Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas
Twenty Years After

I can’t help admiring Dumas' audacious writing style with The Musketeers series, as he essentially takes a few important events in history and tweaks them a bit, adds extra drama and adventure, condenses the timescales, and inserts his own fictional characters into real events! But it's wonderful, gripping, immersive reading! His passion for France shines through these books too, which is another thing I love. I find some parts of the books hard-going and they are enormous books to tackle, and I realise my knowledge of French history isn't good so I often need to step away from the novel in order to read more about the events and characters that he mentions, but it's always worth it as it’s all so fascinating (and I always love a good Wikipedia rabbit hole to go down!), and when you add Dumas' extra twirls of drama and adventure to these historical events and characters then they become even more gripping and exciting to read. I honestly often find myself gasping out loud when reading these books!

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I can’t help admiring Dumas’ audacious writing style with The Musketeers series, as he essentially takes a few important events in history and tweaks them a bit, adds extra drama and adventure, condenses the timescales, and inserts his own fictional characters into real events! But it’s wonderful, gripping, immersive reading! His passion for France shines through these books too, which is another thing I love. I find some parts of the books hard-going and they are enormous books to tackle, and I realise my knowledge of French history isn’t good so I often need to step away from the novel in order to read more about the events and characters that he mentions, but it’s always worth it as it’s all so fascinating (and I always love a good Wikipedia rabbit hole to go down!), and when you add Dumas’ extra twirls of drama and adventure to these historical events and characters then they become even more gripping and exciting to read. I honestly often find myself gasping out loud when reading these books!

This book is set in about 1647-8. Cardinal Mazarin is the French minister. King Louis 14th is King, he became King at the age of five when his father died, but as he is still a child, now aged 10, people like Mazarin and Queen Anne of Austria (his mother) rule in his name. Mazarin is loyal to Queen Anne but not fully confident of her favour and loyalty to him, although he is believed to be her lover or possibly even married to her. Mazarin is very unpopular with the French people, as he has raised taxes on behalf of the King but the people blame Mazarin for this rather than the young King. Mazarin’s fellow councillors, Blancmesnil and Broussel in particular, have also protested against the raising of taxes so the people praise these men and criticise Mazarin even more. Mazarin is also unpopular with the other parliamentary members for selling seats in parliament. He is also Italian rather than French, which is another thing that causes him to be disliked. The increase in taxes has now led to mob violence and the Guards have been placed around the town to counteract this, but some of the Guards also criticise Mazarin because he is Italian and because they would prefer that the King gave them orders rather than Mazarin in the King’s name. The Guards are soldiers who are loyal to parliament and loyal to Mazarin, and the leader of the Guards is Comminges. The Musketeers are bodyguards to the royal family and loyal to them, but professionally loyal also to Mazarin and parliament, and their leader is Captain-Lieutenant Treville. D’Artagnan aspires to be the Captain-Lieutenant of the Musketeers, and is frustrated at the lack of responsibility and respect he currently has as a Lieutenant. This is the beginning of the Fronde Civil War in 1648. Hmmmm, I find myself struggling with quite what is happening, and which Louis is now King, and who is in parliament, and what the situation is in Paris at the time, as all of this seems to mirror real events such as the Fronde Civil War, and real characters such as the young King Louis 14th and Mazarin, but Dumas has tweaked things slightly and added fictional characters alongside the real characters. The explanatory notes at the back of my edition of the book are very useful in helping me understand more, but referring to these notes, particularly as often as I am now in the beginning, does interrupt the flow of the story. I am hoping I have understood all the main points correctly anyway. So the Three Musketeers book was set in about 1628, so about 20 years before this book. And I remember there was rivalry between the Guards and the Musketeers in the Three Musketeers book. And I am guessing that Mazarin has replaced Cardinal Richelieu from the Three Musketeers book.

Mazarin asks to be taken around the town to assess the situation ahead of rumours of a civil war, and D’Artagnan accompanies him in order to guard him from the mob. Mazarin is impressed with D’Artagnan’s cool head and lack of fear in the crowds, and decides to learn more about him. He asks one of the other guards about D’Artagnan’s history, but this guard isn’t keen to share the information he knows, but he does say that Rochefort can tell him more about D’Artagnan. As Rochefort has been in Bastille prison for five years, Mazarin believes that he can be forced to give him the information he desires. Ooooh, the Bastille, now even I’ve heard of that dreadful place, this reminds me of Charles Dickens’ book The Tale of Two Cities with Dr Manette imprisoned in The Bastille! And I remember Rochefort as the scarred man from the Three Musketeers book, who was Richelieu’s agent and who D’Artagnan frequently clashed swords with but ended up as friends with.

Mazarin tells D’Artagnan to fetch a prisoner from the Bastille, but doesn’t tell him who it is. D’Artagnan is surprised when he sees that the prisoner is Rochefort, as he had presumed he was dead. They talk together, both agreeing to speak well of the other to Mazarin, as Rochefort hopes for freedom and D’Artagnan hopes for more responsibilities at court. D’Artagnan tells Rochefort that he hasn’t seen Athos and Porthos and Aramis for some time, he only hears of them indirectly so knows they are alive but doesn’t know where they are in the world. On the journey to the prison, Rochefort reveals to D’Artagnan that he could at any time have shouted to the clearly discontented crowd and they would have likely rescued him and killed D’Artagnan, but that he didn’t do this as they are friends, although he’d have done it if the escort was anyone else. D’Artagnan privately wonders if he would have been such a good friend to Rochefort if their positions were reversed. Hmmm, I’m a bit surprised that D’Artagnan doesn’t suggest helping Rochefort to escape if he isn’t granted freedom by Mazarin, as they are friends and knowing it likely that Rochefort’s imprisonment is unjust. 

Mazarin tells Rochefort that it was Queen Anne who was displeased with him and caused him to be imprisoned, not Mazarin himself. Rochefort takes the chance to praise D’Artagnan to Mazarin and relates stories about D’Artagnan and his three friends, particularly them going to England to retrieve the jewel that Queen Anne had given to Buckingham, in order to foil Richelieu’s plot to destroy Queen Anne. Rochefort says he can’t name D’Artagnan’s friends however, as he doesn’t know their true names. Hmmm, I remember it was explained in the Three Musketeers book that because Porthos and Aramis were younger sons they then took different names so as not to be confused with their elder brothers, and Athos changed his name due to shame over his marriage to Milady. 

Rochefort then swears allegiance to Mazarin and Queen Anne. Mazarin tells Rochefort that he can be freed if he is willing to guard Mazarin’s enemy, Beaufort, in prison, but Rochefort says he can’t do this as Beaufort is his friend. Mazarin states that this therefore makes Rochefort his enemy so he must therefore go back to the Bastille, and then dismisses him. Oh no, poor Rochefort to be sent back to the Bastille!

