THE ADVENTURES OF
MONSIEUR DE LA DONAREE
A Swashbuckling, Romantic Adventure
by: Ted Anthony Roberts
"Here I come, Madame de La Rose, be on a lookout for me . . . . Here I come, monsieur abductor, be on your guard, for, verily, I come for you as well!!"
It is the year of our Lord 1667 A.D., the place is ....Paris.., ..France...., and it is a time of chivalry, betrayal, romance, intrigue - and of great adventure! And yet, while the exploration of this colourful world of swashbuckling cavaliers is soon to be experienced, it is proper, and conclusive, to invite knowledge to the reader of a subject that not too many individuals ventures to know of its origin and history. Therefore, with this unfortunate mishap of historical neglect in mind, and also confident that the subject will be introduced in a short but informative manner, I shall boldly paint a gallant portrait for my readers, because of these before mentioned historically mis-guided individuals, in order to answer a somewhat difficult, and a sometimes modern confusing question, which asks: "Who and what are Musketeers?;" and to provide, as a most sweet rewarding pleasure, a historical background to this said subject.
With this in mind, dear reader, please make yourself comfortable, in which-ever manner that pleases thee, and forget presently your modern world of ready conveniences, and I shall tell you of a day when action-ready and honorable men wore elaborate costumes - and a long sword hung at their side!
In the mid to late 1400's, the invention of the gun brought in a new age of warfare; the operators of this unique invention were also given names to accompany their new weapons. Therefore, naturally, the men who wielded the musket firearms, which came only a few hundred years later, became known as musketeers.
The basic function of this musketeer was to act as an infantry foot soldier. Surrounded, boxed in, and protected by pikemen (wielders of pikes - which was a long spear), these musketeers, along with these pikemen, would create the formation (in a square), called a phalanx formation. This phalanx formation was first used and created by ancient Greek soldiers, who called themselves the Hoplites. By lowering their spears, the Hoplites would walk forward in tight formation - and literally stab their enemies while they marched! Then, as history informs us, this formation was used by the Roman soldiers, who copied the ever so ingenious Hoplites. Also, it was practiced, and nearly perfected by the famous Swiss pikemen of the Middle Ages, who would kill charging knights by dismounting them with their long pikes before the knight could even get near this foot soldier. And so the musketeer is, as was also the archer before him, protected by the phalanx formation of the pikemen, who surround them - ever so protectingly - with their long pikes.
At the turn of the seventeenth century, the formation of musket and pike had drastically changed for the better. In the middle of the squares of pikemen stood three units of musketeers. After one unit would fire their muskets, they would retire to the end of the line to re-load while the next unit would move forward. By the time the third unit had discharged, the first unit would be ready to fire again. Of course, this method has improved. Musketeers in this latter half of the seventeenth century (the time frame that is presently being visited) has three units who fire simultaneously. This formation proceeds as thus: one musketeer stands, one bends down, and the third man kneels. A whole line of muskets can fire in this fashion, delivering a large volley of musket balls at a tremendous rate.
But who are these musketeers firing at? Field guns and huge cannons can crush large units of infantry from a distance; however, there are fast moving targets which cannot easily be picked off by cannon ball. These targets are cavalrymen - horsemen: the knights of yesterday (with a great amount of difference), who found it difficult to ride in heavy armour (which, anyway, a bullet can penetrate). Therefore, stripped of all armour, the cavalrymen charges these phalanx units of pikemen and musketeers with the use of pistol and sword in hopes of demolishing, little by little, this strong formation. The musketeers, on this wise, try to pick off the cavalry, who are a menace to the infantry. And while the musketeer may be unprotected, if a shot has gone off and missed the approaching target, the pikeman will defend the musketeer by pointing his pike toward the horseman.
