Monday, August 13, 2012

d’Artagnan & the town of wolves

musketeer duelThe commune of Lupiac is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of its most famous son, Charles de Batz, Comte d’Artagnan. The exact year of his birth seems to be in some doubt, but by 1632, the young d’Artagnan had joined the ten year old company of Musketeers. A thirty year career as a spy, and agent in various government intrigues followed through to becoming commander of the Musketeers in 1667 and governor of the city of Lille.

A novelisation of his life was in turn adapted by Alexander Dumas for a set of three d’Artagnan romances, of which the first The Three Musketeers is the best known. These books were written about eighty years after d’Artagnan’s death at the siege of Maastricht in 1673. The other featured musketeers Athos, Aramis and Porthos were loosely based on other historical figures from Gascony. Although the movie versions tend to show d’Artagnan as the green young man from the provinces being teased by seasoned Musketeers of the Guard, the historical Charles de Batz was actually slightly older than the others.

costumed localsToday’s fête is a huge achievement for such a tiny community, well aided by fans from other countries who swelled the numbers of costumed figures and staged duels in the square throughout the day. At first I wondered if local men all kept a musketeer outfit in their wardrobe for special occasions like a Gascon tuxedo.

Your mother is an 'amsterAs the duels progressed, a red-garbed figure screamed curses and encouragements from an overlooking window. I guess this was supposed to be either Cardinal Mazarin or his predecessor Richelieu. I’m still trying to work out what he was uttering again and again that sounded so much like “you suck!” other than the obvious “vous sucez”. It may have been some form of secours/secourir which has English cousins in rescue and succour.

teinturiers and forgeronsWhile the men were dying in one corner of the square, women were dyeing in another. The village square, lined by half-timbered houses was busy with artisans and food vendors showing the crafts and produce of the era. I can’t say that there was absolute period fidelity given the blacksmith’s assistant seemed to be referring to instructions on his iPhone quite frequently.

Musketeer admires a maiden's melonsbowlingLupiac FêteThe street market was interspersed with stocking-clad men showing children how to play the games of the era, musical players and the closest thing to the town’s emblem, a certain malamute. Lupiac, as the name suggests is the ville du loups, a town of wolves (as opposed to the popular French-Indian vindaloo, which is the wine of the wolves). It is of course a long time since this area was covered in forests running down to the Pyrenees so now you’ll not find anything more threatening than Munson and his band of Munsoneers.

wenches on the loose

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