Musketeers! The word sounds like a promise of style, fine sword thrusts and adventure. The Musée de l’Armée new exhibition offers the general public, through investigation and play, a means of finding out about the heroes who provided such inspiration for Alexandre Dumas, but whose real role is not well known, as the fiction finally overshadowed the historic reality of these soldiers who served the king.
Without any doubt, Alexandre Dumas played a part in many people becoming historians and, all over the world, popularised characters such Mazarin and Buckingham. Richelieu, d'Artagnan or the iron mask would certainly never have achieved the status of world-wide myths without the novelist's work.
An exhibition on the musketeers is therefore, also and above all, an opportunity to question the relationship between literature and history. Switching between fact and fiction, the exhibition offers the visitor a way to explore Alexandre Dumas' famous story, Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers). The exhibition plays on the contrast between the rarity of the objects and traces showing how the musketeers really lived – a company of mounted soldiers set up in 1622 under Louis XIII – and the abundance of their portrayals by the mass media. Because these warriors wearing a blue tabard with a silver cross inspired not only literature, but also the theatre, the cinema, advertising, strip cartoons, or more recently, video games.
Musketeers! offers the visitor an extraordinary selection of works of art, objects and documents from the museum's collection and generously lent by French or foreign institutions.
Through the investigation and play mode, the exhibition offers a real plunge into the king's soldiers' dark world full of intrigues. Children and adults will all find something to interest them. Handling swords, visits and events for the young, a fencing demonstration and reading of the novel The Three Musketeers, concerts and films, and finally lectures and a symposium are on the programme.
And to continue the adventure, it is suggested to wander through the major items of the museum's permanent collection such as the mural paintings in the Royal Room, LouisXIII's suits of armour or the tombs of Turenne and Vauban in the Dôme church.