Aramis, Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan are the names of nineteenth century French writer Alexandre Dumas’ legendary swashbuckling swordfighting characters from literature. He wrote his popular drama, action and adventure novel about his four dashing heroes during the so-called nineteenth century ‘romantic’ era in Europe, when the French were re-visiting the stories surrounding their failed ancien regime.
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) claimed to have found reference to them all in an archival work “Memoirs of the Comte de la Fere, Touching Some Events Which Passed in France Toward the End of the Reign of King Louis XIII and the Commencement of the Reign of King Louis XIV.”
He ensured they were so deliciously delightful, children of the world would be affected by them for 100 years and more. Under the bedclothes with a torch at night when in the last year of Primary school, I eagerly devoured his thrilling tales of derring-do about la Mousquetaires de la garde.
There can be no doubt they certainly coloured my perceptions of what a man was meant to be.
Above all educated, endlessly loyal, of fit body and mind while captivating, caring, compassionate with the courage of his convictions. He was also always in touch with chivalry; the art of being polite.
He had an ability to overcome challenges in both reality and romance, although always within the limits of moral and ethical guidelines. Above all he had to be a great ‘character’, like his much admired fourth musketeer, D’Artagnan.
Over the years since I was born we have had Gene Kelly as a dancing D’Artagnan (1948), Michael York (1973) slightly dashing, as well as humorous, Chris O’Donnell (1993) perhaps the most ‘earnest’, with the best to date Gabriel Byrne (1998). More recently there was Logan Lerman (2011) although no one really lived up to my ideal of the man he was until now.
The Musketeers returned recently to light up our television screens with exciting, colourful stories of French and English history. The BBC One drama series The Musketeers began on TV in 2014.
A sterling action, adventure and romance created by author producer Andrew Hodges of Alan Turing: The Enigma fame and inspired by Dumas’ novel, the first season offer a ten part series worthy of the genre. There is really no levity here, its serious approach is undoubtedly its greatest strength.
You could say this series revels in being ‘gloriously unsubtle’, the scripts competently written by Hodges and a select team of talented writers under his direction.
The action is believable, the villains dark indeed, plus there is plenty of political intrigue, power games and colourful complex characters to hold you enthralled for hours.
The Musketeers from BBC 1 are as they should be, brave, dashing with extraordinary strength in vulnerability as heroes, fighting for honour, loyalty and love. Their character flaws are forgivable.
It’s a case of ‘every man for himself’ until they earn the right to say ‘all for one and one for all’, which may have been a fait accompli, but nevertheless still means something to Dumas’ followers and fans.
British actor Luke Pasqualino features as the mesmerizing ‘all for one and one for all’ addition D’Artagnan. He has the added drama of having ‘Italian’ in his ancestor pool, as well as in his heart.
This D’Artagnan has just the right ‘dash’ and determination, which is balanced perfectly by his ability to be wounded both emotionally and practically.
He is, as our Fashion Elixir editor might say ‘smoking hot’ and she would be right especially when in Episode 1 of Series 2 girls he gets his shirt off!
While this old girl may be advancing in years, she’s not dead yet and while I would have to agree he is all of that and more, I would have say that it is Aramis who is definitely more my own ‘cup of tea’.
Venezuelan-born Chilean-British actor Santiago Cabrera is Aramis complete with character flaws. He has appeared in many great television shows to date, garnering many new age fans as Lancelot in the popular series Merlin.
He’s sure to add many more with this. Fluent in Spanish, English, French and Italian, Aramis is a dead shot.
He needs to be one. Despite being a self-confessed priest, he recklessly and happily beds married women in the days when celibacy certainly wasn’t a norm, including the Queen of France.
Hower he has a kind heart so we can forgive him anything.
Like his colleagues, Cabrera wears his ‘Spanish leather’ with distinction, dutifully dashing about in Cuban heels, certainly no mean feat in any day or age.
He and Pasqualino are playing alongside English born actors Tom (Liam Benedict) Burke as Athos and Howard Charles as Porthos, who wear their leathers like second skins as well.
Porthos is an irreverent gambler and Athos – well he’s a dark soul who loves the bottle and a battle too much, although we soon find out why and give him our empathy.
Series 1 spends much of its time providing us with back stories to the characters, all of whom we know fairly well by Series 2.
The marvelous music by Murray Gold is a triumph, and its sad to see its not yet commercially available.
