The Red Sphinx: Historical Notes and Commentary
The published book includes translator’s notes and a guide to the historical characters of the story. Below are supplementary historical notes explaining terms and references in the text. Each note is preceded by the page number where the reference appears in the hardcover edition. Enjoy!
4: PISTOLES: “…for the sum of a thousand pistoles.”: Pistole was a French word for a gold coin of the 16th and 17th centuries, usually Spanish in origin. The leading European states liked to mint their own coins, but gold was hard for them to come by—except for Spain, who flooded Europe with gold from its possessions in the New World, making the Spanish escudo the de facto base currency of European trade for two centuries. When Dumas’s characters refer to pistoles, they are mostly Spanish escudos. One pistole is worth about ten livres or three French crowns (écus).
10: SOUS AND DENIERS: “As for the bill, it is one pistole, five sous, and two deniers.” : These were common French coins of the reign of Louis XIII. From smallest to largest, 12 deniers = 1 sou; 20 sous = 1 franc; 3 francs = 1 crown (écu); 3 crowns = 1 pistole. In this period the livre is mostly a “unit of account” rather than a coin, and used for reckoning official finances; it’s about equal to a franc, or one-third of a crown.
11: SELL-SWORD: “…are you inclined, my dear Monsieur, to help a generous cavalier rid himself of a rival?” : Étienne Latil may be an invented character, but his trade, that of professional or proxy duelist, was quite real. Dueling “champions” had a place in a society where an aristocrat’s honor was defended by the sword, but not everyone could or would fight. Under Cardinal Richelieu, dueling was illegal and punishable by death, so Latil’s trade is a perilous one, and his caution is justified.
16: JACQUELINE DE BUEIL: “The child of Jacqueline de Bueil is not of the royal house.” : The mother of Antoine de Bourbon, Comte de Moret, was Jacqueline de Bueil, one of King Henri IV’s many mistresses; she bore him a son in 1607, and the child was recognized as a royal bastard in 1608. King Henri elevated his mistress to the title of Comtesse de Moret, the origin of her son’s common title. Fun fact: in 1617 the countess married René Crespin du Bec, Marquis de Vardes—the “Comte de Wardes” of The Three Musketeers, and father of that “Comte de Wardes” who is the implacable enemy of Raoul in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Raoul’s nemesis is therefore the much younger half-brother of the Comte de Moret.
16: RAVAILLAC: “I’m no Jacques Clément nor Ravaillac…”: Clément and Ravaillac were two infamous French regicides, or assassins of kings: Clément killed Henri III, and Ravaillac slew Henri IV. You’ll hear much more about Ravaillac later in The Red Sphinx.
19-20: FRENCH ACADEMY: “…when Monsieur Conrart founded the French Academy.” : The Académie Française was established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu to promote, and more importantly to regulate, the standards of French literature. These rules were propounded by the Academy’s members, of a number limited to forty; a new member could be elected only by vote of the existing members. At first, when the Academy was founded in 1635, there were only nine members, including the cardinal’s collaborators such as Desmarets and Boisrobert, poets such as Vincent Voiture, and the aforementioned Valentin Conrart. Richelieu stood as the Academy’s sponsor and patron.
27: DUELING: “You are witnesses that he challenged me first?” : Cardinal Richelieu, whose brother had been killed in a duel, had persuaded Louis XIII to declare dueling illegal, but that had done little to stop the practice, as by 1628 the Code Duello was deeply ingrained in the aristocratic psyche. If a duel was conducted according to the accepted rules of honor, and efforts were made to keep the matter private, officers of the law would usually look the other way.
40: RAMBOUILLET SALON: “…those whose society was ridiculed by Molière as they ridiculed him in return” : Dumas refers to Molière’s 1659 play Les Précieuses Ridicules (a.k.a. The Affected Ladies), though at the time of The Red Sphinx the habitués of Parisian salons were not yet derided as “précieuses.” But Dumas adored Molière, and never missed a chance to mention his work, even when it was anachronistic. If you like this chapter, and haven’t read any Molière, you should give him a try: Your Editor recommends the translations by Richard Wilbur or Donald Frame.