Mazarin then asks Queen Anne about her friends from the past who defended her honour, and she praises D’Artagnan and the others wholeheartedly, particularly with how they tried to warn people about the planned assassination of Buckingham. She tells Mazarin that he is lucky to have D’Artagnan near him. Mazarin then speaks to D’Artagnan and asks him to gather his friends together as he has a mission for them, though he doesn’t share the details of this mission. D’Artagnan confirms that his friends have all now left the Musketeer service and gives Mazarin their names, Comte de la Fere aka Athos, Vallon aka Porthos, and Chevalier/Abbe d’Herblay aka Aramis. Later, D’Artagnan realises that he doesn’t know how to contact his friends as he either hasn’t ever had their addresses or has since lost them. While he is pondering this problem in his room, he discovers someone hidden there who had climbed through the window to escape the Guards. This is Planchet, D’Artagnan’s former servant. Planchet tells D’Artagnan that he was in the crowds who recently helped Rochefort escape, so he now needs to hide himself for fear of being imprisoned for aiding a prisoner. D’Artagnan decides they will say that Planchet is his landlady’s brother, in order to keep him safe. Hmmm, I can’t help remarking on the extremely handy coincidence that of all the people in the crowd needing to hide it is Planchet, and of all the rooms for him to climb into he climbs into D’Artagnan’s! But who am I to question romantic licence?! And yay, I am delighted that Rochefort has escaped the Bastille!

D’Artagnan asks Planchet if he knows the whereabouts of any of the previous Musketeers. Planchet doesn’t but he knows that Bazin, Aramis’ former servant, is now a local beadle and can be found at the local church. D’Artagnan therefore goes to the local church in search of Bazin, and finds Rochefort hiding there. They speak together and wish each other well. Hmmm, and another handy coincidence/romantic licence that Rochefort just happens to be hiding in the very church and at the very time that D’Artagnan goes there seeking Bazin! 

Bazin refuses to give Aramis’ address to D’Artagnan, as he suspects that D’Artagnan will lead Aramis away from his religious life. D’Artagnan then follows Bazin and overhears him saying that he is heading to a town called Noisy, so he presumes this is where Aramis is. D’Artagnan therefore goes to the town of Noisy and finds Aramis there. However, Aramis declines D’Artagnan’s proposal to reform the Three Musketeers and to take on the commision from Mazarin, stating doubts about Mazarin. D’Artagnan also learns from Aramis where Porthos is, so leaves to seek him, though he sneaks back to witness Aramis wooing Duchesse Longueville. Porthos is on his Bracieux lands, but due to successfully taking his neighbour to court he has now bought and lives on his neighbour’s estate of Pierrefonds, so Porthos is now called Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds. D’Artagnan discovers that Porthos is now rich and bored and lonely, due to his wife dying two years ago and them having been disliked by the neighbours so Porthos now doesn’t have any friends there. He therefore eagerly accepts D’Artagnan’s offer to take on Mazarin’s mission, on condition he is given a baronetcy. Porthos still has his manservant, Mousqueton, and Porthos also knows where Athos is. Yay, I am excited to have Athos introduced into the story again, I was waiting for him to be included, he was always my favourite from the Three Musketeers book.

D’Artagnan next goes to Athos. He is surprised to see that Athos has hardly aged, as D’Artagnan had expected him to be dull and inactive and old, due to drink, but he instead seems full of freshness and vitality. D’Artagnan is introduced to Raoul, the Vicomte Bragelonne, who bears a similarity to Athos, and he then begins to understand where this freshness and vitality in Athos may have come from. Athos explains to D’Artagnan that Raoul is an orphan who was left at a local priest’s house, and Athos has brought him up and Raoul sees him as a father-figure, but Athos also says that he himself has gained enormously by this relationship as it has made him strive to show a good example and therefore not give in to vices. D’Artagnan suspects that Raoul is actually Athos’ son. Raoul reports an accident to Athos, saying that Louise Valliere, who is Raoul’s sweetheart, has dislocated her ankle. D’Artagnan also asks Athos where Grimaud is, Athos’ valet, and Athos explains that he has lent him to a friend. D’Artagnan asks Athos if he will take on Mazarin’s mission with himself and Porthos, but Athos instead talks to D’Artagnan about Henry 4th’s daughter, Queen Madame Henrietta-Maria of England. He says that Queen Henrietta is the wife of King Charles 1st of England who is in battle with Cromwell, and she is also the sister of Louis 13th and is living in France, being a French citizen, but that Mazarin has not paid Queen Henrietta her allowance for some time so she and her daughter are currently living in poverty in a convent and relying on the charity of nuns. Athos is therefore critical of Mazarin and tells D’Artagnan that he doesn’t want to work for him. Oh god, I’m getting confused again with all these royal connections! So I am presuming that Queen Henrietta is the aunt of the present child-king Louis 14th and the sister-in-law of Queen Anne of Austria.

D’Artagnan points out that the three other Musketeers are all now contented in life, but that he himself has achieved nothing and has neither great rank or great money, and that Mazarin’s mission is therefore his chance to gain those things, but the others who could support him to do so all criticise Mazarin. He then receives a note from Mazarin summoning him to Paris and leaves immediately. Athos tells Raoul they will secretly go to Paris too. Ooooh, as I’ve mentioned, Athos was always my favourite of the Musketeers as he seemed to have more feelings and emotions and learned experiences than the others, and also to be more vulnerable and interesting and thoughtful because of these, and I like him just as much so far in this book. He again seems so different to the others who are selfishly consumed with money and grandeur and women and fighting, and he says wise and thoughtful things such as, ‘I was wasting away like a poor isolated tree which is losing its hold in the ground, it was only a strong attachment which could make me take root once more in life’, and when asked if he is happy, he responds ‘as happy as one is permitted to be on earth’, and he also declares that ‘friendship throws out very deep roots into sincere hearts’, and ‘when you can read her age upon the face of a woman, it is useless to ask it, when you can no longer do so, it is indiscreet’. I also like these descriptions of him, the ‘tender and deep way the heart of Athos could love’, and ‘he did not foretell the future, he knew the past, which is sometimes much worse’. Awww, bless him.

