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The name of d’Artagnan is a real find.

It bursts forth from our childhood reading and remains forever imprinted in our memories. It crosses borders and yet remains whole, unchanged by foreign tongues. The name is powerful and unique, one of a kind. Its melody rings in our ears.
What an idea to adopt this name … Because this is exactly what Charles de Batz de Castelmore did when he attached his mother’s name –d’Artagnan (or Artaignan)– to his signature.

But posterity would only retain the name d’Artagnan…
Of all the hallowed names that history and legend have sent down to us, none is more popular, in France or even elsewhere, than that of d’Artagnan.
Charles Samaran
Artagnan! Syllables with a magical effect, because their echo has resonated in every inhabited corner of the earth! The posthumous fame of a captain of the musketeers equals that of our most highly esteemed military figures, with the exception of Napoleon.
J.F D’Estalens

In reality, d’Artagnan’s claim to nobility, and even his claim to his own name, could be contested—as they were. The accidents of inheritance, circumstances and family alliances have rendered the genealogy of Charles, the future d’Artagnan, complicated and have even maintained the shroud of mystery that surrounds his person.

To start, it was women who —rather curiously— were in large part responsible for the transmission of the name d’Artagnan. Charles’ maternal great grandfather, Paulon de Montesquiou, received the castle and lands of d’Artagnan as an inheritance from his first wife: an estate situated near Vic-en-Bigorre (today part of the French department of Hautes Pyrénées). The problem is that the couple never had any children and it was with his second wife that Charles’ great grandfather was able to have descendants going down to Charles’ mother. And so, the title came from a woman whom one could consider as being outside the family.
By contract on 23rd August 1524, Paulon de Montesquiou, squire to Henry of Albret, king of Navarre, took for his wife Jacqemette d’Estang –or d’Estaing– Dame d’Artagnan in Bigorre, daughter and universal inheritor of the Noble Sansaner d’Estang, seigneur d’Artagnan and of Simone de Majoran, both deceased...
It was a veritable marriage of love that united Paulon and Jacquemette, as stipulated in the contract. Only death was able to bring an end to this union that lasted almost twenty years. Before her death, the beloved wife had made a testament in which she left her castle and all her lands of d’Artagnan to her husband. It was the 25th October 1541. A widower and without children, Paulon decided to remarry a few years later.
Odile Bordaz

In 1608, Françoise de Montesquiou d’Artagnan, Charles’ future mother, married Bertrand II de Castelmore. The latter, in allying himself with one of the noblest families of Gascony, had married up. In so doing, he was also allying himself with a name that his sons, including Charles, would later decide to add to their own, thus overstepping their rights. This name –d’Artagnan— would even replace that of Batz de Catelmore…
As for the father’s side, his claim to nobility is debatable. The great grandfather –paternal—Arnaud de Batz complicated things for his descendants. This man was a merchant in Lupiac.

He was rich and not at all ashamed to be a commoner. He was not given to running after titles, which was unusual for his time, and even went so far as defending his absence of nobility before a court of law. The result of this proceeding was an official declaration of “non-nobility” that was to empoison the life of his great grandchildren. Even so, his fortune enabled him to acquire the seigneuries (noble estates) of Castelmore and La Plagne and thus to give his two sons the title of “Sieur de Castelmore” (Squire of Castelmore) for Bertrand I and “Sieur of La Plagne” for Pierre.
Sieur, or monsieur, (Squire or Mister) was a cautious title, appropriate for a man who was merely “aspiring” to nobility! Pierre followed in his father’s footsteps and remained a merchant, one of the richest bourgeois (1) of Lupiac. However, he did marry a noblewoman, Françoise de Coussol, but could not claim to be a noble as titles cannot be transmitted by women. Bertrand I, on the other hand, broke with the mercantile tradition and introduced the soldier’s trade to the family. He served under Blaise de Monluc and married one of his relatives, Anne de Mansencôme. After the marriage, he made a point of calling himself “noble seigneur de Castelmore” (“Noble Squire of Castelmore”).

Indeed, at that time: …a number of families in this country came into the aristocracy because the nobles easily admitted among them people who were not [noble], acquiring or creating imaginary fiefdoms thus relieved lords and estates exhausted by war. A myriad of noble fiefdoms today were unknown at the beginning of the sixteenth century; Castetmore, or Castelmore, is one of these.
Odile Bordaz
B.N.F. Manuscrits de la collection Clairambault, Ms 931, F°74.