41: LOPE DE VEGA: “Lope de Vega, Alarcón, and Tirso de Molina” : Three playwrights who revived and reinvigorated Spanish drama in the early 17th century, at the beginning of Spanish literature’s Baroque era. They were incredibly prolific: Lope de Vega alone wrote some five hundred plays. Sadly, their plays haven’t aged as well as those of their English or French contemporaries; if you’re in the mood for early Spanish Baroque, you’re better off re-reading Cervantes.
42: HÔTEL DE BOURGOGNE: “…the actors of the Hôtel de Bourgogne” : This venue was the first dedicated dramatic theatre built in Paris, opening in 1548, and for the next hundred years it was the premier venue for French drama; every aspiring Parisan playwright hoped to see his work performed there. From 1599 on it was the home of the famous company of the Comédiens du Roi.
42: HYPOCHONDRIAC: “The play under discussion that evening was a piece titled The Hypochondriac” : In fact, Jean Rotrou’s The Hypochondriac, his first play to reach the stage, had played at the Hôtel de Bourgogne only a few months earlier. However, on December 5, 1628, the date this chapter takes place, it was Rotrou’s second play, The Ring of Forgetfulness, that was knocking ‘em dead at the Bougogne.
42: DESMARETS: “…the even more celebrated Desmarests and Bois-Robert.” : Jean Desmarets, Sieur de Saint-Sorlin (1595-1676) was one of Richelieu’s Five Poets, and one of the founding members of the Académie Française. Shortly after this chapter’s date he gave up writing poetry and drama in favor of novels, and left Richelieu’s little coterie. For Bois-Robert, see the “Historical Characters” appendix.
44: SCUDÉRY: “…said Mademoiselle de Scudéry to her brother.” : Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701) was a celebrated French novelist who wrote under the name “Sappho,” and was best known for The Grand Cyrus (1648-53) and Clélie (1654-61). Her elder brother Georges de Scudéry 1601-1667) was a writer as well, though a lesser light than the brilliant and witty Madeleine, and often collaborated with his sister. Dumas has back-dated them a bit: they didn’t join the Rambouillet circle until 1637.
45: MÉLITE: “It’s called Mélite” : Corneille’s first play, which premiered a year later in December of 1629, established the entire genre that came to be known as “the Comedy of Manners.” It was rumored to have been based on actual events in the author’s native city of Rouen, though they might have involved someone other than Corneille himself.
54: MOUNTAINS OF COARRAZE: “…the rugged mountains of Coarraze where Henri IV….” : As Dumas frequently reminds us, Henri de Bourbon was Prince of Navarre before he was King Henri IV, and grew up in Béarn, that southern mountain province bordering both Spain and Gascony. By analogy, “Jacquelino,” as a son of “le Béarnais,” Henri IV, shares many of the traits of both Henri IV and that famous Gascon, d’Artagnan.
55: RAPIER AND DAGGER: “These were the arms of a gentlemen, not exactly compatible with the costume of a peasant.” : Technically, only the gentry and nobility were entitled to bear weapons in public; wearing a rapier at one’s belt was tantamount to claiming membership in the aristocracy, and could earn a commoner a sharp rebuff, or worse.
56: VENTRE-SAINT-GRIS: “Ventre-saint-gris!” : Literally (and nonsensically), “Sacred gray belly!” Said to have been a favorite exclamation of King Henri IV, it was probably a slight sanitization of Ventre-Dieu! (“God’s guts!”) Many of the French exclamations in Dumas’s dialogue are such cleaned-up oaths, along the lines of the transformation in English of “God’s wounds!” into “Zounds!” (which does not rhyme with sounds, no matter what you’ve heard).
57: MONSEIGNEUR: “You can’t kneel to me, Monseigneur!” : One of the many broad hints in this chapter that “Jacquelino” comes of royal blood, which puts him a cut above other gentry and nobility—even in disguise.
64: GALAOR: “Galaor” : The (fictional) young page of the Duc de Montmorency whom Moret borrows for some of his adventures is named after one of the heroes of Amadis the Gaul, a Spanish chivalric romance of the late medieval period that was told and retold in many versions, rather like the English tales of King Arthur. In translation, the stories were nearly as popular in France as in Spain.