Beaufort was imprisoned by Mazarin for five years for plotting with Madame Chevreuse against Mazarin. He is the grandson of Henry 4th with one of his mistresses. One of the prison guards, Grimaud, gives Beaufort a letter from his mistress, Marie Montbazon, which informs him that his escape has been planned and that he can trust Grimaud. He is instructed to ask for a game of tennis and to send balls over the wall and then to call to the gardener to throw them back. He follows these instructions. Rochefort is the gardener, and there is another letter tucked into the ball thrown back to Beaufort, saying he needs to order a pie the following day and to break apart the pie when on his own as the pie will contain tools for his escape. Eeeek, it’s getting exciting with a potential prison escape! And again this reminds me a little of Charles Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities with messages being hidden inside seemingly innocuous items (in Dickens’ book, this being names hidden inside Madame Defarge’s knitting). And Athos’ valet, Grimaud, is one of the men guarding Beaufort, so I guess this means that Athos is aiding Beaufort’s escape. And Rochefort is part of it too. I’m getting a bit confused though with all these royal people and who is related to who, with mistresses being involved as well! So Queen Henrietta is Henry 4th’s daughter and sister of Louis 13th, so that must mean that Henry 4th is the father of Louis 13th and therefore grandfather of the current King. And I’m not going to attempt to work out Beaufort’s connection to the current King, with his mother being Henry 4th’s mistress!

Meanwhile, Athos and Raoul arrive in Paris. Athos instructs Raoul to dress smartly, as he wants to introduce him to a lady. Athos then goes to visit Madame Chevreuse. She was previously known as Marie Michon and was a great friend of Queen Anne, she plotted against Richelieu and then against Mazarin, and supported England against France. Athos reminds Madame Chevreuse of the time that, due to her plotting, she was at risk of imprisonment and that Queen Anne had warned her of this danger by sending her a book, which was a prearranged signal between them to alert the other of danger, so she and her maid, Kitty, escaped dressed as men, that they sought shelter on their journey at a priest’s house and she slept with the priest and became pregnant and gave birth to Raoul but, due to the danger she was in as a fugitive, had to leave Raoul as a baby on the doorstep of the priest’s house. Athos now explains to her that he had arrived at the priest’s house earlier that day and the priest had then been called away to attend to a dying person, so the man that she thought was the priest and that she slept with, was actually Athos. Athos said that when he visited the priest a year later, he realised that Raoul was his son so he took him away and raised him. Madame Chevreuse tells Athos that she had made enquiries about her son when she came back to Paris, but she was just told that a nobleman had taken him. Athos explains that Raoul knows nothing of his parents. Athos goes on to say that he himself is about to go back into service and may be killed, so he has brought Raoul to her so she can look after him. She is delighted, though shocked, by all this, she says she had often thought of her child and wondered what had become of him, and she is delighted to now be able to meet him. Omg!!! How can I doubt Dumas and his quality as a writer, he always delivers on twists and surprises! I was beginning to suspect him of filler in this book in places and was beginning to get confused about who was who and wondering why so many characters were being brought into the story for no apparent reason, and then he hits us with a wonderful surprising twist that has amazed and completely impressed me, and has left me squealing, if I’m honest! He has clearly planned this all out beautifully, so a note to self, do not doubt Dumas! And I remember that this Kitty, who escaped with Madame Chevreuse, was Milady’s maid and D’Artagnan’s lover in the Three Musketeers book.

D’Artagnan and Porthos return to Mazarin, as summoned. Porthos tells Mazarin that he wants a baronetcy in return for serving him, and D’Artagnan says that he wants to be the Captain-Lieutenant of the Musketeers, both of which terms Mazarin seems to agree to. Mazarin is then informed that Beaufort has escaped, so D’Artagnan immediately volunteers himself and Porthos to recapture Beaufort, and they set off in pursuit. Oh dear, I am presuming that D’Artagnan has no idea that Athos is involved in the escape of Beaufort, and I wonder what will happen if D’Artagnan catches up with Beaufort and Athos, surely they can’t fight each other, but it’s very interesting to consider them on different sides and how they will therefore act. I hope D’Artagnan’s loyalty to Athos will be more important than the chance of impressing Mazarin and gaining promotion. I can’t bear the thought of one of them injuring the other.

D’Artagnan and Porthos catch up with Beaufort, and fight sword to sword in the dark with two men who match them in skill. Athos then recognises D’Artagnan so reveals himself, much to D’Artagnan’s shock and horror. Aramis then also reveals himself, as he is supporting Athos and Beaufort, and Porthos reveals himself. They realise they cannot kill each other, though they are on opposite sides. Athos asks D’Artagnan and Porthos to join their side, but D’Artagnan refuses. They decide to speak together on the following day to find a solution. However, D’Artagnan is distraught at the thought of having to admit to Mazarin that he has lost in battle, so Beaufort sends a note with him to Mazarin stating that D’Artagnan and Porthos acquitted themselves well in battle but that it was two men fighting 50 men, so as to reduce Mazarin’s disappointment and possible suspicion with them. Beaufort also states in the note that now he has escaped, he declares war on Mazarin. When D’Artagnan meets with Mazarin, he is told that the man he knocked down and injured with his horse at the start of the pursuit of Beaufort, was Mazarin’s enemy Councillor Broussel, so Mazarin is pleased at this. Hmmm, I was quite shocked at D’Artagnan’s cruelty to the horses in the pursuit of Beaufort, actually causing their death by pushing them on and on. I guess he is similarly regardless of men’s lives, as he wounds and kills the soldiers defending Beaufort, but this casual attitude to violence is tough to read.

All four meet the following day as arranged, all slightly unsure of the others and wondering if they can trust each other but also saddened that such loyal friends can be on opposing sides. D’Artagnan is hurt and angry that Athos and Aramis hadn’t share the Beaufort scheme with him, feeling that they treated him like a fool and he calls them hypocrites, which angers Aramis sufficiently enough to make him draw his sword, and Porthos then draws his sword in response, but Athos intervenes and apologises and declares his love and friendship for all of them. They all swear an oath that they will ‘be united in spite of any obstacle, and always’, and agree that this oath will also bind their descendants. Hmmm, I wonder if Athos is thinking of his son, Raoul, with adding the bit about the oath also binding their descendents, as the others don’t have any descendents, so this seems a slightly odd thing for him to make a point to include. And I also wonder why Athos hasn’t shared with them that he has a son whom he loves and is proud of, even if he made it clear that they couldn’t tell Raoul. But I’m relieved with how this meeting went, I was worried that their silly pride would get in the way and it would go badly.

