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.
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 1673 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. Colbert has an intense hatred for his superior the king's Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet, and tries to bring about his fall. He brings to the king's attention that Fouquet is fortifying his fief of Belle Île secretly. Louis persuades d'Artagnan to re-enter his service, and tasks him to investigate Belle Île, promising him a substantial salary and promotion to Captain of the King's Musketeers on his return. Louis, finally growing into a decisive ruler, also accepts an offer relayed by Athos from Charles II to marry his brother Philippe I, Duke of Orléans to Charles' sister Henrietta Anne Stuart.
D'Artagnan confirms that Belle Île is being fortified and the architect ostensibly in charge is Porthos, though the blueprints show the handwriting of Aramis, who is now the bishop of Vannes. 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 the nick of time, and he cedes Belle Île to the king, humiliating Colbert. On returning from the mission, d'Artagnan is made Captain of the King's Musketeers anyway.
Meanwhile, Princess Henrietta arrives in France escorted by the second Duke of Buckingham, to be met by an embassy consisting of Raoul de Bragelonne, his close friend Armand de Gramont, Comte de Guiche, and the Comte de Wardes, son of the previous Comte de Wardes from The Three Musketeers. The erratic Buckingham is madly in love with the princess and can scarcely conceal it, while Guiche soon finds himself equally smitten. Philippe, though little attracted to women, becomes horribly jealous of Buckingham and has him exiled after the wedding.
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 honour 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.
Meanwhile, the struggle for power begins between Fouquet and Colbert. Louis attempts to impoverish Fouquet by asking for money to pay for a grand fête at Fontainebleau. 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 to name him his successor.
After Buckingham leaves France, the Comte de Guiche grows besotted with Henrietta, as soon does Louis XIV. To avoid her new husband being jealous Henrietta suggests that the king choose a young lady at court to act as a smokescreen for their flirtation. They select Louise de la Vallière for this part, but during the fête, the king overhears Louise confess her attraction 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 cause friction with de Wardes, who has inherited from his father a hatred of d'Artagnan and all those associated with him. De Guiche is forced to fight a duel with him and is defeated and 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 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 finds out everything and spits his contempt at Louis XIV. The young King orders Athos's imprisonment, but D'Artagnan convinces him 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 when they had an affair.
Aramis plots to replace Louis with Philippe as a puppet ruler for himself and Fouquet, and even intends to become in turn the next Pope.
Through an elaborate subterfuge mounted by Aramis, Philippe replaces a prisoner due for release from the Bastille and escapes to Vaux. Meanwhile, Fouquet is throwing a lavish party for Louis at Vaux. Colbert poisons the king further against Fouquet. While the king is still visiting Fouquet at Vaux, Aramis initiates the second half of his plan and abducts Louis, imprisoning Louis in the Bastille in Philippe's place. He then substitutes Philippe for the King. Porthos is an uncomprehending accomplice in all this, believing that he is removing an impostor instead of the real king. Aramis conspiratorially informs Fouquet of his acts, but Fouquet wants no part in such treachery and rushes to the Bastille, rescues Louis, and brings him back to Vaux to confront Philippe. Realising that his plot has unravelled, Aramis flees for Belle Île to escape the king's impending wrath, taking Porthos with him. Louis 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 Île. They next meet 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. Soon Raoul is off to war in North Africa, and Athos is retired. The Duke goes on to win the battle, sinking forty-six Algerine vessels.
Despite Fouquet's refusal to go along with Aramis's plot, Louis orders d'Artagnan to arrest him, which he manages following an epic chase. 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 Île, Porthos is killed, while Aramis escapes to sea, remorseful for the first time in his life. 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.
Thanks to the secret power of the Jesuits, which he now commands, Aramis reaches Spain and becomes her ambassador to France. Louise de la Vallière is eventually supplanted in the king's affections by her erstwhile friend Madame de Montespan. Louis grows in power and stature and embarks on a military campaign against the United Provinces, with d'Artagnan commanding the offensive. D'Artagnan is killed in battle at the Siege of Maastricht moments after reading he is to be made Marshal of France. His final words: "Athos, Porthos, au revoir! Aramis, adieu forever!"