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Le Chevalier Charles deBatz-Castelmore


D'Artagnan et la glorie ont le même linceul.
D'Artagnan and glory share the same shroud
-Saint Blaise-

Ah the man himself... Who was D'Artagnan? Well I have good news and bad news for you... The good news is D'Artagnan was a valiant and accomplished soldier who attained the post of Captaine Lieutenant of the Musketeers (the highest rank under the king himself, who, in fact, commanded the Musketeers). The bad news is that all the imaginings of a romantic lover who devotedly sought to protect Madame Constance Bonancieux and tricked the beautiful Lady De Winter into a night of passion is all but an illusion... albeit a wonderful one.

 Where does it all begin?

Gascony. A land known in the 17th and 18th century for filling the ranks of the French army with ambitious and fierce soldiers. Charles de Batz-Castelmore was the third born son who had three brothers and two sisters. His eldest brother (the first Charles) died young and ingloriously in battle. Paul, the second oldest had an illustrious career and attracted the attentions of both Louis XIII and Louis XIV. He also used his influence at court to gain more land for the family. The fourth brother, Arnaud, went into the church and very little else is known about him. Even less is known about the two sisters, other than that they married well.

But where did the name of D'Artagnan come from? It was basically borrowed from some of the deBatz-Castelmore family's more well known relatives. The male lineage of deBatz-Castelmore line married into very rich families and therefore did very well for themselves. While the family struggled with the acknowledgement of this acquired nobility, they still had enough money and influence use at court and to marry their daughters well. Yet their lives were still basically labor oriented- maintaining their lands and estate was still a family business. The young men of the family would have still attended the lands.

D'Artagnan himself would have had no trouble meeting M. de Treville, as Treville would have been acquainted with D'Artagnan's uncle, Henri de Montesqiou and D'Artagnan's two older brothers whom had already joined or been in the ranks of the Musketeers. At first, D'Artagnan could not be placed in the Musketeers. It was a rule that a soldier must serve years in another line of the military before being accepted. However, Treville's influence did gain our young hero a place in an prestigious position under M. de Essarts in the King's Guards.

After earning a place with the Musketeers in 1645, D'Artagnan was to find himself in a temporarily doomed organization. The new Cardinal, Mazarin, did not like Treville and vice-versa. Mazarin was said to wish to appoint his own nephew to the post Treville held. Since Mazarin could not accomplish this... he disbanded the Musketeers in 1646 and asked Treville's recommendation for two soldiers to retain for his personal use. One of these was D'Artagnan.

The next years of D'Artagnan's life were spent mostly doing 'espionage'-type work for the not-too-liked foreign Cardinal Mazarin. Even through the unrest of the Fronde where the royal family was forced into exile by the masses... D'Artagnan remained loyal to Mazarin, often delivering messages incognito. Eventually Mazarin did regain his position and keep D’Artagnan at his side. Mazarin later re-established the Musketeers in 1657 under the command of his nephew Phillipe-Julien Mancini, Duc de Nevers. These new Musketeers were called the Grand Musketeers and this company known as the Grey Musketeers, named for the color of their horses. The king himself later converted Mazarin's foot soldiers to a second company of Musketeers known as they Black Musketeers (named also for the color of their horses). Yet it would still be years before the coveted title of captaine-lieutenant would be awarded to the faithful soldier.

Another significant event on D'Artagnan's career was the responsibility D'Artagnan took in arresting and guarding M. Fouquet. Who was Fouquet? Fouquet was the indulgent and reckless Superintendent of Finance whose lavish spending (ill gained, most likely) would seal his own fate. For many years Louis XIV envied the beautiful Chateau Belle-Isle which belonged to Fouquet and the king wished only to find a legitimate reason to arrest this man. Fouquet gave the King two reasons in 1667. Fouquet's first mistake was a fabulous fete at Vaux that far exceeded the wealth and luxuriousness that had ever been displayed by the financially weakened king. The second mistake was the overture to the King's mistress, Louise de La Valliere. Fouquet had no way of knowing Louise was the king's mistress yet (only a few people knew), but it infuriated Louis enough to finalize his plan to have Fouquet arrested. Who was entrusted with the delicate nature of apprehending such an illustrious and beloved official? D'Artagnan, of course. D'Artagnan accomplished this as the king wished, subtly and without event. For the next 4 years, D'Artagnan was assigned the unglorious but important duty of guarding the prisoner. Needless to say, he despised this duty, but he was both meticulously careful to guard Fouquet's transactions with the outside world, but was also a caring and sympathetic jailer. During the four years when D'Artagnan was in charge of him, he allowed Fouquet's wish to see a comet that had appeared over Paris and had alerted Fouquet to the presence of some of Fouquet's old friends waiting to catch a glimpse of Fouquet as he passed from the Arsenal to the Bastille. After a doomed defense, four years later, Fouquet was declared guilty in court and turned over to the responsibility of a new jailer.

There were some things at which D'Artagnan did not excel... Two examples are those of governorship, and, alas, of love.

D'Artagnan was awarded the governorship of Lille, won by France in 1667. It was said that this post brought out the worst of his qualities. There were frequent disagreements and outbursts on the part of D'Artagnan based on the fact that D'Artagnan saw the city more in the eyes of a soldier rather than the engineers and officials who ran the city. Altercations occurred quite frequently and the disgruntled veteran soldier, now in his 50s, was getting to the point that he wanted out of the wretched appointment (his 'enemies' in the city felt quite the same about D'Artagnan's desire to leave). It would not be long until D'Artagnan would be in battle again.

Romance? Well the true D'Artagnan was not a shining example of romance by any means, but marriage in the 17th century was not by any means to be judged against the standards of today. D'Artagnan married basically out of a sense of obligation and in doing so found himself in a marriage that lasted only 6 years. His wife, fraught with jealousy and neglect (not to mention a lot more money than her poor soldier husband), resorted to having spies placed on her husband. Tired of never seeing her husband (despite the birth of two sons) and learning of other female "supporters" of the great soldier whom also endowed D'Artagnan with fair sums of money for his Company, she left him in April 1665 to join a convent.

During his years of governorship, Louis XIV implemented an offensive in Holland. D'Artagnan retook command of his troops. Unfortunately, D'Artagnan was to meet his death during his wars; killed in battle on June 25, 1673. Four men were killed returning their captain's body- D'Artagnan killed by a musket ball in his throat.

D'Artagnan had a fascinating life and one of high recognition during the lavish and court oriented 17th century... To be known and favored by two kings and a cardinal is no small feat in itself. It is no wonder that his life captured the imaginations of those writers who helped bring their own stories to us today.