The Three Musketeers is about FOUR dudes (yes, what a writer wouldn’t do for a good-sounding title?) who are having some rather vicious fun in the seventeenth-century France. They rob,* kill, and abuse people. Good clean fun, right? :)
But what is really shocking is the story of Athos’s wife, Milady de Winter. We don’t get her side of the story in The Three Musketeers, only her husband’s, and the noble Athos naturally portrays her as a liar and a thief and it’s totally okay to kill her after a mock trial that comes up at the end of the novel. Yes, the four musketeer dudes capture and try Milady, yes, just the four of them. What a fair trial! Then, after they “sentence” her to death, they pay an executioner they brought with them to behead the poor woman.
Anyway, in the sequel to The Three Musketeers, either Twenty Years After or The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, I can’t remember which at the moment, we do learn Milady’s story as told by her own self. Yes, she admits that she was a liar and thief, but she was an orphan and would have died in the streets from starvation if she didn’t steal. Caught after she’d robbed a church, she was branded on the shoulder. Yet she somehow picked herself up and educated herself enough to pass for a noble-born and to marry Athos under false pretences. However, she didn’t mean to hurt or rob him.** Perhaps she even loved him, which he amply repaid by tying her to a tree and leaving her to die after he found out that she was a thief and had that brand on her shoulder. At the time this all was happening, the girl was SIXTEEN!!!
Anyhow, I think these porcelain hog musketeers just about sum it all up. :)
P.S. Just for kicks, you can compare Milady’s story to Jean Valjean’s from Les Miserables. Jean stole too, was punished, returned to society, but couldn’t find a place in it until he started lying about his past. Which is essentially Milady’s trajectory. Only Jean’s struggle is seen as Herculean and noble and whatnot whereas Milady’s one is depicted as a dirty descent to hell.
*The four musketeers don’t steal stuff directly—they just “buy” things, promising to pay later, but never actually getting around to it. Such behavior was condoned back then because the working and middle classes were considered subhuman by the nobility, hence it was okay to abuse them.
**True, it’s her side of the story, but what would she have gained by robbing Athos and running away from him? Since he’s an aristocrat, his wealth is land-based, which is hard to carry off in the middle of a night. Plus, Milady would have lost the prestige and protection that came with the status of a married woman and a countess.