Bertrand I died without descendants, however, and willed his estate at Castelmore to his nephew, Bertrand II, son of Pierre … along with his title, of course. Bertrand II had seven children, three girls and four boys, from his marriage with Françoise de Montesquiou d’Artagnan. Three of Bertrand’s sons, including Charles, went on to chose the soldier’s trade; they became noblemen and gens d’epee (gentlemen of the sword). And they all added the noble name of d’Artagnan –that is, the name of their cousins of Montesquiou– to their surname!

Isn’t it curious, even comical, to learn that the paragon of the Gascon nobility of sword and cape managed to adorn himself with a borrowed nobility and a name that he usurped?
André Laffargue

And thus the famous younger son had no right of birth neither to the title of gentleman, nor to the name of d’Artagnan. But he conquered this double right through combat, which is of greater merit.

But our story doesn’t end there… During the eighteenth century, notwithstanding the bravery and valor of the Batz Castelmore d’Artagnans on the battlefield, by which they finally earned the very titles they had usurped, Paul (the younger brother of Charles d’Artagnan, already deceased) was bothered in his old age by a claim coming from the intendant Laugeois.

Thus, it was at the end of his long life that Paul de Batz de Castelmore was condemned, on the 15th January 1702, with a penalty of 2030 pounds for having usurped the title of nobleman. And so, the old man appealed directly to Louis XIV, reminding him of his long service and his brother’s death at Maastricht and begged the king to have “the goodness to order that he be left in peace for what little life he had left”. This was done and Paul de Batz was able to die in peace the following year.
André Laffargue

Upon Paul’s death, Laugeois renewed his attacks and turned against Louis Gabriel, d’Artagnan’s grandson. The latter was condemned as “usurper of a title of nobility” with a penalty of 2000 pounds in addition to a sum of 3600 pounds he had paid in taxes for his noble property. The ruling was based on the famous declaration of “non-nobility” made by his ancestor Arnaud de Batz in 1565!

Burned by this experience, Louis Gabriel decided to fabricate a noble line for himself by allying his family to that of Batz de Castillon, the same line as that of Manaud de Batz, the companion of Henry IV, whose family line was extinct. The bureaucracy finally accepted this arrangement.

…There are so many Batz in Gascony that even the king’s genealogists, unable to untangle this knot, laid down their pens in despair. Suffice it to say that the brother, sons and grandsons of d’Artagnan, all of whom were successively sued regarding their nobility, were able to expunge themselves in the end, and upon this occasion Monsieur Legendre, superintendent of the Généralité, wrote the following letter:


“I have signed the act of acquittal for messieurs d’Artagnan, and I have never signed with such pleasure. Monsieur Laugeois, author of these suits, should pay the penalty for them, as there has never been such persecution as that which has been waged against the descendants of a house filled with so many illustrious men and so many beautiful alliances.”
Charles Samaran

And so, the genealogy of this man –d’Artagnan– and even the history of his name, already make up the sauce from which we get all the thrilling ups and downs of a picaresque novel. In the end, whether he was noble or well-born is of no importance. His life and his exploits are more than enough to give luster to his surname. And what luster! His is a fame that surpasses –and by far!– all the other illustrious surnames of France.

When I say that I was born a gentleman, from a good family, I will receive, it seems, but few advantages from this, because birth is an act of pure chance or, better yet, of divine providence. [Providence] brings us into this world as it wills, and we have nothing to boast about. Nevertheless, though the name d’Artagnan was already known when I came into the world and though I have only made it a little more brilliant, because fortune has sometimes smiled upon me, one can not claim that [my name] was as famous as the likes of Chatillon-sur-Marne, Montmorency and many other houses that shine among the French nobility.
Courtilz de Sandras
The Memoirs of Monsieur D’Artagnan.

Artagnan, May your name, popular and loyal, Tell again of our ardor to conquer destiny, And shine forever in times of uncertainty, For those who traverse Gascony the eternal!...

Extract of a poem from
Maurice Praviel

(1) We remember that bourgeois, or burgess in English, originally referred to a “town-dweller”. In the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, the bourgeois were therefore city-dwellers of the merchant or shop-keeper class, that is, neither peasants nor artisans.