4

The plot of the first part of The Three Musketeers revolves around 12 diamond studs that Queen Anne d'Autriche gives to the Duke of Buckingham.

What exactly were those studs? I mean, what was this object of jewellery? How were they to be worn?

  • Looking at Les Trois Mousquetaires in French, as well as a French dictionary, each stud was two buttons (only one of which would have been visible) connected by a short ribbon. It would have been attached at a buttonhole, and used either to keep an article of clothing (in this case a pourpoint, or doublet) closed, or purely for decoration. Think of a fancy tuxedo shirt today. Unless somebody who speaks French better than I do gets to it first, I'll write a real answer when I have time. – Peter Shor Mar 19 at 12:00
  • @PeterShor "Sur son épaule gauche étincelaient les ferrets soutenus par un noeud de même couleur que les plumes et la jupe" is the relevant quote. In modern French, as far as I know, a "ferret" is the tip of the shoelace, with that hardened thing on it that makes it easier to pull the shoelace through the eyelets. Only, that doesn't make sense in context, leaving me even more confused. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 19 at 12:27
  • The Larousse dictionary also has for ferret, "Petit bout (en métal, en pierre précieuse, etc.) d'une aiguillette." And an aiguillette is un "Cordon, ganse ou tresse, ferré aux deux bouts, ayant, jusqu'au règne de Louis XIV, servi à fermer ou à garnir les vêtements." I'm guessing from context, and from the translation to stud, that they were used both to close and to decorate buttonholes. – Peter Shor Mar 19 at 12:36
  • I'm wrong. We have, later in Les Trois Mousquetaires, "«Tenez, lui dit-il en tirant du coffre un gros noeud de ruban bleu tout étincelant de diamants; tenez, voici ces précieux ferrets avec lesquels j'avais fait le serment d'être enterré.»" So we have a blue ribbon knot meant to be pinned on a shoulder, and decorated with diamonds (the ferrets, which must be attached to the ends of the ribbons like shoelace ends). So the translation to studs seems wrong. Also English Wikipedia has an entry for aiguillette. Unfortunately, Wikipédia doesn't. – Peter Shor Mar 19 at 13:02
  • @PeterShor Do you want to make that into an answer, with the relevant pictures from Wikipedia? – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 19 at 13:41
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The French word that was translated to stud was ferret. I don't actually see any justification for translating ferret here as stud, as I will explain later.

To explain how the diamonds were worn first, these twelve diamond ferrets were part of a decoration meant to be worn on a shoulder. It was made of six blue ribbons woven or knotted together. The twelve ferrets were ornamental tips attached to the ends of the ribbons.

The rest of the answer contains the justification for this statement. To see what ferret means, let us look at the relevant definition from the Larousse dictionnaire de français. This is

Petit bout (en métal, en pierre précieuse, etc.) d'une aiguillette.
Small tip (of metal, gemstone, etc.) of an aiguillette.

So what is an aiguillette? The English translation is aiguillette, but this won't help modern readers because the word has largely fallen out of use in both English and French (because aiguillettes aren't used much anymore). Larousse says that an aiguillette is

Cordon, ganse ou tresse, ferré aux deux bouts, ayant, jusqu'au règne de Louis XIV, servi à fermer ou à garnir les vêtements.
Cord or braid, tipped with metal at both ends, that until the reign of Louis XIV served to fasten or decorate clothing.

So an aguillette was a short length of cord or braid, tipped at both ends, often with precious metal or gemstones, that was used to fasten clothing closed, or which was worn purely for decoration.

One can see pictures of them in English Wikipedia. This says

Portraits of the 16th and 17th centuries show that aiglets or metal tips could be functional or purely decorative, though many were used to "close" seams and slashes that are not always apparent on dark garments in portraits. They were made in matched sets, might be of silver, silver-gilt, or gold, and were worn in masses.

Here is a 1562 picture of Lord High Admiral Clinton wearing a doublet fastened by aiguillettes, from Wikipedia.

Lord High Admiral Clinton in an arming doublet of 1562

So were the diamonds on aiguillettes? If they were, stud might be a reasonable translation of ferret, because a stud is a piece of jewelry that you use to fasten two buttonholes together, and similarly an aiguillette is a piece of jewelry you use to fasten your clothing.

However, in this case, the ferrets were not on aiguillettes, although they were indeed on the ends of ribbons.