69: DARK CORRIDOR: “The duchess took a key from her pouch and opened the door of a dark corridor” : Secret passages are a staple of the swashbuckling genre, and Dumas was as responsible for this as anyone. The royal palace of the Louvre, originally a fortified castle, had been built, expanded, and rebuilt by the monarchs of France for many hundreds of years, and had plenty of underused back corridors and servants’ stairways. The queen’s chambers, for example, on the south side of the Louvre, could be accessed from the inner courtyard below by a spiral staircase known as the “King’s Little Ladder” (“Petit Degré du Roi”).
75: HÉROARD: “His first doctor, Héroard, kept a journal for twenty-eight years with daily records” : And so he did: physician Jean Héroard recorded the medical life of Louis XIII in exhaustive detail from his birth in 1601 to Héroard’s death in 1628. Dumas’s references to it are a good example of his use of primary sources, when he could get them. Héroard’s journal is available in French, still in print to this day.
81: LUYNES TOOK THE KING: “Luynes simply picked him up and carried him to where he didn’t want to go.” : The incident in which Louis finally consummated his marriage to Anne is well attested.
89: VENDÔMES: “The Vendômes, two bastards of Henri IV, were arrested. The Comte de Soissons fled….” : Three treacherous Princes of the Blood. The Vendôme brothers were children of King Henri IV and his mistress Gabrielle d’Estrées; as acknowledged bastards, they had a claim on the throne just behind that of the legitimate princes, Louis and Gaston. César de Bourbon, Duc de Vendôme (1594-1665), was third in line for the throne, and was involved in conspiracies against his half-brother throughout the reign of Louis XIII; he was imprisoned once and exiled three times. His younger brother Alexandre, Chevalier de Vendôme (1598-1629), like César imprisoned for his involvement in the Chalais conspiracy, died after less than two years in the dungeon of Vincennes. Louis de Bourbon, Comte de Soissons (1604-1641) was the son of King Henri and Anne de Montafié. Less troublesome than the Vendômes, he didn’t get involved in outright treason until later in the reign; he died—by accident or murder—during a rebellion against King Louis in 1641.
92: MORET’S TRAVELS: “He’d been in England during the Chalais conspiracy [and] in Italy during the siege of La Rochelle….” : Well, probably not, at least so far as we know—he was most likely in France throughout the period referenced. He certainly first met the Duchesse de Chevreuse in Paris in 1624 rather than in England in 1627. Later he probably accompanied Montmorency to Savoy in the Alpine campaign of 1629, but that’s no sure thing: Your Editor has found only one reference that places Moret at the Battle of Susa Pass, a mention in the Journal of Bassompierre.
96: SWISS GUARDS: “Just knock on the window of the Swiss Guards….” : From the Renaissance onward, Swiss mercenaries served as royal guards in a number of European courts, most notably France and Spain. The Cents Suisse, or Hundred Swiss, were guards at the Louvre and other royal palaces such as Fontainebleau; at the time of The Red Sphinx there was also an entire regiment of Swiss mercenaries in service to the king, commanded by Marshal Bassompierre (see the Historical Characters appendix).
102: CHAMPAIGNE PORTRAIT: “In the gallery of the Louvre there hangs a portrait by the Jansenist painter Philippe de Champaigne depicting Cardinal Richelieu” : Indeed there does, two of them, in fact—the full-length portrait described by Dumas, and the so-called “Triple Portrait” that shows Richelieu in close-up, full on and both profiles. They are remarkable paintings, just as powerful as Dumas says they are: take a few moments and look them up on a web image search. Even better, if you’re ever in Paris, take the time to visit the Louvre and see them in person. You can see a black-and-white rendering of Champaigne’s full-length portrait on page 776 of this volume.
120: IMPRISONED ROYAL SONS: “I already have two other sons of Henri IV in prison!” : The Vendôme brothers, as mentioned in the note to page 89.
