The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Symbols



When d'Artagnan leaves home, his father gives him his own sword, having taught him sword skills to prepare him for life. In this way, a poor father supplies his son with strength and protection. Strangers on the road might want to laugh at the ugly yellow horse, but they do not because they see a large sword on d'Artagnan's hip. The sword commands respect.

The sword is a symbol of honor in the duel. Once the duelists cross swords, it becomes a fight to the death, or defeat. When a battle ends, the winners take the swords of the dead, symbolizing their honor and strength. The defeated also must surrender their swords, like in the case of Bicarat who refuses to give up his sword and his power to his enemies, instead defiantly breaking it.


The notion of a diamond representing romance and enduring love, especially in the form of an engagement ring, dates back to the 1930s, well after the time of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, and even after the time of Alexandre Dumas writing The Three Musketeers in 1844. Precious gems and jewelry were given as gifts or tokens of love, but not diamonds above all others.

The queen's diamonds were a gift from her husband, a token of love and good faith, but they come to symbolize rejection and deception of the king when the queen gives them as a token of love to the duke. "Every time I see you is a fresh diamond which I enclose in the casket of my heart," the duke tells the queen in their clandestine meeting. The diamonds are a symbol of their secret affair.

When the queen says she would be happy to see the duke when he returns someday as an ambassador or minister with guards to protect him, he asks for a token as a reminder. The queen gives the duke real diamonds in a casket to bring to mind this declaration.

When the cardinal learns of the diamonds sailing for England with the duke, he immediately sets his sights on using the diamonds to control and hurt the queen. Threatening the queen with the king's disapproval, or even with the dishonor of exposing her love affair, keeps her vulnerable in a time when her stability in the royal family is tenuous. As an added benefit for the cardinal, the diamonds also help him get revenge on his rival the duke.


The fleur-de-lis translates directly to "lily flower." Traditionally, it was a symbol of purity used by the French monarchy. In The Three Musketeers, the fleur-de-lis is subverted to become the symbol of a criminal—someone who acts against the government. It is branded onto Milady's shoulder as a mark to identify her as a criminal in the French justice system. It is a symbol so shameful, she hides it throughout her life and threatens to kill d'Artagnan when he sees it.

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