By the end of this century (a great help to the student of this study), the bayonet had been invented; being placed on the nozzle of the musket, and serving as a spear, the musketeer had become his own pikeman, and was then able to protect himself from the cavalry. Therefore, an age old practice of warfare, the pikeman, and the usage of his service, was then destroyed. He did not even last to the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Infantry musketeers are common to all military branches of ..Europe... As long as a foot soldier carries and operates a musket firearm onto a battlefield - he is referred to as a musketeer. However, the French nation, of whom we are visiting in this tale, has their own special corps of Musketeers, who's main purpose, among other duties (such as fighting in sieges and campaigns), is to act as a bodyguard for their sovereign king. Serving in this position, being the foremost of his Guards, the Musketeers will protect his majesty whenever he chooses to leave his palace, and to accompany him, acting as his escort, wherever he decides to go. They are the corps d'elite of ....France...., they have become known as the Mousquetaires du Roi (the King's Musketeers). These men are young daredevils who are brave, courageous, quick-witted, hot-headed, short on their fuses, masters behind their demon blades, crack shots on their muskets, loved by some, hated by many, and are ever seeking adventures to satisfy their hunger for dangerous excitement. The best, and only the best, can wear the famous tunic of this legendary band!
They were first formed in the year 1600 by king Henri IV., and were handed (instead of the musket) a carbine firearm; they were then called the Carabiniers du Roi (the King's Carabineers). It was not until Louis XIII., Henri's son, came to power that the band, re-formed in 1622, and handed the new flintlock musket, were termed Musketeers. These first Musketeers were composed of 100 men, and a gentleman by the name of Monsieur de Montalet was announced their capitaine-lieutenant, for the king himself held the position of capitaine-commandant.
In 1634, the famous Monsieur de Treville was announced capitaine-lieutenant. And before they were disbanded in 1646, they had become 150 strong, having a sous-lieutenant, a cornet, two sergeant-majors, a quartermaster-sergeant, a trumpeter, and a farrier. All the men together composed one company, and their pay consisted of a low 35 sous a day.
Their headquarters, styled: Musketeer Headquarters, was a large hôtel that was located in the rue de Tournon, a very busy street in ....Paris..... The rue de Tournon is set near the rue de Vaugirard, the rue du Vieux-Colombier, the Place Saint-Sulpice and, most importantly, it is situated very closely to the palace and beautiful gardens of the ....Luxembourg..... The entire courtyard of the hôtel resembled a small army camp, and was filled (from six o'clock in the morning at summer, and eight o'clock in winter) with loud, boastful Musketeers.
In 1657, after a decade of silence from when they were disbanded, king Louis XIV. (the present king of this tale), re-established the band of Musketeers and appointed Cardinal Mazarin's nephew, the Duc de Nevers, as his capitaine-lieutenant; the company was then given the permanent name of Grand Musketeers. In November of that same year, the entire company were provided with grey horses, whereupon they became known as: Mousquetaires gris (Grey Musketeers). In 1660, a second company of these Guards were then formed for the king of Cardinal Mazarin's foot Musketeers, the band having a lower status than the first company, and were given, just three years later, black horses to stride, giving them the title, naturally, as: Mousquetaires noirs (Black Musketeers).
Being absent most of the time, and caring little of what became of his soldiers, the Duke de Nevers gave them a happy break when he stepped aside and gave the commanding position to his sous-lieutenant, of whom the soldiers felt, anyway, was their true leader. And so, in this year of 1667, Monsieur Charles d'Artagnan has taken the reins of capitaine-lieutenant.
If the name d'Artagnan sounds familiar, it is no wonder, for he is the hero of the famous romance classic: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. D'Artagnan indeed existed in the flesh, but it is the true historical personage of whom this tale is referring, not the fictional counter-part that Dumas gave the world.
Becoming a Musketeer is not an easy task - the easiest way to gain admittance into the corps is to serve at least two years in a company less favorable, such as being a regular Guard. But even then, after serving this two year apprenticeship, one must be well skilled, having fought in some campaigns, so as to achieve the experience and knowledge firsthand of the art of war. But the fastest way to enter the corps is to perform an outstanding act of bravery or derring-do! Being a Musketeer is the highest honor a common soldier can receive in all ....France...., and baring the mantle of a Musketeer is the root of popularity and respect. Today, several hundred soldiers fill the ranks; they are loud, strong, courageous, feared and respected. Even the late Armand-Jean Du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu, a political genius, who ruled France from behind the throne - a man who had countries trembling before him - had nothing but true admiration (despite his hate) for these men who fear neither life, nor death.
