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The Vicomte of Bragelonne (Chapters 1-93)
After 35 years of loyal service, d’Artagnan resigns in disgust after seeing how Cardinal Mazarin remains the true power behind the monarchy, even after Louis supposedly reached his majority. He is particularly disgusted at how the king allowed himself to be persuaded by Mazarin not to send aid to Charles II in his efforts to retake the throne of England, so d’Artagnan resolves to aid the exiled king himself, unaware at first that Athos is also attempting to do the same thing. D’Artagnan hatches an audacious plan to kidnap General Monk, who is perceived as the biggest obstacle to Charles regaining the throne, and Athos attempts to recover a substantial treasure that Charles I made known to him just prior to his execution, that was to be used to aid his son in recovering the throne. Athos manages to recover the treasure, which is within territory controlled by General Monk, and shortly after, d’Artagnan succeeds in kidnapping the General, bringing him before Charles II, who disdains to keep him captive and orders d’Artagnan to return him to his army. It turns out that General Monk secretly has Royalist sympathies, and was looking to assess Charles’ worthiness to be restored, and the king’s decision to let him go removed all doubts in his mind. With the General’s support and the funds which Athos recovered, King Charles II was restored to the throne. Unlike in previous episodes where d’Artagnan and his friends had aided monarchs, Charles II rewarded d’Artagnan richly for his efforts. Athos, in an attempt to further strengthen the ties between England and France, uses his newly-earned favor with Charles to negotiate the marriage of the king’s sister Henrietta Anne Stuart to the brother of Louis XIV, Monsieur Philippe.
Just as d’Artagnan and Athos return to France, Cardinal Mazarin has finally died, leaving Louis to assume power, entreating him never to take another Prime Minister, but leaving him Jean-Baptiste Colbert as his adviser. Colbert has an intense hatred for the king’s Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet, and tries to bring about his fall. He manages to have two of Fouquet’s loyal friends executed (with d’Artagnan and Raoul de Bragelonne unwittingly foiling a plot to rescue them), and brings to the king’s attention that Fouquet is fortifying his castle at Belle-Isle, and might be using it as a base for a military operation against the king. Louis, concerned by these developments, persuades d’Artagnan to reenter his service, and gives him the mission of investigating Belle-Isle, promising him a substantial salary and promotion to Captain of the King’s Musketeers on his return. He is told to request a quarter of his promised salary from Fouquet, to cover his expenses for the mission, with the expectation that Fouquet would refuse, however much to d’Artagnan’s surprise he receives the entire promised amount, not just the quarter that was ordered. D’Artagnan is clever enough to recognize that in so doing Fouquet is quite openly bribing him, but he contrives to keep the money and even present a receipt for it so it represents legitimate pay that the treasury owes him anyway, refusing to return the remainder as Colbert insists that he must. He becomes suspicious of both Fouquet, portrayed as likeable but corrupt, and Colbert, whom he sees as an envious, unscrupulous social climber despite his honesty.
At Belle-Isle, d’Artagnan finds out that it is indeed being fortified, and finds that the engineer in charge of the fortifications is none other than Porthos, and the blueprints show the mark of Aramis’ handwriting, whom d’Artagnan later finds out has become the Bishop of Vannes, a diocese near Belle-Isle within the domains of Fouquet. Despite the involvement of his friends, d’Artagnan keeps to his mission, and attempts to hide the true reason for his presence. Aramis, however, is not deceived, and realizes that d’Artagnan is on a mission from the king to investigate their doings, and sends Porthos back to Paris with all speed to warn Fouquet, entreating him to cede Belle-Isle to the king as a gift (an empty gift, he thinks, as the fortress will still be manned by Fouquet’s men), while tricking d’Artagnan into searching for Porthos around Vannes. Porthos manages to warn Fouquet in time, and he cedes Belle-Isle to the king, allaying all suspicions and humiliating Colbert, just minutes before d’Artagnan arrives with the news that the island is indeed being fortified. Although d’Artagnan’s mission has apparently been preempted, Louis XIV keeps his promises and finally makes him Captain of the King’s Musketeers.
Meanwhile, the Princess Henrietta has arrived in France for her wedding with Monsieur Philippe, and the young and beautiful princess has thrown the French Court into discord. She arrives escorted by the second Duke of Buckingham (son of the first Duke of Buckingham) who is madly in love with the princess. They are met by an embassy consisting of Raoul de Bragelonne, Guiche de Gramont, and the Comte de Wardes (son of the Comte de Wardes who was a dangerous enemy of d’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers). Violence nearly erupts in the streets of Le Havre due to the Duke’s jealousy, prevented only by Raoul’s timely and tactful intervention. After the marriage, Monsieur Philippe becomes horribly jealous of Buckingham, and has him exiled.