130: BOUTEVILLE THE DUELIST: “…met you in the Place Royale, the same place where Bouteville fought Beuvron.” : A famous duel, referred to several times in the course of The Red Sphinx. François de Montmorency-Bouteville (1600-1627), a cousin of the Duc de Montmorency, was a notorious and unrepentant duelist, despite the laws forbidding the practice. After Bouteville first wounded the Comte de Pontgibaud, and then killed the Marquis de Portes, Cardinal Richelieu, whose own brother had died in a duel, persuaded Louis XIII in 1626 to decree death as the penalty for dueling. Bouteville nonetheless continued to fight duels, killing the Comte de Thorigny in late 1626, and wounding the Baron de la Frette in early 1627, after which he fled to Brussels. François d’Harcourt de Beuvron, a relative of the slain Thorigny, challenged Bouteville to return and face him. Bouteville rashly accepted and came back to Paris, where, on May 12, 1627, in the Place Royale, he fought Beuvron and killed his second, the Marquis d’Amboise. Bouteville and his own second were tried, convicted, and, despite Bouteville’s high rank and over the near-universal protests of the aristocracy, were beheaded at the Place de Grève on June 22, 1627.
141: DUC DE LORRAINE: “The Duc de Lorraine….” : Charles IV, Duc de Lorraine (1604-1675), was the ruler of an independent duchy situated strategically between France and the western German states of the Holy Roman Empire. An incurable romantic and inveterate intriguer, Duc Charles was one of the many men who allowed the Duchesse de Chevreuse to persuade them to support Prince Gaston in the cabals against Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII. The decision would cost him his throne: in retaliation for Lorraine’s meddling in French affairs, Louis XIII invaded the duchy in 1634 and forced Charles to abdicate in favor of his younger brother.
150: KING CHARLES I: “…King Charles stepped out and walked to the scaffold.” : The imprisonment and execution of King Charles I of England is addressed in detail in Twenty Years After, the next book in Dumas’s Musketeers cycle.
161: THE GRAND CONDÉ: “…without those three years in the Bastille neither the Grand Condé nor Madame de Longueville would ever have been born.” : Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé (1621-86), known as “the Grand Condé,” was one of the greatest French generals of the 17th century; his numerous victories, starting with the Battle of Rocroi in 1643, helped force the Thirty Years War to its end. His sister, Anne Geneviève de Bourbon, Duchesse de Longueville (1619-79), had a notorious taste for intrigue and dangerous romance. Both were leaders of the Nobles’ faction during the civil war known as the Fronde, and play key rôles in Twenty Years After, the next book in Dumas’s Musketeers cycle.
164: CONSTABLE OF FRANCE: “…the Duc de Montmorency was ambitious to bear the sword of the Constable of France…” : Since medieval times, the Constable of France had been the chief officer of all the armies, senior to every other Marshal of France and reporting directly to the king. The title was occasionally given out as a matter of pure patronage, as occurred when Louis XIII granted the Sword of the Constable to the Duc de Luynes, his first favorite, but more often it was bestowed upon nobles of high rank who had actual military talent and experience. The position was retired after the death of King Louis XIII.
174: THREE HUNDRED KNIGHTS: “…I may need to ask Princess Marie to lend me a room so I can ask for news from her neighbors the Three Hundred Knights.” Les Quinze-Vingts, or the Three Hundred, were crusaders of a previous century whose eyes had been put out by the Saracens; upon their return to France they’d been given a royal hospital in Paris where they could live out their sightless lives. Long after the crusades had ended the institution retained its name and function as a hospital for the blind and a center for the study of blindness. Gaston, who has just remarked that he finds politics “over-dazzling,” is therefore making a tasteless joke about the Princess’s blind neighbors.
196: THE YOUTH OF THE CID: Las Mocedades del Cid (1615), by Guillén de Castro, was a romantic and humorous retelling of the life of Spain’s national hero, and the Spaniard de Castro’s most famous work. It was also the work Pierre Corneille drew upon for his own Le Cid, his best-known play. Anne, a Spaniard, would be reading de Castro’s Cid in its original tongue.
206: KING HENRI’S ASSASSINATION: “Can you tell me what you remember about the murderer at the time, and afterward?” : The young page Étienne Latil and his involvement with the assassination of Henri IV is fictional, but otherwise the details of the incident and its aftermath, as related in this chapter, are accurate.
271: MALHERBE, IVRANDE AND RACAN: “It seems that last night he was carousing with Ivrande and Racan, and all three ended up sleeping, dead drunk, in Malherbe’s bedchamber.” : Dumas has misdated his anecdote, as the great poet François de Malherbe (1555-1628) had died the previous October. The other two were younger poets, Malherbe’s cronies and protégés; Ivrande is now largely forgotten, but Honorat de Bueil, Seigneur de Racan (1589-1670) was one of the leading poets of the early 17th century, and one of the first members of the Académie Française. A page for King Henri IV, he was a courtier before he was a poet, and well known in the upper levels of French society.
