The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later
in collaboration with Auguste Maquet
|Original title||Le Vicomte de Bragelonne ou Dix ans plus tard|
|Language||Translated from French|
|French, Serialized 1847–1850|
The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (French: Le Vicomte de Bragelonne ou Dix ans plus tard [lə vikɔ̃t də bʁaʒəlɔn u diz‿ɑ̃ ply taʁ]) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas. It is the third and last of the d'Artagnan Romances, following The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. It appeared first in serial form between 1847 and 1850. In the English translations the 268 chapters of this large volume are usually subdivided into three, but sometimes four or even five individual books. In three-volume English editions the volumes are entitled "The Vicomte de Bragelonne", "Louise de la Vallière", and "The Man in the Iron Mask." Each volume is roughly the length of the original The Three Musketeers. In four-volume editions volume names remain except that "Louise de la Vallière" and "The Man in the Iron Mask" move from second and third volumes to third and fourth, with "Ten Years Later" becoming the second volume. There are usually no volume-specific names in five-volume editions. French academic Jean-Yves Tadié has argued that the beginning of King Louis XIV's personal rule is the novel's real subject.
The principal heroes of the novel are the musketeers. The novel's length finds it frequently broken into smaller parts. The narrative is set between 1660 and 1667 against the background of the transformation of Louis XIV from child monarch to Sun King.
Part One: The Vicomte of Bragelonne (Chapters 1–93)
After 35 years of loyal service, d'Artagnan resigns as lieutenant of the Musketeers as he perceives the young king Louis XIV as weak-willed. He resolves to aid the exiled Charles II to retake the throne of England, unaware that Athos is attempting the same. With their assistance Charles II is restored to the throne and d'Artagnan is rewarded richly.
In France, Cardinal Mazarin has died, leaving Louis to assume power with Jean-Baptiste Colbert as his finance minister. Louis persuades d'Artagnan to re-enter his service, and tasks him to investigate Belle-Isle, the property of Nicolas Fouquet, promising him a substantial salary and promotion to Captain of the King's Musketeers on his return.
D'Artagnan discovers Belle-Isle is being fortified and the engineer ostensibly in charge is Porthos. The blueprints show Aramis' handwriting. Despite his friends, d'Artagnan hides the true reason for his presence. Aramis, suspicious of d'Artagnan, sends Porthos back to Paris to warn Fouquet, whilst tricking d'Artagnan into searching for Porthos around Vannes. Porthos warns Fouquet in time, and he cedes Belle-Isle to the king, humiliating Colbert. On returning from the mission, d'Artagnan is made Captain of the King's Musketeers.
Part Two: Louise de la Vallière (Chapters 94–180)
This part mostly concerns romantic events at the court of Louis XIV. Raoul de Bragelonne finds his childhood sweetheart, Louise de la Vallière, is maid of honor to the Princess. Fearing a tarnishing of Louise's reputation by affairs at court, Raoul seeks to marry her. His father, Athos, the Comte de la Fère, disapproves, but eventually, out of love for his son, reluctantly agrees. The king, however, refuses to sanction the marriage because Louise is of inferior social status, and so marriage is delayed until Louise has earned her fortune and Raoul grows in prestige.
Meanwhile, the struggle for power continues between Fouquet and Colbert. Louis attempts to impoverish Fouquet by asking for money to pay for a grand fête at Fontainbleau. Meanwhile, Aramis meets the governor of the Bastille M. de Baisemeaux, and learns of a secret prisoner who bears a striking resemblance to Louis XIV. Aramis uses this secret to persuade the dying general of the Jesuits (disguised as a Franciscan monk), to name him the new general of the Society.
After Buckingham leaves France, the Comte de Guiche grows besotted with Henrietta. However, the King grows interested in Madame Henrietta. Anne of Austria intervenes, and suggests that the king choose a young lady at court to act as a smokescreen for their flirtation. Unfortunately, they select Louise de la Vallière and during the fête at Fontainbleau, the king overhears Louise confess her love for him to friends, and promptly forgets his affection for Henrietta. That same night Henrietta hears de Guiche confess his love for her to Raoul. The two pursue their own love affair. Aware of Louise's attachment, the king sends Raoul to England indefinitely as a diplomatic envoy.
Rumours of the king's love affair compromise Raoul's friends, de Guiche defends Raoul's honour in a duel with de Wardes. De Wardes prevails whilst de Guiche is seriously wounded. The incident is the last straw for Madame Henrietta who resolves to dismiss Louise from her service as Maid of Honour. The king dissuades Henrietta, but she prevents the king from seeing Louise. The king circumvents Henrietta, and so she frustratedly contacts her brother King Charles II, imploring him to eject Raoul from England. On his return to France Raoul is heartbroken to discover Louise in the arms of the king.