Athos sends Raoul off to be a soldier, to Raoul’s great pride, although Athos is emotional saying goodbye to him. He tells Raoul that Grimaud will meet him and go with him. Raoul meets Comte Guiche on his way to joining Prince Conde’s army, and saves Guiche from drowning. Guiche is also going to join the same army, and they become firm friends. The war is between France and Spain, and is the Thirty Years’ War. On their way to join the army, Raoul and Guiche come across six Spaniards attacking and robbing two French men, so they intervene. Raoul kills one Spaniard but is shot in the arm, a second Spaniard tries to kill Raoul but Guiche saves him and the Spaniard is taken prisoner, and the other Spaniards escape. One of the Frenchmen is dead, he was the local priest and was trying to move the church treasures to a place of safe-keeping, and the Spaniards who escaped managed to take the treasures with them. The other Frenchman is dying and begs to be taken to an inn and for a priest or monk to be brought to him so he can confess his sins before he dies. Raoul and Guiche help him to an inn, and on their way back to their route they come across a monk so send him to the inn to hear the dying man’s confession, although neither likes the look of the monk as he seems quite sinister. Meanwhile, Grimaud arrives at the inn on his way to meet Raoul. As the inn owners discuss their recognition of the dying man as the local executioner, they hear a disturbance and discover that the monk has stabbed the dying executioner and then escaped. Grimaud then realises that the dying executioner was the man who killed Milady (in the Three Musketeers book). He speaks to the dying executioner, and then realises that the monk was actually Milady’s son, John Francis Winter, also known as Mordaunt. Grimaud learns that the executioner had confessed to Mordaunt that he had killed Anne Breuil (which was one of Milady’s names) and that this was at the request of five other men, four being French Musketeers and one an Englishman who was her brother-in-law. Grimaud realises that he must warn Athos that Mordaunt is after him and the others, and when he later meets Raoul and Guiche he tells them that if they ever see Mordaunt again they must kill him. The Musketeers are alarmed when Grimaud tells them of Mordaunt being in Paris. Omg, that was very dramatic reading, and really quite shocking and unexpected! Mordaunt sounds just as evil as his mother was, to stab a dying man just on the spur of the moment like that, and I feel daunted that he is now on the trail of the others. And I did chuckle at yet more coincidences, with Mordaunt just happening to be the person that Raoul and Guiche summon to help, and also with Grimaud just happening to stop at that very inn and as the drama happens. But it’s such wonderful storytelling that I don’t mind when it’s done by such a master.

Raoul and Guiche spot the Spanish army and swiftly travel to the Prince and his army to announce this valuable information, plus Raoul is able to translate information from the Spanishman they took prisoner, all which impresses the Prince who determines to keep Raoul near to him. Ooooh, this sounds good for Raoul, although I am nervous about him being involved in a war and how upset Athos would be if he were injured, although I guess this was a usual risk of the time and men gained honour by being in battles.

Lord Winter arrives from England to see Queen Henrietta in the nunnery, bringing a letter from her husband, King Charles 1st. King Charles is fighting Cromwell’s army in England for his crown, and his letter states that he will probably soon be defeated and asks if he can then take sanctuary in France. Queen Henrietta tells Winter that Mazarin is unlikely to offer support to King Charles, as Mazarin has left them without food and heating all through the cold weather. Winter says that King Charles will then probably go to Holland and join his son, Charles 2nd. However, Winter says that he will try appealing to Mazarin for sanctuary for King Charles, and Queen Henrietta accompanies him in this attempt. However, at that moment, Mordaunt is speaking with Mazarin, he has brought a note from Cromwell asking France not to provide shelter to King Charles or to help him with arms or money or men, and the letter states that if France doesn’t stay neutral and decides to help King Charles, then England will consider France as an enemy and Spain as an ally, and warns Mazarin of the foreign war this would then involve France in. Mordaunt also appeals to Mazarin’s interest in himself, saying that he is 23 but has suffered and been denied his fortune and title for 20 years by King Charles and this is why he serves Cromwell, he adds that his one remaining relative has denied him help and that his mother was assassinated by that relative and four friends, that his nurse abandoned him when he was five as she had not been paid and he was reduced to begging on the streets until he was rescued. Mazarin offers to help Mordaunt convince his relative to help him, but Mordaunt says he now has the means to make this relative fear him. Queen Henrietta is announced, so Mazarin swiftly sends Mordaunt away. Eeeek, so Mordaunt is seemingly quite a powerful man, or at least in touch with powerful men, and potentially moving in the same circles as the Musketeers, and is clearly determined to get his revenge, so I feel very apprehensive that he is getting closer to them. And I remember Winter from The Three Musketeers book, he was the brother-in-law of Milady, and so is the uncle of Mordaunt.

Queen Henrietta appeals to Mazarin to provide shelter to King Charles. Mazarin prevaricates, saying he feels he wouldn’t be helping her husband by sheltering him, as a King is soon forgotten if he leaves his country so he feels that King Charles needs to stay in England. Queen Henrietta then asks if Mazarin can send arms and troops to enable King Charles to stay in England, but Mazarin prevaricates again saying that he needs to consult parliament. Queen Henrietta tells Winter that she is convinced that Mazarin won’t help. Winter speaks to Queen Henrietta about the Musketeers, explaining how they helped Queen Anne and himself 20 years ago, and says that although he has lost touch with them he feels certain that they would help and support King Charles. She urges him to try and contact them on his way to return to King Charles. Raoul is then announced to Queen Henrietta and Winter, he brings a letter from Guiche’s father telling of their victory in a battle and that he anticipates that this news will greatly please Mazarin and Queen Anne so therefore suggests that now may be a good time for Queen Henrietta to appeal to them about her husband. Raoul mentions his guardian in the conversation, and Winter realises that this is Athos who he was earlier recommending to Queen Henrietta, so he asks Raoul for Athos’ address and determines to visit him. Hmmm, dare I whisper the word ‘coincidence’ again, with Raoul arriving whilst Winter was there and had conveniently just been talking about the Musketeers, tee hee!  

Mordaunt spots Winter in the building, and the hatred on his face is noted by others. He speaks to Winter, saying he now knows that he and four others assassinated his mother, and that Winter has denied him his name and fortune by denying him as his nephew. Winter lists Milady’s crimes to Mordaunt, including poisoning Winter’s brother and trying to assassinate Winter and killing the Duke of Buckingham as well as more murders and crimes, but Mordaunt just repeatedly states that she was his mother. Mordaunt says that he will be revenged on them all, but adds that he will not kill Winter immediately as he firstly needs to learn the names of the others who were involved in his mother’s death, but he tells Winter that he has already killed the executioner. Winter is relieved that Mordaunt does not yet know the names of the others. Eeeeek, Mordaunt’s thirst for revenge reminds me of Monte Cristo with his similar thirst for revenge. And wow, I am reminded that Milady certainly committed a lot of nasty deeds! And when Winter says that Milady killed his brother, was this then Mordaunt’s father that she killed, and if so would this not alter Mordaunt’s feelings for her. Or perhaps he doesn’t believe that she did all these dreadful things.

