The Three Musketeers is one of the most enduring works of fiction in the history of French literature. Over the years, it has been adapted into countless stage, graphic novel, musical, and – above all – film productions, with nearly 80 movie adaptations across multiple languages and eras. In the collective imagination, the musketeers are the cloak-and-dagger heroes of Alexandre Dumas’s imagination, whose days are spent fighting duels, foiling plots, and saving the honor of the King and Queen of France.
The fame of the musketeers of fiction is so far-reaching that the King’s Musketeers of history, a military guard created in 1622 and disbanded in 1775, are all but forgotten. What was the actual role of the king’s elite guard? Were they really involved in affairs of State? And were Dumas’s chivalrous swordsmen, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d’Artagnan, inspired by real-life musketeers?
The king’s elite fighting company played a critical role in the protection of the king himself, and, by extension, served as an armed branch of royal authority. A truly elite corps, the King’s Musketeers benefited from the most advanced military technologies of the time and were tantamount, during the wars and sieges of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, to today’s special operations task forces. As France transitioned into an absolute monarchy, the elite guard was also deployed to maintain order, to arrest overly ambitious nobles, and to suppress the popular revolts of the 17th and 18th centuries. In a word, they were hardly the swashbuckling heroes created by Dumas.
With the help of leading historians, the film unpacks fact from fiction to give us the true story of the King’s Musketeers.