“A rogue does not laugh in the same way that an honest man does; a hypocrite does not shed the same sort of tears as fall from the eyes of a man of good faith. All falsehood is a mask, and however well made the mask may be, with a little attention we may always succeed in distinguishing it from the true face.” ~ Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
For a swordsman, steel is just an extension of the arm.
One of the particular things I’ve enjoyed researching while writing my Regency pirate romance books is the art of sword fighting. Craftily forged steel only asks to be polished and sharpened like the mind of its master. Steel doesn’t need to be reloaded. When placed in a talented, resourceful, and courageous man’s hands, no situation is too formidable, no success too far out of reach.
When man and steel become one, there is swashbuckling to be done! [You can quote me on it! 😉 ]
Accomplished rogues + Codes of honor = Major swashbuckle!
What would an epic action/adventure romance be without swashbuckling sword-fighting scenes, eh? Imagine The Black Swan or Captain Blood without choreographed sword fights enhanced with movie-making magic. Picture Will Turner without the talent to create a finely-crafted, perfectly weighted sword. Or dare I suggest? (I believe I shall. I have no choice but to bring him up after last week’s disastrous reveal on Starz… Black Sails’ Charles Vane!) Captain Vane, a regular character with an iron-will and a steady, but very personal moral compass, was a well-honed pirate who not only knew how to fight, he pulled out all the stops and surprised fans with the ultimate sacrifice no one ever suspected he would make. Well done, actor Zach McGowan! (Off to sulk again and adjust my heading to #TeamFlint.)
But I digress…
A prime example of swashbuckling prowess can always be found in The Three Musketeers. Where would Alexandre Dumas’s graceful, heart-pounding, adventurous threesome be without their swords?
Did you know that The Three Musketeers were REAL people? Yes, me hearties! Musketeers were the personal guard, originally “Carabiniers” of King Louis XIII. You can be sure the King’s Musketeers influenced Alexandre Dumas’s muse as he read The Memoirs of M. d’Artagnan, written by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandraz (himself once a musketeer) in 1678.
D’Artagnan and The Three Musketeers weren’t fictional characters? No more fictional than the real Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, Jack Rackham, Ned Low, and Edward Teach. Aye, now there’s a swashbuckling bunch!
Born in Gascony in 1615, the real d’Artagnan hailed from a family named Batz, which, according to By the Sword, A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions, by Richard Cohen, became Batz-Castelmore when d’Artagnan’s father inherited the Castelmore estate along the Armagnac and Fezensac borders. One of five sons, two named Charles, the youngest Charles would later become known as d’Artagnan.
Aramis — Henri d’Aramitz — Aramis was a squire and a lay priest, as well as the real-life nephew of the captain of the musketeers, M. de Tresville!
Athos — Armand de Sillegue, Lord of Athos, was Tresville’s cousin’s son. Athos died during a duel before d’Artagnan ever joined the musketeers. (Say it isn’t so! Sulkin’ again…)
Porthos — Isaac de Portau — entered Paris a year before d’Artagnan. Turned down by the musketeers, Porthos spent time in another regiment to prove himself worthy, until he finally passed muster and became a musketeer in 1643.
“Milady” — Countess of Carlisle was not Anne de Breuil, Duchess de Winter. As one of Richelieu’s spies, the countess really DID steal two diamond studs from the Duke of Buckingham! (Scandalous!)
That brings us back to d’Artagnan… Distinguished in battle, the impetuous youth was adventurous, a highly-trusted agent to Richelieu’s successor, Cardinal Mazarin. As such, d’Artagnan traveled the world, moving in clandestine circles, and even managed to smuggle the unpopular Mazarin out of Paris. Though he dined on justice, one skill far outshone all of d’Artagnan’s other achievements… he was a skilled swordsman, more so than Dumas ever gave him credit for! En garde!!!
Historically, the real d’Artagnan commanded the king’s Grand Musketeers, “the most coveted appointment in France”. In 1672, he became governor of Lille but fate often repays honorable service with the reaper’s blade. D’Artagnan, the talented youthful buck from Gascony, took a fatal musket ball to the throat at the Siege of Maastricht, ironically a few feet away from Winston Churchill’s great-great-great-grandfather, Captain Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough.
The first novel about the infamous swashbuckling Gascon, d’Artagnan, was published in 1700, 27 years after d’Artagnan’s death. (Talk about creating a legend!)
“The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.” — Alexander Dumas, The Three Musketeers
Dedication. Devotion. Determination. And duty. A true swashbuckling swordsman knows when and where to strike. Steel is just an extension of the arm, but the moral compass directing the blade reveals the difference between a true hero and a fictional one.
“Be kind, aim for the heart.” — Alexander Dumas, The Three Musketeers
Now that you know The Three Musketeers were real men, do you still have a FAVorite, me hearties? If you were in dire need, which one of these handsome BBC bucks would you rather have come to your rescue? I’ll take a lethal dose of Athos with a pint of Aramis, please!