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  • Writer's pictureTammy Lowe

Story Time...

The Statue of d'Artangnan

Maastricht, Netherlands

Gather round for story time! Today we’ll head back in time to...

*Presses buttons on time machine*

17th century France.

Think opulent palaces and vast gardens. Swashbuckling sword fights, King Louis, and…Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan.

Better known simply as — d’Artagnan.

To recap, The Three Musketeers is the tale of d’Artagnan, an adventurous young man who travels to Paris hoping to join the king’s elite team of Musketeers. Throughout the story he proves himself worthy to fight alongside Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

Although infamous due to Dumas’ novel, d’Artagnan was NOT fictional. He was a real, legendary musketeer who rose through the ranks, eventually becoming Captain.

Now, in September of 1661, d’Artagnan was in charge of a very high-profile political prisoner—Nicolas Fouquet. What happened in real life is just as crazy as one of Dumas’ novels.

The story goes like this:

Fouquet is France’s Minister of Finances. He was a charismatic, flamboyant young man who became very rich.

I’m talking CRAZY rich.

Wanting to show the world he "arrived", Fouquet hired France’s top architect, top painter, and top garden designer. He ordered them to work together to build him a glorious chateau and grounds unlike anything ever seen before.

Fouquet had a near limitless budget.

-18,000 men carved the palace gardens from the landscape.

-190 acres of farmland, a village, and two hamlets were cleared out and a river diverted to create Fouquet’s garden.

-Beneath the garden, six water reservoirs were engineered for dancing fountains, pools, and canals.

When the palace and garden were complete, it was not only beautiful; it was a statement of political power. So, on August 17th, 1661, Nicolas Fouquet threw a lavish party to celebrate its completion.

6000 invitations were sent out, including one to King Louis, who was 22 years old at the time.

Fouquet commissioned a play, a ballet, and fireworks to delight his guests.

Everyone agreed it was a great success—

Except for the King.

Louis flew into a jealous rage. He was furious at the arrogance of Fouquet, showing he was richer and possibly even more powerful.

So what does Louis do?

Well, he has Fouquet arrested for embezzlement and high treason.

Enter d’Artagnan, the king’s most trusted musketeer.

D’Artagnan spent the next three years (from the arrest to the prosecution) in charge of Fouquet.

Meanwhile, Louis took the architect, the painter, and the garden designer, telling them to turn his hunting lodge—at Versailles— into a palace and garden like Fouquet’s….only BETTER.

In January 1665, found guilty, Nicolas Fouquet’s sentence of banishment seemed too lenient to King Louis, so Fouquet was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison—in solitary confinement.

However, Fouquet was allowed to have a personal valet to attend to him.

(Can you imagine that job?)

Now…the legend doesn’t end here.

You see, the valet was a mysterious prisoner named Eustache Dauger.

Made to wear a black velvet mask at all times, Dauger was never to speak to other prisoners or show his face. The name was clearly an alias. He was thought to be a man who knew too much--privy to some “secret”. However, Dauger was ordered to be man-servant to Nicolas Fouquet because Fouquet was never going to be released from solitary confinement, let alone see the light of day.

So, how does it end for everyone historically?

~In 1673, King Louis leads his musketeers into battle in Maastricht during the Dutch Wars, with his English allies. With the town surrounded, d’Artangnan’s company took control of a gate. However, an English duke ordered them to cross the open ground. Although d’Artagnan advised against the action, he had to obey.

On June 25th, 1673, the legendary captain of the Musketeers made it to the ramparts of Maastricht before dying from a musket ball to the throat.

That evening, Louis wrote to his wife, Maria Theresa:

“Madame, I have lost d’Artangnan, in whom I had the utmost confidence and who merited it all on occasions.”

~As for Nicolas Fouquet, he died in prison in 1680.

~In 1682, The Palace of Versailles, a former hunting lodge, became the principal royal residence, having been completed for King Louis by Fouquet’s original team.

And the masked valet, Eustache Dauger?

He died on the 19th of November, 1703 at the Bastille in Paris.

His criminal charge remains unknown, as does his true identity.

But he’s better known today as—

The Man in the Iron Mask.

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