Alexandre Dumas said that his famous Three Musketeers never existed, but Athos, Aramis and Porthos were flesh and blood. Their supposedly fictional duel with Cardinal Richelieu's guards actually took place in 1640 and Charles d'Artagnan, a teenager on his first day in Paris, fought alongside the Musketeers. According to Oxford historian Macdonald, several other elements of the tale are also based in fact the Cardinal's agent, Milady de Winter, really was an English aristocrat, and against all odds, the country boy without influence, d'Artagnan, did succeed in becoming Captain of the King's Musketeers, the only man whom Louis XIV could trust to arrest his over-mighty minister, Fouquet. It was d'Artagnan who escorted Fouquet to the feared Alpine fortress of Pignerol, wherein lived the most mysterious of all prisoners, the Man in the Iron Mask. Macdonald has spent five years unraveling fact from fiction to reveal the true story of the Musketeers and their link with the Man in the Iron Mask. It is a reality more extraordinary than anything Dumas could devise. Honor and heroism, betrayal and intrigue, are set amidst the lust, jealousy, and deadly poisons that made the Sun King's court a world of glittering paranoia.
|Publisher:||Da Capo Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.48(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.37(d)|
About the Author
Roger Macdonald is a writer, journalist and television producer. He studied history at Oxford, specialising in the French Ancien Regime. His many books include a historical guide to Provence and the Cote d'Azur.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Roger MacDonald enters the long list of people seeking to identify the man in the iron mask. His original solution is that D'Artagnan was the prisoner who was forced to wear a mask. That such a prisoner existed, there is no doubt. According to a journal kept by the second-in-command at the Bastille, this prisoner arrived with the new governor on 18 September 1698 and died on 19 November 1703. Those journal entries have sparked over a thousand articles and books on the subject. MacDonald would have us believe that D'Artagnan did not die in June 1673 but was wounded and kept prisoner thereafter. He has zero evidence to support this hypothesis. Nor does he have evidence to support his belief that the masked prisoner did not really die on 19 November 1703. MacDonald piles surmise upon assumption upon guess, and then spices up the story with imagined events that might have happened if his surmises were true. The early part of the book relates the story of D'Artagnan's life along with revelations that events in the novel The Three Musketeers did in fact take place. MacDonald even discovers a woman who might have been the model for the character of Milady in the novel. This book is a fun read as long as you don't believe large parts of the story. MacDonald sold this book to his publishers as a way to make a buck. He will probably succeed.
Roger MacDonald has written a strange book. He posits that the secret to the identity of the man in the iron mask is to be found in the history of the three musketeers. He then relies on the pseudo-memoirs of D'Artagnan, memoirs that were actually written by Gatien Courtilz de Sandras, to reveal that much of what is found in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers is true. For example, D'Artagnan did travel from Gascony to Paris to become a musketeer. He quickly found himself involved in a duel between three other musketeers (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis) and four of the cardinal's guards in which he distinguished himself as a swordsman. What he may have found is that Dumas took a lot from Courtilz de Sandras. In any case, other historians have found proof that Athos, Porthos, and Aramis really existed and were musketeers at the time of D'Artagnan who was also a real person whose true name was Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan. MacDonald also traces an English female spy for Cardinal Richelieu who was involved with Buckingham and Anne of Austria, just like the novel. It's just that the duel took place in 1640, if at all, and the female spy's antics took place in 1625 or so, when the real D'Artagnan was a child of two. MacDonald's real purpose is to prove that D'Artagnan was the man in the iron mask. No other historian has made such a claim since discussions of this mysterious prisoner began almost 300 years ago. See Jean-Christian Petitfils' Le masque de fer where he lists the 52 separate identities that have been proposed for the prisoner in the mask. D'Artagnan's name is not there. The real D'Artagnan is thought to have died at the siege of Maastricht in 1673. MacDonald says our sources for this claim are secondary or untrustworthy. He posits that D'Artagnan lived although seriously wounded in the throat, that he was hustled to the Bastille for a year and thence to Pignerol where he became the special prisoner to Benigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars. Unfortunately, for MacDonald, he has no proof, only suppositions and assumptions. For example, he believes that Louis XIV did not know of the existence of a masked prisoner until conversations with his war minister Louvois in the winter of 1688-89. MacDonald says that this discussion provoked such anger in Louis XIV that he seized the fire tongs and chased the minister around the room. Previous historians had thought that this incident was caused by the revelations of the depredations Louvois had ordered the French army to commit in the Rhineland, but MacDonald explains why he discounts that story. While he has some evidence for disbelieving the Rhineland story, he offers no evidence to support his conclusion that it was the revelation that D'Artagnan was kept alive in secret without his knowledge. MacDonald says that the king then continued D'Artagnan's imprisonmeent out of fear of what its revelation would do to Louis XIV's reputation. One of the few pieces of real evidence of the existence of a masked prisoner is the journal of Etienne Dujunca, the second in command at the Bastille, who reported that Saint-Mars arrived there to take command on 18 September 1698 and he brought with him his ancien prisonnier who had been with Saint-Mars since Pignerol and whose name is never spoken. Courtilz de Sandras was imprisoned in the Bastille from 1693 to 1699. He wrote and published his pseudo-memoirs of D'Artagnan in 1700. The question is why publish the memoirs of a man who had supposedly been dead since 1673? Or did he learn something while he was in the Bastille? The book is easy to read. MacDonald provides a list of characters, a bibliography, and a discussion of his sources. But his solution to the identity of the man in the iron mask depends on too many assumptions and too little evidence to be taken seriously.