Winter visits Athos, who is delighted to see him. Athos confirms that all four Musketeers are still friends and will help Winter and Queen Henrietta, but explains that D’Artagnan has to earn his living and works for Mazarin and that Porthos supports Mazarin also but that he and Aramis are against Mazarin. Winter tells Athos of Mordaunt’s presence and knowledge of Milady’s death, and Athos confirms he knew of this from Grimaud and states that he won’t be intimidated by Mordaunt. They realise that Mordaunt is also a supporter of Cromwell because King Charles had declared him illegitimate and taken away his name of Winter and his fortune, so Mordaunt now hates King Charles and has come to France to see Mazarin as an ambassador for Cromwell. Raoul visits Athos to tell him of his success in battle, and Athos is very proud of him. Raoul then goes to Madame Chevreuse, who has arranged for his introduction to Prince Conde, and then goes to Blois to see his beloved Louise. Hmmm, I am not surprised that Athos refuses to be intimidated by Mordaunt, but I fear he is underestimating the sheer wickedness and determination of the man.

Athos and Aramis go with Winter to speak with Queen Henrietta and she shows them King Charles’ letter to her asking for shelter from France and tells them that Mazarin has refused to provide this shelter. She asks if they will go to England to fight alongside King Charles and to protect him and advise him, which they immediately agree to. She says she will henceforth love them like brothers, and this love will be second only to her love for her husband and children. Athos and Aramis decide they can’t tell D’Artagnan where they are going, due to his connection with Mazarin, but Athos writes to him saying they are going away for three months and asking him to look after Raoul. D’Artagnan sends money to them, as does Porthos. Aramis says the English are ‘coarse, like all people who drink beer’. He fears they will be killed, but Athos says they risk being put into the Bastille if they stay in France for their part in Beaufort’s escape. Ooooh, I love the thought of Athos and Aramis being in England, up to now it has all been so very French based. But I am worried for them coming to harm going up against Cromwell, my history isn’t very good but I have in my head that Cromwell was a very successful and powerful man who followed his purpose single-mindedly and didn’t tolerate those who opposed him. And I chuckled at Aramis’ description of English people! 

When Athos and Aramis and Winter depart on the boat from Boulogne to England, Mordaunt appears at the harbour saying he now knows them as the men involved in his mother’s death. Aramis aims to shoot him but Athos stops him, saying he has done nothing to them. Winter says Mordaunt is a demon and that he must have followed them from Paris, and Athos then reflects and says he thinks he may have been wrong to stop Aramis from killing him. Omg, yes, you have done wrong, Athos, I feel such dread of Mordaunt myself, he already seems in my mind like one of the ultimate baddies and I wish he had been killed by Aramis.

Mazarin arranges for Broussel to be arrested on Queen Anne’s orders. Broussel’s wife and servants and son, Louvieres, scream for help and a crowd arrives to try and save Broussel and attack the officers. Raoul hears the officers shouting ‘in the name of the King’ so goes to the aid of the officers, but he is soon at risk of being overwhelmed by the crowd when D’Artagnan arrives and saves him. D’Artagnan then explains to Raoul that he had actually been aiding Mazarin rather than the King and that Athos would be angry at him for this, and he clarifies to Raoul that his allegiance is to the Prince Conde, who serves Queen Anne. Later, one of the high priests, Gondi, is insulted by Mazarin and the court, and determines to get Mazarin out of power, he is also appealed to by Louvieres for help to free his father. Gondi asks other priests for support and they also mention Planchet and Rochefort as being likely to help their cause, and also a beggar named Maillard who used to be in the Bastille and who has influence with the poor. All are appealed to and Maillard agrees to prepare a large group of men with barricades, Planchet promises a large group of men and weapons, and Rochefort promises 50 soldiers and is asked by Gondi to also bring Beaufort. All these men, numbering 10,000-plus and called Frondeurs, are to recognise each other by a bunch of straw in the hat, and by shouting ‘free Broussel and down with Mazarin’. D’Artagnan and Porthos are summoned by Mazarin, they recommend he frees Broussel, and they reiterate their promise to serve and protect Mazarin. The soldiers of Prince Conde are sent into the crowd to try and subdue the rising, many people are killed and they return to report to Queen Anne and Mazarin that they believe that Broussel should be released or the palace and those in it will be destroyed by the people. They add that Gondi wishes to speak with them, which they agree to. Gondi speaks authoritatively to Queen Anne and Mazarin, he tells them this has increased from being a riot to a revolt and will become a revolution unless they release Broussel. D’Artagnan admires Gondi and whispers to Porthos that he wishes Gondi was in power and wishes that he could be serving him rather than Mazarin, he also states that if Queen Anne or Mazarin try to kill Gondi then he will step in to defend him. Mazarin also now advises Queen Anne to release Broussel, and as the palace gates are breached she agrees and signs the paper for his release but is very angry at being made to do so. The public are delighted with their victory and it confirms to them that they can easily make further demands. Mazarin and Queen Anne determine to leave Paris, and Queen Anne states her intention of then starving the Parisian public as punishment. They enlist D’Artagnan and Porthos to get them out of the city through the barricaded city gates. Oooh, I’d kind of forgotten about this brewing revolution, with my interest in the Musketeers and Mordaunt. And Queen Anne herself sounds like an arrogant and selfish person with no thought for her people, more a wish to punish them for forcing her to acquiesce rather than looking at how her unfair actions had caused the people to act. 

D’Artagnan and Porthos are instructed by Mazarin to go to England to deliver Mazarin’s reply to Oliver Cromwell. Mazarin says they are to meet Mordaunt at Bologne and he will be their guide, and they are to follow any orders that Cromwell gives them. Eeeek, the other Musketeers are also going to England! But on opposite sides to each other, I have a bad feeling about this. And I wondered what Mazarin’s mission was for the Musketeers, I presume this was it then, to support Cromwell.

D’Artagnan and Porthos receive a letter from Athos and Aramis, saying they feel they will shortly be killed, and asking them to look after Raoul, and warning them to beware of a man called Mordaunt and that they should kill Mordaunt if they get the chance. D’Artagnan and Porthos are both puzzled by this letter, but they cross to England with Mordaunt, although Porthos thinks that Mordaunt reminds him of someone. Eeek, yes indeed he does! Omg, another chance missed to kill Mordaunt!

King Charles is in Newark, where he has fled to be under the protection of the Scots, however the Scots have agreed to pass him to Cromwell and the English in return for a huge sum of money. Athos and Aramis and Winter are with King Charles, and Athos overhears this Scottish plot and warns King Charles, who cannot believe that he has been betrayed. They then spot Cromwell’s army approaching, so King Charles realises this betrayal is true. Oh, poor King Charles being betrayed. I have to try and remember that he has abused his privilege for many years and carelessly made his people suffer, and reading more about him on Wikipedia (as I can’t resist doing) I am reminded that he was a tyrannical King who believed in the absolute power of the monarchy, raised taxes and imprisoned people without trial and tried to impose rules about religion, and disbanded parliament when they opposed him declaring he could not be opposed as he was appointed by God. But part of me feels that because Athos backs him, then he can’t be all bad, I do trust Athos’ judgement, perhaps I’m foolish to do so. And I’m kind of loving Athos being involved (fictionally, of course) in English royal history, Dumas is so cheeky!