285: DARLING PIAILLON: “For darling Piaillon has just had kittens.” : Richelieu was a famous cat-lover, and was often depicted in sentimental genre illustrations with a lapful of kittens.
296: MONSIEUR DE TRÉVILLE: “…you would be received first by Monsieur de Tréville….” : This is, in fact, that same Arnaud-Jean de Peyrer, Comte de Troisvilles or Tréville (1598-1672) who was Captain of the King’s Musketeers and played such a large rôle in the previous novel, The Three Musketeers. See also the note to page 592.
298: NOGENT-BAUTRU: “…the Comte de Nogent-Bautru, brother of that Bautru the cardinal had sent to Spain.” : Nicholas Bautru, Comte de Nogent (1595-1661) shared a reputation for wit with his elder brother Guillaume (see BAUTRU in the Historical Characters appendix), but unlike his brother didn’t pursue either poetry or diplomacy, devoting himself entirely to acting as a courtier to whoever was in power.
299: LA VIEUVILLE: “La Vieuville, Superintendent of Finances” : Charles I, Marquis de La Vieuville (1583-1653), had been named Surintendant des Finances in 1623 but didn’t hold the position for long, as he was caught peculating the public funds and was disgraced in 1624. He was reappointed to the position in 1651, during the Fronde, and held it until his death two years later. La Vieuville was something of a character, an unusual trait in a financier, which is why Dumas has him still occupying the rôle of superintendent of finances four years after his disgrace.
303: DUC D’ANGOULÊME: “…bravely went up to the Duc d’Angoulême….” : Charles de Valois, Duc d’Angoulême (1573-1650) was an acknowledged royal bastard, the son of King Charles IX and Marie Touchet. In his youth he engaged in pro-Spanish intrigues against King Henri IV, was arrested, and spent eleven years in the Bastille. During the regency of Marie de Médicis he was released and rehabilitated, and thereafter served the throne loyally; he was one of Louis XIII’s leading commanders at the Siege of La Rochelle.
305: SAINT BARTHOLOMEW’S DAY MASSACRE: “…where he and Monsieur de Gondy had plotted the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre….” : A horrific incident in the French Wars of Religion when, on the evening of August 23, 1572, the order went out from King Charles IX for the Catholics of Paris to slaughter all the Huguenots (French Protestants), who were in the capital to celebrate the marriage of Princess Margaret to the Protestant Prince Henri, later King Henri IV. The massacre spread from Paris to the provinces, resulting in the deaths of at least 5,000 Huguenots, and possibly many more than that—no one is quite sure of the total. The incident is central to Dumas’s great 1845 novel La Reine Margot (in English, Queen Margot).
315: INFANTA CLAIRE-EUGÉNIE: “A gift for Your Royal Majesty from Her Highness the Infanta Claire-Eugénie.” : Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633), with her husband Archduke Albert VIII, ruled the Spanish Netherlands starting in 1601; after Albert died in 1621, Clara Eugenia continued as Governor of the Netherlands, ruling in the name of the King of Spain. An infanta was a child of a Spanish monarch, and as Clara Eugenia was a daughter of King Philip II, that made her Anne of Austria’s aunt.
326: DUEL OF LA CHÂTAIGNERAIE: “…like the one under Henri II that had ended in the death of La Châtaignerie.” : The celebrated 1547 duel at the French Court between the Baron de Jarnac and the Sieur de La Châtaigneraie started out as a sanctioned judicial combat to settle mutual accusations of lying that tarnished the honor of both gentlemen. The newly-crowned King Henri II rashly permitted the judicial duel to go forward, in which La Châtaignerie, an experienced fighter who was favored to win, was slain by what came to be known as “the Coup de Jarnac,” in which the veteran knight was first hamstrung by a blow behind the knee, and then slain. Jarnac’s decisive and unexpected attack contributed to the popular idea of the secret or “unstoppable” thrust.
