D’Artagnan’s trip to London: Beauvais, April 1625

At Beauvais they stopped two hours, as well to breathe their horses a little as to wait for Porthos. At the end of two hours, as Porthos did not come, not any news of him, they resumed their journey. 

At a league from Beauvais, where the road was confined between two high banks, they fell in with eight or ten men who, taking advantage of the road being unpaved in this spot, appeared to be emplyed in digging holes and filling up the ruts with mud.

Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers, 1844

The above abstract follows D’Artagnan on his trip to London where he will meet with the Duke of Buckingham in order to retrieve Queen Anne’s jewels. Porthos was left behind in Chantilly and the musketeers make a stop at Beauvais to breathe their horses a little as to wait for him to catch up.

Medieval towns usually developed around a castle or a monastery, or they followed the contour of a river-bank. So did Beauvais. The scarcity of land available within the walls determined shape and size of the streets. The city gates were the only way in or out of the town and it would be reasonable to think that the musketeers would wait for Porthos at the East Gate of Beauvais, making sure to not miss him should he pass by.

de-belleforest-france-picardie-beauvais-1575

“Le vray pourtraict de la Ville de Beauvais”, 1574, ingraving by Raymond Rancurel.

Before the 1573 fall of the 502 feet tall central tower, the famed Cathédrale Saint-Pierre of Beauvais would have been the highest religious structure known at the time. In 1625, the building probably would have been under repair. Augustin Potier de Blancmesnil was the current bishop of Beauvais as well as Queen Anne of Austria’s personal chaplain.

Beauvais was a booming town mainly thanks to the wool, textile, and leather industries. Between 1624 and 1645, there was between 700 and 800 weaving looms in the city itself, and even more in the country side (see Beauvais au XVIIIe siecle by Jean Ganiage, 1999).

37b

The Weaver, drawing by Jean-Baptiste Malezieux (1818-1906), private collection.

At a league north of Beauvais (about 3 miles), where the road was confined between two high banks, Dumas mentions the presence of 8 to 10 bandits tampering with the road. D’Artagnan called “ambuscade” as each men took a concealed musket. Attacks from robbers had been common since the middle ages and had in a way become professionalized, sometimes due to poverty, or sometimes to rebel against the system (See Vol et brigandage au Moyen Age by Valerie Toureille, 2015). Without severe casualties, our heroes continued at their best speed for two hours.

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