Aramis suggests to King Charles that one of them (Athos or Aramis or Winter) pretends to be King Charles and therefore be captured and probably killed, so King Charles can escape across the Tyne into Scotland with the other two men. Winter offers to be the substitution. Oh no, I don’t like this, I don’t want any of those three to be killed! But how wonderful of them to suggest it and be willing to sacrifice themselves, it’s just so typically Dumas’ romantic adventure and chivalry!

Mordaunt approaches with Cromwell’s army, he recognises Winter and guesses that he is pretending to be King Charles, so he kills him. King Charles is taken prisoner. Athos and Aramis are about to be killed themselves, but are abruptly taken prisoner by D’Artagnan and Porthos who have arrived with Cromwell’s army and quickly see a way to try and ensure Athos’ and Aramis’ safety. Mordaunt is suspicious though and orders some of his soldiers to follow the four and see where the ‘prisoners’ are taken. Mordaunt requests from Cromwell that his reward for his loyalty be that he is allowed to deal with the two French prisoners, and he is granted this. Omg, Winter is dead, killed by evil Mordaunt! I am so sad, I really liked Winter, and he has gone through all the tale so far, being part of the first book as well as this one. 

Athos reprimands D’Artagnan and Porthos for being on the side of Cromwell and aiding the capture of King Charles, but they defend themselves saying they acted under Mazarin’s orders. Mordaunt tells D’Artagnan to release the prisoners to him as Cromwell has said he can claim them, but D’Artagnan tells Mordaunt that he is a poor man and was looking to get money from taking two high-born French gentlemen so he needs a written statement from Cromwell that the prisoners are Mordaunt’s, and hints he expects money too for handing them over. Mordaunt is annoyed but goes to get the written order and money, and by the time he returns the four have foiled the guards who Mordaunt left watching them, and have escaped. Phew, I am very relieved that they have escaped Mordaunt, but I don’t like the four being on opposing sides. 

The four stop in the shelter of a wood when they are sufficiently far away from Mordaunt. Athos says his and Aramis’ promise to Queen Henrietta was to protect King Charles, so they must go back to try and rescue him. D’Artagnan tells them that there is no chance of success, especially as he now knows Cromwell’s character, but Athos cannot be budged from his promise. Athos also questions why they would wish to return to France, saying that Mazarin and the young King and Queen Anne and all the people in charge in France are driven by money and greed, whereas he describes this situation in England as a royal misfortune that he can try to remedy. D’Artagnan and Porthos say the four of them must stick together now, so they too will stay in England and try to help King Charles, although they describe England as ‘always cold, where fine weather is mist, mist is rain, the rain a deluge, where the sun resembles the moon…what a cursed country this England is’, and that ‘English is only French badly pronounced’. Oh dear, I feel such foreboding at them attempting to rescue King Charles, and the harm they could come to. But I did chuckle again about their opinion of England!

They devise a plan to join the troops moving King Charles to London, as D’Artagnan and Porthos are known to them. They get friendly with one of the soldiers, Groslow, who is guarding King Charles, and join him one evening playing cards. Their plan is to overwhelm the guards and take away King Charles, and they are about to put this into action when Mordaunt arrives with orders for King Charles to immediately continue the journey to London, he then spots the four and shouts for them to be arrested, but they escape. Phew, another heart-stopping moment, I don’t know how many more times they can escape Mordaunt!.

The four head to London, though D’Artagnan states that their mission to rescue King Charles is now impossible, but they should aim to kill Mordaunt. They join the audience in court to watch King Charles’ trial, and see him found guilty and sentenced to death. I thought Dumas wrote this very sympathetically to King Charles, making him seem very dignified and making the trial seem unfair and unjust as they only had men speak who were against King Charles and anyone who supported him was removed from the proceedings, ‘all his imprudences changed into ambushes, his errors transformed into crimes’. This seems very different to the view of King Charles as a tyrannical leader, and when I read up about the trial on Wikipedia it is stated that he was tried for treason as he had used his power to pursue his own interests rather than the common good of the people. I am still really shocked that a member of the English royal family was actually put on trial and found guilty and sentenced to death by beheading, I kind of can’t really believe it actually happened, that an English King was actually executed, it’s just really shocking, even now, or perhaps even more so now. And I know that King Charles was executed, but I am beginning to wonder if the Musketeers could actually succeed and help him escape somehow! Dumas does embellish things but could he actually write it that King Charles lives? I think I read on Wikipedia that King Charles escaped prison, before his court trial, and fled to the Isle of Wight but was then captured again, so maybe this is what Dumas will have happen, adjusting the timescales and not having him captured again? And again, I am blown away by how well Dumas writes, he’s such a fantastic storyteller, there are generally some bits in his huge books which drag a bit but these are more than made up for by the twists and dramas, his stories are just so involving. Yes, to read them is an investment in time, but there is such a reward for that investment. And obviously these are historical things that happened, not Dumas’ fictional storytelling, but it is the way he tells it which is so good, and his embellishments throughout too. And all the history is fascinating and always prompts me to learn more, and it is so interesting that the death of King Charles brought about the end of the absolute monarchy and royals having power, and led to the introduction of the constitutional monarchy which has been the present way ever since, so it had momentous results that are still in place today. 

The four hatch plans to rescue King Charles, by getting themselves accepted as builders of the scaffold and then tunnelling into the prison from behind the scaffold and up into the floorboards of King Charles’ cell, as well as locking the executioner in a cellar knowing this will cause a delay while another executioner is found, and having Aramis take the place of the priest who is due to hear the King’s confession. However another executioner is found and the beheading happens before their plans can be finished, although Athos is able to offer comfort to King Charles by talking to him from behind the scaffold, and Aramis also comforts him by being on the scaffold with him as his priest. Omg, this was so dramatic to read, my heart was pounding for ages afterwards, I had foolishly read it before going to sleep, which resulted in no sleep until I could calm my thumping heart! I really had hoped Dumas was going to let King Charles escape somehow, even though I know really even he can’t change history that much. But the plans of the Musketeers were so inventive, I felt that they must succeed and deserved to do so. And I still can’t believe, as I’ve said before, that an English King was executed, I almost feel like I’ve lived through it reading it almost as it happened, though obviously a fictional account of it, and the shock of it is just enormous!