346: THE DAY OF DUPES: “…the famous event that history would call the Day of Dupes….” : On November 10, 1630, the long-simmering conflict between Marie de Médicis and Cardinal Richelieu finally boiled over, as the queen mother, backed by all her anti-cardinalist allies, demanded that her son, Louis XIII, make a final choice between her and the cardinal. Her bullying ultimatum was interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Richelieu who, unbowed, reminded the king of his loyalty and accomplishments. Abashed, Louis withdrew to his lodge at Versailles, where that evening he summoned the cardinal to him, and unexpectedly chose to commit himself to Richelieu rather than to his mother. Queen Marie was exiled, and thereafter Richelieu served as Louis’s uncontested prime minister. It’s been speculated that Dumas planned to end The Red Sphinx with this event, the cardinal’s dramatic triumph over his enemies—but that seems unlikely to Your Editor, because Dumas wouldn’t spoil the effect of his intended ending by referring to as he does here, halfway through the novel.
363: ADMIRAL HEIN: “…Admiral Hein of the Neitherlands took and sank the Spanish treasure fleet….” : Admiral Piet Hein (1577-1629) was a sea captain and privateer who raided Spanish shipping on the behalf of the Dutch Republic (a.k.a. the United Provinces). In 1628 his flotilla intercepted and captured the annual Spanish treasure fleet, sixteen ships loaded with silver, gold, and trade goods from the colonies, with an estimated value of over eleven million guilders. This was a serious blow to ongoing Spanish ambitions in Europe.
388: RICHELIEU’S RESIGNATION: “I beg you, Sire, to please accept my resignation….” : Resigning or threatening to resign his ministry, thereby leaving Louis XIII in the lurch, was a tactic Richelieu employed several times to bring the king to heel when Louis took bad advice and made decisions that put the cardinal’s plans at risk. It was an effective ploy, not least because Richelieu always made it clear that he meant it.
396: MADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ: “Although Madame de Sévigné had not yet written her maxim….” : Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné (1626-1696) was renowned for her witty, insightful, and prolific letter-writing. Her letters were widely copied and passed around among the French aristocracy, were collected after her death, and have never been out of print since. The Selected Letters of Madame de Sévigné was one of Dumas’s primary sources for depicting the reign of Louis XIV in the later novels of the Musketeers Cycle.
407: JUSSAC: “You already have Monsieur de Jussac, Sire….” : Readers of The Three Musketeers will remember Jussac as the officer of the Cardinal’s Guards who attempted to arrest d’Artagnan and the eponymous Three for dueling; Jussac was wounded by d’Artagnan in the mêlée that followed. At this point in the cycle, Jussac apparently has become an officer of the king’s guards. However, the historical Chevalier Claude de Jussac, Seigneur de Chedigny (1620-1690) was too young for either rôle, though later he swashed a buckler in Prince Gaston’s guards, rising to the rank of captain. After that he served as chamberlain to the Duc de Maine, and was eventually elevated to the rank of Comte de Jussac.
425: COUNT-DUKE OLIVARES: “You’ve spoken with Count-Duke Olivares?” : Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares (1587-1645) was prime minister to King Philip IV of Spain, and was often compared in power and capabilities to France’s Cardinal Richelieu. The War of the Mantuan Succession, in which Louis XIII is about to involve the armies of France, was in many ways a diplomatic duel between Olivares and Richelieu.
434: WALLENSTEIN: “…the only man who can thwart the ambition of Emperor Ferdinand and beat Tilly and Wallenstein.” : See note to page 555.
452: ETERNAL CONSOLATION: “He got up, pulled down Gerson’s Eternal Consolation from a shelf….” : Jean Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429) was a leading medieval French theologian who thought religious doctrine should be conveyed as clearly as possible. His influential De Consolatione Theologiae had been republished in Paris in 1606, but Baradas would have had a difficult time reading it to the king, as it was entirely in Latin.
471: MIRAME: “So he drew forth the outline of his new tragedy, Mirame….” : The tragicomedy Mirame, attributed to Cardinal Richelieu, was actually written almost entirely by his “collaborator,” Jean Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin (1595-1676). (See note to page 42.) Dumas has once again moved historical events forward to suit his own timeline; Mirame may have been contemplated as early as 1629, but it wasn’t performed until 1641.