Athos falls out with Louis over the affair and resigns from his service. Louis orders Athos's imprisonment, but D'Artagnan convinces the king to release him.
Part Three: The Man in the Iron Mask (Chapters 181–269)
Dumas constructs the plot around the notion that the Man in the Iron Mask is the twin brother of Louis XIV, Philippe, who had been concealed and imprisoned from birth by his father, Louis XIII, and his mother, Anne of Austria, "for the good of France". Only a very few people living at the start of the novel know of Philippe's existence; these include his mother, Anne, and her former confidante, the Duchesse de Chevreuse. Chevreuse has let the secret slip to Aramis, the Bishop of Vanne and her former lover.
Aramis plots a coup d’état to replace Louis with Philippe and recruits Porthos to assist, although Porthos is unaware of the true nature of the plot. Aramis believes that, if he puts Philippe on the throne in place of Louis, Philippe can assure Aramis's promotion to cardinal, and will eventually assist Aramis to become Pope. Aramis's further aim is to enhance Fouquet's position in France so that Fouquet will become prime minister under Philippe; Aramis plans to succeed Fouquet as prime minister upon Fouquet's retirement.
Through an elaborate subterfuge mounted by Aramis, Philippe replaces a prisoner due for release from the Bastille and escapes to Vaux. Meanwhile, Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finance, is throwing a lavish party for Louis at Vaux. Colbert, junior to Fouquet and hoping to supplant him, is jealous and turns the king against Fouquet; the king contemplates having Fouquet arrested, but defers his decision. While the king is still visiting Fouquet at Vaux, Aramis initiates the second half of his plan and kidnaps Louis with the unwitting assistance of Porthos, imprisoning Louis in the Bastille in Philippe's place. He then substitutes Philippe for the King.
Aramis conspiratorially informs Fouquet of his acts. Aramis's treachery greatly angers Fouquet; Fouquet goes to the Bastille, rescues Louis, and brings him back to Vaux to confront Philippe. Realizing that his plot has unravelled, Aramis flees for Belle Isle to escape the king's impending wrath, taking Porthos with him. Louis returns to Vaux, exposes Philippe, and regains the throne with d'Artagnan's help, ending Philippe's brief reign. Louis banishes Philippe, ordering that "he will cover his face with an iron visor" which he "cannot raise without peril of his life."
Athos and Raoul meet Aramis and Porthos who relate their predicament before receiving horses to aid their journey to Belle Isle. But they are followed by the Duc de Beaufort, on his way to Algiers for an expedition against the Barbary corsairs. Raoul, devastated by the king's love affair with Louise, volunteers to join the Duc in his expedition. Athos accompanies him to the port of Toulon, and on the way they encounter the Man in the Iron Mask just as d'Artagnan is bringing him to the prison at Sainte-Marguerite, who throws to them a silver dish on which he inscribed the words: "I am the brother of the king of France—a prisoner to-day—a madman to-morrow." Nothing comes of this, however, as Raoul is off to war in Africa, and Athos is retired from politics. The Duc goes on to win the battle, sinking forty-six Algerine vessels. At Toulon, father and son part their ways.
Despite Fouquet's rescue, Louis orders d'Artagnan to arrest Fouquet. Louis then orders d'Artagnan to arrest Porthos and Aramis. D'Artagnan feigns compliance whilst secretly giving his friends time to escape. However, Colbert discerns d'Artagnan's sympathies and undermines him. d'Artagnan resigns on learning that prisoners are to be executed immediately once arrested.
Attempting an escape from Belle Isle, Porthos is killed, while Aramis escapes to sea. Meanwhile, Athos returns to his estates and lapses into decline. On hearing that Raoul has died in action at Gigelli, Athos succumbs to grief and dies. Meanwhile, the detained d'Artagnan is freed by King Louis and reinstated. He learns of Porthos' death and Aramis' escape.
Aramis reaches Spain and becomes Spain's ambassador to France. Louise de la Vallière is supplanted in the king's affections by Madame de Montespan. Louis grows in influence and stature and embarks on a military campaign against the United Provinces, with d'Artagnan commanding the offensive. D'Artagnan is killed in battle moments after reading he is to be made Marshal of France. His final words: "Athos, Porthos, au revoir! Aramis, adieu forever!"
- eLook Literature: The Vicomte de Bragelonne – HTML version broken down chapter by chapter.
- The Vicomte De Bragelonne at Project Gutenberg