In 1884 the French novelist Alexandre Dumas published The Three Musketeers, followed by Twenty Years After (1845) and The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (1847-50). This trilogy of works, reproduced in countless forms and media, most recently in a Hollywood film of 2011, has ensured the perpetual popularity of the unit known to history as the King's Musketeers of the Guard.
Dumas based his work on a genuine memoir by an officer of the Musketeers, Memoires de M. D'Artagnan, capitaine lieutenant de la première compagnie des Mousquetaires du Roi, which was published in 1700, and the historical truth is as fascinating as the legends created by Dumas. The King's Musketeers were formed in 1622 and abolished in 1775. It was populated by young men of noble birth, but often of poorer means, and the Musketeers served as a form of military academy that enabled such men to qualify for a commission in the regular army. In the 1760s, the young Marquis de Lafayette gained his first military training in the Musketeers. However, this was no schoolroom and the Musketeers served in all the major battles and campaigns of the period, including all the battles of the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession. Their reputation for bravery was well deserved, and the units suffered horrendous casualties at a number of these encounters. This title will delve behind the fiction to reveal the true history of this most colorful and flamboyant of units.