518: PONIARD: “He drew a broad poniard from his sleeve….” : The poniard, or poignard, was a light fighting knife designed for thrusting and parrying. Though by Dumas’s time the word had become synonymous with dagger, in the 17th century the poniard had a long, tapering blade, almost like that of a stiletto: hardly “broad.”
531: FORTIFICATIONS OF SUSA: “The Duke of Savoy … is fortifying Susa Pass.” : The imposing fortifications built by Charles-Emmanuel to block Susa Pass were just as Moret describes them to Richelieu, and the Duke of Savoy was justified in regarding them as impenetrable.
545: GALILEO: “But who told you all this, Antoine?” “My Italian sage.” “What’s his name?” “Galileo.” : Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was, in fact, teaching at the University of Padua during the time Dumas says Moret studied there, and could have taught Antoine de Bourbon the theory of heliocentrism and the Copernican system. Galileo was famously forced to abjure these theories in 1633 when threatened with torture by the Inquisition.
555: WALLENSTEIN: “…Prince Gaston, in a moment of anger, had sent a message reaching out to Wallenstein in Germany.” : Albrecht von Wallenstein (1604-1634) was a Bohemian general in service to the Emperor Ferdinand. He was one of the most capable military leaders of the Thirty Years War, but also one of the most ruthless, and troops under his command were responsible for countless atrocities. Richelieu funded the forces of Sweden’s King Gustavus Adolphus largely as a counterweight against Wallenstein, hoping to keep him away from France’s eastern borders. In 1634, after becoming too powerful, Wallenstein was assassinated, with at least the tacit approval of the Emperor.
569: A SKETCH BY CALLOT: “…he was once again that captain who might have stepped out of a sketch by Callot” : Dumas refers to a drawing by the great Jacques Callot (1592-1635), here reproduced on page 567.
583: MUSKETEERS: “The king presided over these preparations, detailing some of his musketeers to join the enfants perdus.” : In Twenty Years After, the next book in the Musketeers cycle, Dumas mentions that d’Artagnan, by then a Lieutenant of the King’s Musketeers, took part in the forcing of Susa Pass. Can there be any doubt but that he was one of the musketeers out front with the enfants perdus? Additional fun fact: in his Journal chapter on the Battle of Susa Pass, Bassompierre notes that a Captain Serbellon was captured by a Monsieur de Tréville of the enfants perdus, who was almost certainly the same soldier who would later become Captain of the King’s Musketeers. (This Serbellon shouldn’t be confused with the Colonel Belon who was captured, on the other side of the battlefield, by the Comte de Sault—an exploit that Dumas assigns to his invented Étienne Latil. See note to page 597.)
584: THE DANCERS ARE READY: “Bassompierre approached, smiling and with hat in hand. ‘Sire,’ he said, ‘the dancers are ready, the violins are in tune, and the masks are at hand; when it pleases Your Majesty, we may commence the ballet.’” : Dumas drew this exchange directly from Bassompierre’s Journal.
597: MORET TO THE RESCUE: “This final onslaught broke the enemy troop.” : Dumas’s account of how the French army forced the Pass of Susa is quite accurate, including the dramatic incident of a small, flanking French force striking the Savoyards from behind at a critical moment—but that regiment was commanded by François de Bonne, Comte de Sault (1596-1677), son of the Marquis de Créqui, not by the Comte de Moret.
613: THE BETROTHED: “…as depicted in Manzoni’s novel The Betrothed….” : Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed (1827) has been called the most popular historical novel ever published in Italy. It’s known for (among other things) its graphic description of the plague outbreak of 1630.
628: GO AND HELP DEFEND MANTUA: “So the Comte de Moret had volunteered to go and help defend Mantua….” : Moret was right to fear the “risks associated with a siege” as regards Isabelle: in July, 1630, Mantua, already weakened by plague, was conquered and sacked by Collalto’s troops, who after pillaging the city, left it and marched off back to Germany. We never learn how Isabelle de Lautrec survived the Sack of Mantua, but we know that October’s Treaty of Ratisbon, negotiated by Father Joseph, settled the question of the succession in favor of the Duc de Nevers.
631: FORT PINEROLO: “…so Savoy named the count Governor of Fort Pinerolo….” : Pinerolo, or as the French called it, Pignerol, was a fortress and (sometimes) prison on the border of France and Piedmont that had been traded back and forth between the two states for a century. Though it figures as a fort in The Red Sphinx, it will reappear later in the Musketeers cycle, in The Man in the Iron Mask, in its capacity as a prison.