D’Artagnan follows the masked and disguised executioner of King Charles to a house afterwards, as he is intrigued with the fact that the man is obviously keen to conceal his identity, and he feels that it would be justice for King Charles for them to kill this executioner. They therefore all gather at the house which the man has gone to, and see through the window that it is Mordaunt and he is talking with Cromwell. Omg, I wasn’t expecting that Mordaunt was the executioner, the twists that Dumas deals us! And surely Mordaunt qualifies as the sneakiest baddest baddie ever! But I can’t help thinking that if the Musketeers hadn’t locked the original executioner in the cellar then the opportunity for Mordaunt to take his place wouldn’t have arisen, so they’ve kind of caused this themselves. 

Cromwell tells Mordaunt that he was aware of the Musketeers’ plan to rescue King Charles, so he had primed their escape boat with explosives so they all would be killed, and he says he actually would have preferred King Charles dying in that way rather than on the scaffold, as Cromwell could then have said that he allowed King Charles to escape out of pity but that divine justice had intervened with the boat being lost. Cromwell therefore implies that the executioner didn’t actually help him. Mordaunt seems to suspect that Cromwell knows he was the executioner. Mordaunt asks if he can deal with the four who were planning to rescue King Charles, and Cromwell agrees to this and intimates that the boat primed with explosives could still be used. Eeeek, I’m not sure if the four have overheard this or not, do they know that their boat is now unsafe? 

Cromwell leaves by a secret passage. The Musketeers enter the house but rather than kill Mordaunt outright, they decide it is fairer to challenge him to a duel with one of them, the name of the dueller is picked out of the hat and is D’Artagnan’s. They duel, but Mordaunt moves around the room so as to position himself by the secret passage, then pushes it and locks it behind him and escapes. He races off to the boat where a disguised Groslow is waiting, and Mordaunt hides on the boat. Omg, why on earth didn’t they kill him outright, all the chivalry of it being fairer to duel is just ridiculous when you’re dealing with such a sneaky evil man, I was almost shouting at their mistaken fairness, you can’t be fair with a man like that! And now he’s escaped, sigh. But I guess this makes for great reading, this whole cat and mouse thing, as if they had killed him outright then it’d be a shorter and less exciting book!

The Musketeers arrive at their boat and board it, they are suspicious that the captain is not the man they chose but are told that he has been injured, and they don’t recognise him to be Groslow. Their suspicions lead them to search the boat, however, but they don’t look in the barrels which is where the gunpowder is hidden and they don’t find Mordaunt. They go to sleep on the boat, but their servants decide to steal some drink while their masters are asleep so sneak into the cellar of the boat where the barrels of alcohol would be stored. They hide when Mordaunt and Groslow come into the cellar, and watch them prepare the fuse to light the gunpowder and hear them planning to swim with their crew to the small boat which is attached by a rope behind the bigger boat and therefore escape and let the Musketeers burn. The servants hurry to tell the Musketeers, and all of them then swim to the small boat themselves and cut the rope, they then watch as the crew assemble and try to pull in the small boat and discover the cut rope. Mordaunt then appears, saying he has lit the fuse. Mordaunt jumps overboard just before the boat blows up, killing all onboard. Mordaunt then swims to the Musketeers and appeals to them for mercy, saying he repents of what he has done and begging them to pity him. D’Artagnan and Aramis and Porthos do not believe him and want to either kill him if he approaches closer or sail away and leave him to drown, but Athos begs them to save Mordaunt, saying he cannot live with the tortured feelings of letting him die. Athos then reaches out to save Mordaunt, who pulls Athos into the water and tries to drown him, but Athos stabs him and is then rescued by the others. Omg, omg, omg, I thought the other passages were dramatic but they were nothing compared to the drama of this scene, from them being unaware that the boat had explosives on it, to escaping, to then Mordaunt coming up almost like Jaws! I will never forget this scene, I literally was barely breathing, I think reading this book has been bad for my heartrate, it’s been thumping that much! And Athos, omg, I can’t believe that even then he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, I knew he was a good man (he’s my favourite Musketeer) and I guess he seems to have been softened by looking after Raoul, but to have misjudged Mordant like that is the height of foolishness. And I can’t believe how wicked Mordaunt is and how he keeps escaping death, he’s like a demon! But surely he is finally dead now, surely! 

The four arrive in France. They decide to make their way to Paris but to do so in two groups as they fear capture and punishment from Mazarin, D’Artagnan and Porthos for not following Mazarin’s orders to support Cromwell having instead tried to save King Charles, and Athos and Aramis for their involvement in helping Beaufort escape, so they feel that if one group is captured then the others can try and rescue them. Hmmm, I am glad they are thinking about rescuing each other if they get into difficulties, as that was one of the things which frustrated me about the Three Musketeers book, that none of them went back to rescue each other.

Athos and Aramis reach Paris to find the city in a state of preparation for war and siege. They are challenged as they try to enter without passports, but meet Planchet guarding the gates who vouches for them. They go to Queen Henrietta to tell her of the death of Winter and King Charles, but find three men already speaking to her, Chatillon and Flamarens, and the third man they suspect to be Mazarin disguised. These men are trying to tell Queen Henrietta that King Charles is still alive. Aramis challenges Chatillon and Flamarens to a duel the following day, and he also wants to try and capture Mazarin. Hmmm, why would these men be trying to conceal King Charles’ death from his wife? And after the relief of getting rid of the baddie Mordaunt, we still have Mazarin to deal with!

The people in charge of the Fronde in Paris include Prince Conti, his brother Prince Conde, their sister Madame Longueville, Coadjutor Gondi, Beaufort, Bouillon, D’Elbeuf, Madame Chevreuse, Brousse, and the parliament. Aramis and Athos visit several of these people, and they meet Rochefort at Beaufort’s place of residence. Aramis and Athos then begin to become concerned about D’Artagnan and Porthos not arriving, so they trace back along the route they should have taken and find messages that D’Artagnan had left saying they are being chased, and they then discover they had been arrested at an inn. Athos decides to appeal to Queen Anne, though Aramis says this will get him arrested. Aramis later goes to Queen Anne with the deputies from Paris to appeal to her that the residents are starving and to offer to end the hostilities if Mazarin will resign, but she sends them away saying she needs to speak to the King. Athos communicates to Aramis that he has been arrested. Athos is taken to Mazarin’s home, where D’Artagnan and Porthos are imprisoned. Oh dear, I was a bit worried when Athos was arrested, but at least they are all together (well, apart from Aramis), so hopefully they can escape together. But there is no let-up in the drama, is there? Dumas is really putting the reader through it! 

When D’Artagnan and Porthos realise that Athos is also imprisoned there, they form a plan to escape by taking two guards prisoner and dressing in their uniform. This works successfully and they then secretly follow Mazarin to Athos’ cell, as well as witnessing on the way where Mazarin has stored his treasure. They capture Mazarin, and the three escape the grounds with Mazarin captive. Omg, I wasn’t expecting them to capture Mazarin, that seems a very bold and risky move, I wonder what will come of this.

