The Soviet musical D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers is one of the most popular films in the history of the former Soviet Union. However, many viewers do not know that the heroes of Alexandre Dumas’ novel actually existed. Moreover, they were a model of the corruption and nepotism that plagued seventeenth-century France.
The most enigmatic character in Dumas’ trilogy is the noble Athos. Although d’Artagnan is considered the official hero of the novels, the plot is built around the figure of Athos. In The Three Musketeers, the characters struggle with Milady Winter, Athos’ ex-wife. In Twenty Years Later, Athos is the organizer of a government conspiracy, and the third book is devoted to his son, the viscount de Bragelon.
However, in fact, the prototype of Athos was a certain Armand de Siyeg d’Athos d’Auteville. He did serve as the king’s musketeer, but he was hired by acquaintance. In Dumas’ novel, the honor of becoming a musketeer had to be earned, but in real life things were different. The commander of the King’s Musketeers, Jean-Armand du Peyret, Count Treville, who became de Treville in the book, was Athos’ third cousin. Through the patronage of his influential relative, Athos was recruited at a “retired” age for a musketeer (26). However, unlike his literary hero, Athos did not have time to do anything outstanding, as he was killed in a duel near the market of Pré-au-Claire.
Another hero of Dumas’ novel is Porthos. Isaac de Porteau, the prototype of the literary Porthos, never aspired to a military career. His main values were a hearty meal, expensive clothes, and a large family with a bunch of young children. Isaac de Porto lived to the age of 96 and left behind many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. How the prototype of the literary Porthos got into the ranks of the royal musketeers – here the versions differ. However, most historians believe that even this was not without pulling strings. Isaac de Porteau’s grandfather was a royal dinner attendant at the Court of Navarre. It is believed that it was he who asked for his grandson, who had no interest in anything but good food.
Thus, Dumas’ novel was based on real events and real people. The characters of the novel became legends thanks to the author’s imagination and Dumas’ talent. However, they also became a symbol of corruption and nepotism, which were widespread in seventeenth-century France.