As their officers live in rooms that are provided in Musketeer Headquarters, the rest, hundreds of men, were told to find lodgings elsewhere, and found them in civilian apartments and rent houses. Their reputation and manners, however, are as fiery as their name, for most are gentleman in word only, not in deed! Most of these soldiers are merely overgrown children who stay up to very late hours of the night getting drunk on their wine, singing songs of battle, and getting fresh with the local bar maids. These disturbances caused a rather large commotion - the situation demanded a reparation, and new lodgings were then provided for these soldiers in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. A bit small, it's one room for two soldiers, and two beds are provided; but Musketeers always have servants - so, two Musketeers sleep in one bed and their servants sleep in the other. If a soldier wishes to find lodgings elsewhere, he may - at his own expense. Then, there are Musketeers who ignore the edict against dueling, they constantly draw their swords in the name of love or insult. This is a terrible problem, too; and the king gave this edict for he feels dueling to be in bad taste. The punishment for this crime, however, is most severe. How severe? Well, the genius Cardinal de Richelieu, who enforced this law many years back, has left us a perfect example: a cavalier, who had been found guilty of dueling, was sentenced to have his head kindly removed! A fine example, thanks to the Red Minister. But, alas, during the 1620's and 1630's, Cardinal Richelieu would secretly tell his Guards to fight the Musketeers, and king Louis XIII. would secretly encourage his Musketeers to fight the Cardinal's Guards. This was almost a comical situation that often ended in bloodshed! But not so with king Louis XIV. (this day's king), who does not go so far with secrecy; but he does, however, follow the Minister's tactics on punishment. But despite the soldiers who constantly disturb the peace, there are some, though only a handful, who are not so unruly.
The uniform of a Musketeer is so elaborate that it catches the eye of every person that is near. This uniform begins with a magnificent mantle which possesses the breath-taking colour of sky-blue. As it hangs from his shoulders, the mantle ends just at his waist, covering the chest, the back and both arms of the Musketeer. This sky-blue fabric, being the foundation, exhibits four large crosses (one on the chest, one on the back and one on each arm) that are displayed in beautiful silver thread. As the cross represents the king, it terminates into golden fleur-de-lis, showing the power of God and Country. And giving this mantle a delicately finished touch is a sheer, thin silver lace that completely covers its exterior - which, with the slightest movement of the cavalier, catches the glint of the sun; and underneath this blue covering is worn a silk white shirt.
The hat, which is a darker blue, flows with yellow plumes; the pants, being the same colour as the hat, travels down each side with two strips of yellow; the boots, baring the before said darker blue, are decorated with needful silver buckles; and, finally, the dark blue gloves are also part of the uniform, which is made to match the mantle. So, the complete colour of this Musketeer's garb is blue, yellow, silver and gold.
At few and various times some Musketeers do not wear their military dress, if belief will ensure that an excuse can offer escape, giving young nobles a chance to display their expensive non-military clothing to ladies of distinction. But the only time all will bare this uniform in sequence will be occasions such as battles, sieges, campaigns, wars, or even for a simple parade to gain respectable looks while marching along, or to appear majestic upon their prancing mounts. It is the style of this day and age to be as boastful with colour and clothing, as it is with loud, courageous speech.
As it is, and of strange consequence, almost the entire army of ....France.... (eighty to ninety percent) is composed of Gascons. ..Gascony.., being a large province, is located in Southern France, and it produces men of such courage and fearlessness that it is a gift that is not seen just too often in many places in ..Europe... Even captain d'Artagnan himself is a Gascon, and his career, especially his past career, is painted so full of adventures and bravado that it is a life, as is well thought, that only a Gascon can have - such ..Gasconade.. adventures! But the hero of this romance, our own Monsieur de La Donaree, is not of Gascon decent; and being of the few ten or twenty percent of the soldiers who thus remain, advancing from the western, northern and eastern parts of France - being separate from that country brash breed! - are the men who wish to prove their worth, to show all Paris, and indeed all of France, that one does not have to come from southern upbringing to be brave and fearless, and can be a major contribution to this (as it is often called) Gascon army of France.
Therefore, in conclusion, it can be well said that a large part of ....France....'s history can be attributed to the Musketeers; but as history can sometimes be cruel, it usually forgets the role the Musketeers has taken a part in. But this story, as it unfolds with plot, suspense, a few surprises, and outright adventure, is a way to remedy that!
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