When they reach the outside of the property, Aramis is waiting outside with several men, intending to rescue them when they were being moved to another prison. They take Mazarin to Porthos’ chateau to negotiate with him in return for his freedom, and they list their demands. Aramis says Mazarin must sign the treaty that was brought to him the other day by the deputies from Paris, D’Artagnan says he wants to be captain of the Musketeers, Porthos says he wants his baronetcy, and Athos says he desires nothing from Mazarin. They also say that Mazarin must stay as minister of Paris as his skills are needed, and they threaten to tell Queen Anne about his treasures if he doesn’t agree. He asks how he can trust them, and Athos says their word is good enough, which greatly impresses Mazarin and he agrees to the terms and signs the treaty. They take this treaty to Queen Anne for her to sign, and although she is aware that Mazarin and his prisoners are missing and is concerned for Mazarin’s safety, D’Artagnan cleverly explains things to her in such a way to get what they want whilst avoiding punishment to themselves and embarrassment to Queen Anne and Mazarin. He achieves this by saying that Mazarin had only imprisoned them due to a confusion as Mazarin had thought they had served Cromwell rather than trying to serve King Charles and of course Mazarin and Queen Anne would have wanted them to support King Charles, thereby effectively threatening them with potentially revealing that Mazarin had told them to support Cromwell. D’Artagnan also stresses that signing the treaty would bring about the end of the Fronde war, and that the Parisians would therefore worship Queen Anne for bringing about peace. D’Artagnan adds that they could have accepted 600,000 to deliver Mazarin to the Parisians for him to be killed but they will instead accept 100,000 from Queen Anne in order not to do this, as well as requesting D’Artagnan’s captaincy of the Musketeers and Porthos’ baronetcy, and Aramis also requests that the King be announced as godfather to Madame Longville’s baby (it is hinted that this is Aramis’ child, so this would make the child legitimate in people’s eyes). All these terms are agreed to by Queen Anne and she signs the treaty which retracts the accusations against Beaufort and Bouillon and Conti and D’Elbeuf and Madame Longueville and the Coadjutor, and gives them back their lands and titles. D’Artagnan manages to achieve all this without Queen Anne feeling she has lost her self-respect or been bullied. Queen Anne had also asked Athos what his demands were and was told that he wanted nothing, but she says she will give Raoul a regiment and make Athos a Chevalier of the Order. D’Artagnan promises to return Mazarin safely to Queen Anne, as it has been agreed by the Musketeers and the others that it would be better not to kill Mazarin now, as this would hinder peace and delay the aid that the starving Parisians urgently need, but they presume he will likely be removed from power in time. Well, wow, that was some smooth-talking by D’Artagnan, he has really come into his own here whereas he had always seemed more like the young impetuous one of the four. And I wonder who really negotiated this end to the Fronde in real life, ie who Dumas has cheated out of credit for this in giving it to D’Artagnan, tee hee, that may be another search on Wikipedia.

Athos later speaks about the situation to Madame Chevreuse, who is a Frondeur but hasn’t gained by the peace like the other leaders have, and although he sympathises with her, he explains that Raoul has gained enormously. Madame Chevreuse is satisfied with this, and asks to come and stay at Athos’ chateau for a time. Awww, will this be Athos eventually gaining happiness, I would love to think so.

D’Artagnan and Porthos guard the coach of the returning Queen Anne and the King and Mazarin into Paris. Most of the crowd are pleased to have the royals back, but Rochefort and Maillard lead an attack on the coach, resulting in D’Artagnan killing Rochefort, and Porthos killing Maillard, both not realising until too late who it is they have killed. Porthos then realises that Maillard was not only the beggar at the church but was also the husband of Constance Bonacieux who was D’Artagnan’s lover. Hmmm, if I’ve remembered correctly, didn’t this husband betray Constance in the first book, bringing about her capture, and she was then poisoned by Milady? So therefore she wouldn’t have died if he’d not betrayed her in the first place. So is him being killed just desserts? But I’m sad about Rochefort, I’d hoped that after being imprisoned so long in the Bastille that he could have had a happy ending too.

The four Musketeers now part, Athos and Porthos go back to their chateaus, Aramis accompanies Madame Longueville to her newly regained lands in Normandy, and D’Artagnan goes as Captain-Lieutenant of the Musketeers to the forthcoming battle at Flanders with Raoul.

Phew, that was a great read, as are all of Dumas’ works, so involving and so imaginative and so full of drama and sheer audacity and cheekiness! What a wonderful writer he is. And it was happy endings for all in the end, though I know there are more Musketeers books (which I’ve gone ahead and purchased) so doubtless more drama and adventure is to come. I was sad about Rochefort and Winter though, sigh. But I liked that Athos may eventually be with someone who loves him and who he can love and trust, after how he has been betrayed in the past. I loved that he was described as having ‘a superior mind which soars above vulgar desires and human passions’ and he is ‘a proud soul of older times’ and ‘a man apart’. He is definitely my favourite Musketeer.

I also love some ironic topical aspects of this, such as that our Queen Elizabeth was only prevented from being the longest serving monarch in history by Louis 14th as he reigned from such a young age. And that our King Charles is the 3rd, which makes him seem quite close in line to King Charles 1st in this book who was executed. And I can’t even really grasp that (at the time I read this) one of our potential new Prime Ministers had the same surname as the villain in this book!

The edition I read was the Oxford World’s Classics edition, and the introduction detailed Dumas’ life which was really fascinating to learn more about. He was the grandson of a landowner and slave, and his father served under and displeased Napoleon. He was influenced by Sir Walter Scott, who I also adore and I can definitely see the similarity in their romantic and hugely detailed writing. I am also amazed at the huge amount that Dumas wrote, often apparently writing for 14 hours at a time. And I was interested in one of his beliefs about good writing, to ‘open with action rather than with scene-setting, talk about the characters after allowing them to appear, rather than bringing them on only after talking about them’. And I loved that his stories about the  Musketeers actually began with him borrowing a book about D’Artagnan from a public library and never actually returning the book!

I am really enjoying this series, the first book The Three Musketeers was very enjoyable, as was this second book, so I plan to continue with the series and read the next one too, The Vicomte de Bragelonne. And as the mention of The Bastille and hiding messages within seemingly harmless objects put Charles Dickens’ book The Tale of Two Cities in my mind, and I’ve long meant to re-read that wonderful book, I plan to do that too. And Mordaunt and his thirst for revenge also reminded me of Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and his thirst for revenge, and as this book is one of my favourites I will happily re-read that one too. And as if I haven’t now got enough on my list to read and re-read (!), I loved that Dumas was influenced by one of my favourite writers, Sir Walter Scott, and I have his Ivanhoe book waiting on my bookshelf to be read so I may start that one too!

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas available on Amazon
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The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
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