It is easy to see the current Musketeers creator and his stunt co-ordinator both expect and demand a great deal of this splendidly cast team of actors.
They have had to learn how to fight with heavy weaponry and get in shape for what are truly very physically demanding roles.
These four-feted figures fit together like the leather gloves they wear, while standing alone as we would expect in 21st century life, acting as a team only when they need to be.
The sword fighting scenes are indeed spectacularly achieved.
They all have to ‘act’ as well, which they do with great proficiency and skill, while mastering the art of riding a horse in all that gear!
English actor Peter Capaldi starred in Season 1 as the dastardly 1st minister of France the Roman Catholic Cardinal Richelieu, doing great justice to his role as a ‘Black Devil’.
His character was perhaps fulfilling the role model Dumas may have had in mind, that of his father who gained that very nickname when he enlisted in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. He gained momentum as the series rolled on.
In Series 2 he has suddenly departed for an unreal dimension, with a new arch enemy emerging for The Musketeers to battle on behalf of France and their King.
King Louis XIII is Ryan Gage, who is convincing as a man overly influenced by those surrounding him. Gage reveals his weak side; he relies far too heavily on his chief minister and doesn’t trust his own judgment at all.
This makes him easy to manipulate by such seasoned villains.
His all new Head of the Red Guards comes in the guise of Marc Warren, the eminently watchable Comte de Rochefort. He is cast in the evil mode too, albeit a little more unpredictable than Richelieu, equally elegant and his ruthlessness knows no bounds.
He also sets out to bring about The Musketeers demise.
So far he looks as if he will prove to be another worthy opponent, welcome at the Royal Court where like his predecessor, he will be mainly looking to ensure political expediency serves his own best interests.
Among the ladies Maimie McCoy is a fine and very dangerous Milady de Winter to date. Sensuous, sharp witted she’s definitely part of her ‘dark secret’, which will be the death of one of them.
The married woman who captures D’Artagnan’s eye and heart Constance, is played convincingly by Tamla Kari.
He certainly disturbs her otherwise ‘dull existence’, teaching her valuable sword and self defense skills, which in Season 1 she showed off from time to time. Now with a wedge driven between them in Season 2, what lies ahead is also unpredictable.
Captain Treville, The Musketeers commander in chief, is played straight up by Hugo Speer. He’s very fine. An upright man of great integrity, the one man they all look up to, admire and give their loyalty to.
Alexandre Dumas set the tale of his Three Musketeers in seventeenth century France, during the reign of their most famous King Louis XIV’s father, King Louis XIII and his wife Anne of Austria, the very lovely Alexandra Dowling, who also appeared in the series Merlin.
Of Spanish birth at the French court Anne of Austria proves herself an intelligent woman, one who became adept at playing the political game of endeavouring to keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.
While loyal to the King, she is definitely attracted to the Musketeer Aramis too, and who would blame her!
The fact Louis XIII was never believed to have fathered his son Louis XIV helps this series storyline.
‘Bitter recollections have time to change themselves into sweet remembrances’*…
The French revolution was already over when Alexandre Dumas was born in Villers-Cotterêts, a commune of the Picardy region.
Interestingly the area where he was born played an important role in the establishment of Francien as the official language (rather than Latin or other dialects) through a legal reform known in France as the Edict of Villers-Cotterêts (1539).
Alexandre Dumas moved to Paris after 1822 where he worked as a scribe for the duc d’Orleans (later King Louis Philippe), a member of the former nobility of France.
This gave him access to documents that would aid his research of history for his literary achievements.
He achieved widespread success when he began to publish plays, comedies and dramas, all of which proved enormously popular.
His novels the Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers made him a household name in France and his fame captivated much of Europe and the rest of the world when translated into English.
The Musketeers of the Guard founded by Louis XIII fought with swords and muskets both in battle on foot or horseback. Despite being disbanded and reformed many times, they survived until 1816 when they lay down their arms for good.
During Dumas’ lifetime the French economy recovered and optimism abounded. He built his own Château de Monte Cristo in Port Marly, spending so lavishly like the hero of his other famous novel, he finally had to flee France to evade his creditors
A capable ‘fencer’ too author Alexandre Dumas was a womanizer, literary giant and larger than life character who today rests among other French such giants in the stunning building of the Panthéon at Paris, which would have certainly appealed to his own romantic sensibilities.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Series One Trailer
Series Two Trailer