636: SEIZE THE DUKE AND HIS SON: “Take fifty well-mounted cavaliers, gain entrée to the castle, seize the duke and his son, and bring them here.” : In March of 1630, Richelieu did in fact contemplate such an exploit, but it’s unknown whether he asked Montmorency to act as its captain. What is known is that the attempted abduction failed because Savoy was warned in advance—and that Richelieu suspected Montmorency, who’d just been the duke’s guest, of being the one who’d tipped his hand.
651: BY FORCE, OR BY DECEPTION: “So, Messieurs, it falls to us to return Fort Pinerolo to the crown of France. Should we attempt this by force, or by deception?” : In the event, Richelieu settled on deception, and did, in fact, pay a bribe of over a million in gold to open the fortress’s gates. Pinerolo fell to French forces on March 22, 1630, and was returned to France for good by treaty the following year.
654: COUNT URBAIN OF ESPALOMBA: “…just as Count Urbain of Espalomba returned from reviewing his sentries.” : According to French memoirs of the period, the commander of Pinerolo who sold it out to the French was named Comte Urbain L’Escalangue, whose last name was Italicized by Dumas into Espalomba. The Countess Matilda was invented by Dumas to give Moret a means of romancing his way into the fortress.
668: MEETING MAZARIN: “Monsieur Mazarini, I hope we shall meet again.” : Mazarin did bear Savoy’s request for the return to Pinerolo to Richelieu, which was refused substantially in the terms described. As Richelieu hoped, the two would meet again, as Mazarin would spend the next couple of months shuttling back forth between the cardinal and Savoy, acting as envoy and negotiator, and giving Richelieu plenty of time to take his measure.
715: TWO ARMIES: “It was also said that two armies were on the march against the Duc de Montmorency. One of them, commanded by Marshal Schomberg, was coming by way of Pont-Saint-Esprit. The other, led by the king….” : There were two royal armies closing in on Gaston and Montmorency, one to the east led by Schomberg, but the other, coming from the west, was commanded by Maréchal de La Force. The king and cardinal, with additional troops, were headed south by way of Lyon.
716: ARMIES FACE TO FACE: “On August 29, word came that the armies of Marshal Schomberg and the Duc de Montmorency were face to face.” : Montmorency, badly outnumbered, knew that he had no chance if he was caught between his opponents’ two armies; his only hope was to try to defeat them separately, so he turned first to attack Marshal Schomberg.
722: CAPTAIN BITÉRAN: “‘Captain Bitéran?’ The officer paused.” : The accounts that portray Moret as having survived the Battle of Castelnaudary often reference an officer named Bideran, or Biteran, who claimed to be the one who shot Moret and saw him carried away wounded from the field.
725: MORET IN THE CARRIAGE OF MONSIEUR: “‘The Comte de Moret?’ he said. ‘I saw him go past in the carriage of Monsieur.’” : Legends of Moret’s survival often relate the “fact” that he was known to have been carried in Gaston’s carriage from the battlefield to Prouille Abbey, where he was taken in by the abbess, Madame de Ventadour.
733: GASTON INVADES FRANCE: “Gaston returned to France with eighteen hundred horse….” : From Lorraine, Prince Gaston rashly entered France in June of 1632 at the head of 2,000 troops, mainly mercenaries and adventurers that he’d raised in Brussels—including the 500 Polish cavalry that eventually would become Moret’s command. Gaston made his way south toward Languedoc and his ally Montmorency, hoping to raise the banner of rebellion along the way, but found few adherents.
733: THE DAY I TOOK LEAVE: “That was the day I took leave of you, August 14, 1632….” : Actually, Moret was already with Prince Gaston on that date, and had been for some time, possibly even as far back as June, when Gaston crossed the border into France.
735: MORET’S CHARGE: “Ahead, I saw a troop of fusiliers detached as forward skirmishers: I charged them.” : Accounts of the Battle of Castlenaudary are varied and contradictory, but more than one blames Montmorency’s rapid defeat on the Comte de Moret’s precipitous charge, which committed the marshal-duke’s forces to an attack before they had all arrived on the field.