The first time we see the ferrets being worn is:

elle [la reine] avait un chapeau de feutre avec des plumes bleues, un surtout en velours gris perle rattaché avec des agrafes de diamants, et une jupe de satin bleu toute brodée d'argent. Sur son épaule gauche étincelaient les ferrets soutenus par un noeud de même couleur que les plumes et la jupe.

She [The Queen] wore a felt hat with blue feathers, a surcoat of gray-pearl velvet, fastened with diamond clasps, and a skirt of blue satin, embroidered with silver. On her left shoulder sparkled the diamond ferrets, on a knot of the same color as the plumes and the skirt.

A later description of the diamonds in Les Trois Mousquetaires follows:

Tenez, lui dit-il en tirant du coffre un gros noeud de ruban bleu tout étincelant de diamants; tenez, voici ces précieux ferrets ...
“Here,” said he, drawing from the casket a large knot of blue ribbon all glittering with diamonds, “here are the precious ferrets ...

Note that the French word noeud is broader than the English word knot; a bow would also be called a noeud.

So the ferrets are in a large decoration made of blue ribbon. We also find that this was meant to be worn on a shoulder. This decoration must then be made of six blue ribbons knotted or woven together somehow, and the diamonds are on pieces of jewelry which are affixed to the twelve ends of these six ribbons.

Note: the English translations above are my modifications of the translations of The Three Musketeers on Project Gutenberg.

NOTE: the first passage I quote above from Les Trois Mousquetaires seems to have been changed between the serialization where it first appears, and the 1850 novel edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires published in Paris. The language in the novel seems compatible with the idea that the ferrets are on aguillettes. See the other answer.

  • 1
    The English word "aglet" derived from "aiguillette" is still in use for those bits on the ends of shoelaces. – Rand al'Thor Mar 20 at 16:39
5

In the original French version of the novel, what d'Artagnan has to recover from London are ferrets (engl. aglets). An aglet is a small sheath that allows to easily slide a lace or ribbon through an eyelet hole. During the seventeenth century, these had became purely decorative and could be made from fragile minerals such as rock crystal or be adorned with diamonds.

An exhibition about Les Mousquetaires at the Musée de l'Armée in 2014 displayed some historic objects related to the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Among them were ferrets owned by the Marquise Arconati-Visconti from circa 1895-1897. They are no. 48 in the lower half of this image from the exhibition catalogue:

enter image description here

How these ferrets were worn can be seen in the following portrait of Anne of Austria, where they are attached to red ribbons:

enter image description here

  • From The Three Musketeers (Gutenberg version): "It is true that the habit of a huntress became her [the queen] admirably. She wore a beaver hat with blue feathers, a surtout of gray-pearl velvet, fastened with diamond clasps, and a petticoat of blue satin, embroidered with silver. On her left shoulder sparkled the diamond studs, on a bow of the same color as the plumes and the petticoat." So these ferrets were not attached to aiguillettes (something I thought, too, when I was first researching my answer), but to a knot or bow of blue ribbon, worn on a shoulder. – Peter Shor Mar 24 at 14:51
  • @PeterShor That translation appears to be a mistranslation. The phrases "fastened with diamond clasps" and "on a bow of the same color as the plumes and the petticoat" are missing from the French original. They have apparently been added by the translator. The original reads: "Il est vrai que sa toilette de chasseresse lui allait à merveille ; elle avait un chapeau de feutre avec des plumes bleues, un surtout de velours gris perle et une jupe de satin bleu toute brodée d’argent. À ce surtout étincelaient les ferrets de diamants." – user6049 Mar 24 at 16:32
  • [contd.] That is, the last sentence states that the ferrets "sparkle on the surcoat". There is no mention that they are on the shoulder, nor that they are attached to a bow. A surcoat or great coat (surtout) is what Anne of Austria is wearing in the portrait shown in my answer. – user6049 Mar 24 at 16:41
  • Project Gutenberg has "elle avait un chapeau de feutre avec des plumes bleues, un surtout en velours gris perle rattaché avec des agrafes de diamants, et une jupe de satin bleu toute brodée d'argent. Sur son épaule gauche étincelaient les ferrets soutenus par un noeud de même couleur que les plumes et la jupe." This is the same as Google books has for the 1846 serialization in the Semaine Littéraire du Courrier des États-Unis. But Google books shows that the 1850 novel, published in Paris, has your version. There are two French originals. Maybe Dumas changed his mind. – Peter Shor Mar 24 at 17:47
  • @PeterShor Interesting. I stand corrected. Nevertheless a noeud is simply a ribbon tied into a bow as seen in the portrait of Anne of Austria. – user6049 Mar 24 at 18:49

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