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Sunday May 19th 2024

The Three Musketeers: The Queen's Diamonds | 1973

The Three Musketeers (1973) location: Palacio Aranjuez, Spain
The Three Musketeers (1973) location: the decadent court at ‘Versailles’: Palacio Aranjuez, Spain | Photograph: wikimedia / José Luis Filpo Cabana

The locations for Richard Lester’s 1973 version of The Three Musketeers can be found not in France but Spain.

Beautifully designed and photographed (even if the landscapes look a little too sun-baked), this quirkily off-centre version of the Alexandre Dumas adventure was filmed back to back with the sequel (or second half), The Four Musketeers: The Revenge of Milady.

The street scenes were filmed around the historic city of Toledo, in central Spain, 45 miles south of Madrid. The capital of Castile-La Mancha, Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, for its cultural heritage and as a traditional place of peaceful coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews – which earned it the name ‘City of the Three Cultures’.

The Three Musketeers (1973) location: Cathedral of Toledo, Spain
The Three Musketeers (1973) location: Cardinal Richelieu is carried in procession before the crowds: Cathedral of Toledo, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Spain | Photograph: wikimedia / Michal Osmenda

In fact, the imposing Toledo Cathedral, Calle Cardenal Cisneros 1, was built on the site of a former mosque. Built between 1226 and 1493, the cathedral is modelled after the one in Bourges, central France, though adding elements of Islamic style to its Gothicism. When Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston) is carried in procession before the obediently enthusiastic crowds, it’s on Plaza del Ayuntamiento, before the Cathedral’s overwhelming west façade.

The Three Musketeers (1973) location: Tavera Hospital, Toledo, Spain
The Three Musketeers (1973) location: D'Artagnan joins the musketeers to fight the cardinals men: Tavera Hospital, Toledo, Spain | Photograph: wikimedia / José Luis Filpo Cabana

To the north of the city you’ll find the convent yard, in which D'Artagnan (Michael York) arranges his duel with Athos (Oliver Reed) but ends up joining the musketeers to fight the Cardinal’s guards. It’s the Inner courtyard of the Tavera Hospital (Hospital de San Juan Bautista) Calle Duque de Lerma, 2, at Calle Cardenal Tavera. Founded in the 16th century by Cardinal Don Juan Tavera, the hospital was begun in 1541, and completed in the 17th century. It now houses a school and museum.

30 miles northeast of Toledo lies another historic centre, Aranjuez, at the confluence of the the Tagus and Jarama Rivers. Its Palacio Real de Aranjuez (Royal Palace) Plaza de Parejas, becomes the decadent court of ‘Versailles’, where Queen Anna of Austria (Geraldine Chaplin) rides a human-powered roundabout, King Louis XIII (Jean-Pierre Cassel) plays chess with live doggies, and D’Artagnan finally becomes a musketeer.

The palace was built in a formally classical style in 1722 by Philip II, though the extensive parade ground seen in the film was added later by Charles III.

The Three Musketeers (1973) location: Alcazar, Segovia, Spain
The Three Musketeers (1973) location: Bonacieux is questioned by the Cardinal in the ‘Bastille’: Alcazar, Segovia, Spain | Photograph: wikimedia / Jesusccastillo

The formidable Parisian prison of ‘La Bastille’, where the hapless Bonacieux (Spike Milligan) is recruited by wily Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston), is represented by the Alcázar of Segovia, north of Madrid. Perched atop a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it was built in the 14th century as a royal palace, though later became a state prison.

The seafront of Dénia, on the Costa Blanca north of Benidorm, is used as the port at which Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway) is greeted by Comte de Rochefort (Christopher Lee, the first actor to sport the eyepatch that seems to have become synonymous with the character) on her return from England. The rundown-looking area, on Calle Bellavista alongside Hotel El Raset, has been extensively redeveloped since filming.

The Three Musketeers (1973) location: La Granja de San Ildefonso, Spain
The Three Musketeers (1973) location: another Spanish palace becomes ‘17th century France’: Palacio Real de Riofrío, Spain | Photograph: wikimedia / Pelayo2

More ‘French’ locations were found at the Palacio Real de Riofrío (Royal Palace of Riofrío), about 40 miles northwest of Madrid. Another residence of the Spanish Royal Family, under the management of the Patrimonio Nacional, it’s set in a wooded deer-park and now houses a museum dedicated to the history of hunting.

The Three Musketeers (1973) location: La Granja de San Ildefonso, Spain
The Three Musketeers (1973) location: D’Artagnan delivers the jewels to the Queen: La Granja de San Ildefonso, Spain | Photograph: Trip Advisor

Finally, the ‘Hotel de Ville’, scene of the climactic ball, where the queen is obliged to wear her diamonds, is La Granja de San Ildefonso, a mini-Versailles built in the 1720s as a summer lodge for Philip V, just to the southeast of Segovia. As D’Artagnan gamely struggles to deliver the replacement stones to the queen, the fireworks are prematurely ignited alongside the estate’s spectacular Gran Cascada.