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concerning La Guerre des femmes

     In 1844, Alexandre Dumas and his collaborator, Auguste Maquet, were simultaneously working on Les Trois Mousquetaires, Le Comte de Monte Cristo, Une Fille du Régent, Les Frères corses, and La Guerre des Femmes. Of these works, La Guerre de Femmes is the least known today. Dumas' biographer A. Craig Bell believes that La Guerre des Femmes was largely the work of Maquet. However, Dumas' inimitable style is often displayed.
     This historical romance describes an episode in "La Fronde," the early stages of which were later chronicled in Vingt Ans après. It is set in the environs of Bordeaux in 1650, during the uneasy interregnum between the death of Louis XIII and the ascension of Louis XIV, when Anne of Austria, aided by Cardinal Mazarin, ruled as Queen-Regent. The legitimacy of young Louis was doubtful, and the Queen and Mazarin, both foreigners and thorough Machiavellians, were cordially hated. Shortly before the novel opens, Mazarin imprisoned the Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, [1621-1686] returning war hero and Marshal of France, on suspicion of being too powerful. The Prince's wife and mother were put under house (or chateau, really) arrest.
     The romance turns on the fate of an obscure historical figure, the Baron des Canolles. Dumas' Canolles is a typical Dumasian hero, a naive, non-political Gascon soldier with an eye for women. Canolles is sharing the favors of Nanon de Lartigues, mistress of one of the Queen's staunchest supporters, the Duc d'Epernon. Canolles then meets Claire, Vicomtesse de Cambes, a member of the household of the Princess de Conde. Claire, disguised as a man, is raising troops for the Princess, who plans to lead a rebellion to free her husband and to place her young son, the Duc d'Enghien, on the throne.
     Canolles loves both women. Sent by Mazarin to place the Princess under house arrest, he pretends to be deceived by Claire while the Princess escapes. Nanon arranges for him to be posted as Governor of the fortress of Île Saint-Georges, near Bordeaux. Meanwhile, the Princess' party moves into open rebellion and attacks the fortress. Canolles repels the first assault, but Claire uses a secret entrance to seize the fortress, and Canolles is captured. Claire gets him paroled.
     Meanwhile, the King's army moves on Bordeaux, capturing the Fortress of Vayres, and promptly hanging its Governor as a traitor. The Princess holds two prisoners: Canolles and Nanon's adventurer brother, and decides to hang one of them as a reprisal. Will Nanon be able to rescue Canolles (and/or her brother)? Will Claire persuade the Princess to show mercy? Will the King's forces storm Bordeaux? Will Nanon's brother do the honorable thing? How many plot twists can Dumas cram into his climax?

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