or may not be as good. The same applies for novels, to some extent. Popular modern trilogies, like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams or His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman are read over and over by the reading public.
The same applies to classics. In this case, a certain novel about a certain Gascon vying to become a Musketeer was so good that a sequel was soon published.
Twenty Years After
Taking place twenty years after the events in the acclaimed The Three Musketeers, the legendary d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have all settled down to their own lives in a new régime. Louis XIII is dead, and the wily 'Red Duke', Cardinal Richelieu - foe of the Musketeers, who struggled to protect the Queen from his schemes - has also gone. Life, it seems, has been sweet for the past twenty years.
However, as per usual, there is a problem.
D'Artagnan is not a happy man. It has been twenty years since his last promotion, and Queen Anne, the widow of Louis XIII and acting regent of the infant King Louis, is right under the thumb of Richelieu's successor, Mazarin. It is effectively Mazarin who controls France, and the people of France are not happy. Chaos reigns, and even some of France's nobility are siding with the populace. The Bastille is filling up with more traitors, thanks to Mazarin's powerful hand.
When d'Artagnan is called to run an errand for the machiavellian Cardinal, he is embroiled in intrigues and plots that take him all the way from the disorder of France to the Civil War between Parliament and King Charles I in England. Who better to call to help you than the noble Athos, the strong-armed Porthos and the silver-tongued Aramis?
Twenty years can change a person drastically. Whether you choose to be on the Cardinal's, or the Fronde's1 side, you have to decide where your loyalties lie, or you might just lose your head.
Many of these characters are from the first novel in the series, but a gap of twenty years in their adventures has given their characters enough time to mature into other things.
When we left him at the end of The Three Musketeers, d'Artagnan was a plucky twenty year-old, looking to fulfil his dream of becoming a Musketeer. However, after the tragic consequences leading to the murder of his lover by his nemesis, Milady, d'Artagnan is now a lieutenant in the Musketeers - seasoned and grey, hoping for a promotion and ready to do anything to get it.
He has never forgotten his three friends, and often wonders what has become of them, for they all retired from active service a long time back. Twenty years on, d'Artagnan has a hard choice in front of him when the Cardinal requests the musketeer to perform an errand for him, which could involve his death at the hands of those who love him.
Presently, d'Artagnan lives at the Hôtel de la Chevrette, Rue Tiquetonne, Paris.
Having inherited an estate near Blois, the noble-looking Musketeer of The Three Musketeers puts all rumour to rest when he returns to his own name of the Comte de la Fère. Having settled down to family life with his adopted son, Raoul, Athos is happy.
However, when d'Artagnan turns up on his doorstep unexpectedly, it seems that Athos is subconsciously aware that there is an intrigue afoot, and that if one of the 'fab four' is involved in it, they all certainly will be.
Athos now lives at the Château de Bragalonne, which he has entailed upon Raoul.
Filthy rich and fat, Porthos is living the society high life. After the death of his wife, whose previous husband left a large legacy, Porthos went and bought himself a few more estates, and he is now known to his household as Monsieur du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds. However, the cherry on the top of the exceedingly good cake would be for Porthos to become a baron. He needs some luck for that to happen, certainly.
Enter d'Artagnan, looking for some help upon an important errand for 'Monsieur le Cardinal'. Would Porthos be willing to do anything for this barony, even if it means siding with the Cardinal?
Due to his numerous estates, Porthos has settled himself for the moment at his most recent acquisition, the Château de Pierrefonds.
Is he a priest or is he a Musketeer at heart? Well, one thing is for certain - Aramis would not be able to tell you. The Chevalier d'Herblay became an abbé2 after disappearing without a trace, along with his faithful retainer, Bazin. Little has been heard of the religious charmer since.
Well-acquainted with the ladies of the court, Aramis is admired by many for his eloquent style and charm. These favours cause him choose his side based on the love of Madame de Longueville, a Frondeur. But when d'Artagnan asks for his help with the Cardinal's task, will Aramis switch sides for an old friendship, or stay put for a budding romance?
Little is known of Aramis's current abode, but the grapevine suggests that he is in a Jesuit convent near Noisy.
Raoul is the adopted son of Athos. Sixteen years ago, he was discovered by the Musketeer at the abode of a monk, with a note reading: 'Oct. 11 1633'. Athos took the boy under his wing and Raoul has grown up idolising his adoptive father, though not knowing who his real parents are. As Athos has entailed the Bragalonne estate upon him, Raoul bears the title of the Vicomte de Bragalonne.
Raoul is set on following the footsteps of Athos, even up to the extent of falling in love young, having a sweet spot for the seven-year-old Louise de la Vallière.
The man from Italy who appears to have the question 'Why does everybody hate me?' branded upon his head. Giulio Mazarini takes Cardinal 'Does my goatee look big in this?' Richelieu's position. He effectively rules France through his influence over the Queen, via their love affair. Loyal men are difficult to find, and Mazarin has to delve deep into past events to find the people he needs.
If there is a selection of splattered rotten vegetables all over the walls and windows of the Louvre, then it is highly likely that they are aimed at Mazarin. The Frondeurs especially have fun, often singing their favourite rioting chant:
A breeze from the Fronde
I think that it blows
Giulio Mazarini (1602-1661) was a protege of Richelieu, originally sent to France by the Pope to negotiate with the Cardinal. Though a man of the cloth, Mazarini had not taken any of the orders that forbade marriage, and his relationship with the Queen certainly suggested that they were married. Mazarini's rise in power made him the envy of the nobility, and raising taxes made him very unpopular with the populace. However, his tact as a diplomat was well-known, following his alliance with Oliver Cromwell and ending of the Thirty Years War with Germany in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia.
Queen Anne/Anne of Austria
What is a woman to do for twenty years? After the tragic murder of her long-distance lover, the Duke of Buckingham, Anne is acting as Queen Regent for her son. However, she is wrapped around Mazarin's little finger, and orders that have her name on it are most probably Mazarin's. At 46, this woman has been through a lot of trouble and strife, so to speak, and has lately forgotten the band of men who saved her honour twenty years ago, though the memories of her lost Buckingham still have a place in her heart.
Anne would prefer not to be reminded of past events, and spends most of her time in the Louvre with the young King Louis.
Anne of Austria (1601-1666) ruled France as Queen Regent for her son after the death of Louis XIII in 1643. She worked closely with Cardinal Mazarin in France's affairs during the riots of the Fronde (1648 - 1653). They were almost certainly lovers, and perhaps even married. She died in 1666 of breast cancer.
King Louis XIV
He is ten years old, and he already has a rather grand attitude. Louis XIV has a firm dislike of the Cardinal and his relationship with his mother. Quite unaware of the fact that his people are revolting, he often finds himself playing with his mother or sent to sleep when she has to deal with official matters.
King Louis XIV (1638 - 1715), labelled the 'Sun King' due to his extravagant clothing, was an infant when he came to the throne, so his mother acted as Regent for him. However, he did not ascend to power until the death of Mazarin.
King Charles I
It is coming to the end of the Civil War, and Charles is in a spot of bother. The King of England is being reduced to a traitor to his own country. Separated from his wife and children, Charles is waiting for a miracle to occur. He is humble and vulnerable, and rewards those who risk his life for him.
Charles had better tread carefully, or he might lose his place to the parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell, and also his head.
King Charles I of England (1600 - 1649) made himself very unpopular with the public and Parliament by imposing several taxes that appeared not to have any point. The first of this was Ship Tax, which is charged only to coastal counties. Unfortunately, this was extended to the inland counties. Charles also decided that he could rule perfectly without Parliament and dissolved it early - only to realise that he needed it, following which he opened it again. Suffice to say, this made Parliament rather miffed, especially with Charles's insistence that he was top dog due to the 'Divine Right of Monarchs'3. Charles's downfall came when he was betrayed by the Scots and handed over to the English. Charles was put on trial and sentenced to death by a majority of just one vote. He was executed at Whitehall on Tuesday 30 January, 1649.
Charles is portrayed as a fairly nice and troubled man, but Dumas obviously departed from reality in here - in real life, Charles was a complete prat of a man.
Queen Henrietta Maria
Having fled the English Civil War for her home country of France, the younger sister of Louis XIII is staying in the Louvre, listening for news about her husband, King Charles, hoping that the problems will go away and they will be together again with their family. Unfortunately, though she is part of the French Royal Family, Henrietta Maria has been slighted by Cardinal Mazarin. He has neglected to pay her allowance, causing Henrietta Maria to live in far from ideal circumstances. Basically, she needs help. And that help comes in the form of a certain pair of former Musketeers.
Henrietta Maria is a meek woman, seemingly like Anne of Austria twenty years before her. Unfortunately, her sister-in-law appears not to have any sympathy for her plight.
Henrietta Maria married Charles I in 1625, and was said to be devoted and loyal to her husband, even through the troubles of the Civil War. Her Catholic beliefs often put her under the spotlight in England as a suspected plotter against the country. When she fled to France, the Queen Consort tried her best to secure foreign aid for her husband. After the Restoration of the English monarchy, she returned to England, but moved back to France in 1665. Her firm Catholic faith may have had a strong effect on her sons, Charles II and James II, as Charles II converted to Catholicism on his deathbed, and James II attempted to change England back into a Catholic country.
He is the leader of the Parliamentarians and frankly, the quicker Charles is disposed of, the better he will feel. Oliver Cromwell is sneaky, underhand, and very Richelieu-esque in his manner.
The son of a farmer, Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1658) rose to power in Parliament because of his military skills, being promoted second-in-command to Sir Thomas Fairfax. It was Cromwell's 'New Model Army' that defeated Charles I's Royalists at the Battle of Naseby. Originally, Cromwell opted for a moderate settlement with the King, until the King was discovered to have been conspiring with the Scots. After the execution of Charles I, Cromwell became Protector of Britain, the only time the country has been a republic.
Banning Christmas, football and drinking alcohol may not have been his best public relations move, but he was merely furthering his Puritan beliefs. After Cromwell's death, he left the country to his son, Richard, who promptly returned it back to the monarchy.
Mordaunt could be described as the 'spawn of Satan'. He is the son of Milady, and is hell-bent on revenge, as you might be if it took five men to kill one woman. Despite knowing of the rather evil things his mother did, such as killing his uncle, seducing a man to kill the Duke of Buckingham, poisoning d'Artagnan's girlfriend, and other such nefarious doings, he just responds with the fact:
She was my mother!
Though the plot is not held together all that well, in this Researcher's opinion4, if you are left chafing at the bit for more after the brilliant Three Musketeers, then it is a worthwhile read.
After all, when d'Artagnan's in town, you have to make sure your wits are as sharp as your sword.