Milady Clarick de Winter, often referred to as simply Milady, is the main antagonist in the 1844 historical adventure novel The Three Musketeers by the late Alexandre Dumas, pere. She acts as a spy for Cardinal Richelieu.
A capable and beautiful spy, Milady is an unusual example of a strong, independent woman with a tragic and checkered past, filled with the seduction and willful destruction of men who will provide her with monetary support. Milady is remorseless and unrepentant for her countless "misdeeds".
Late in the novel, after the reader is already presented with numerous examples of her villainy to the crown, she is revealed to be the wife of Athos, one of the musketeers in the title of the novel. A teenager forced to enter the convent.
She falls in love with a priest and escapes with stolen church property to fund their new life in another part of the country. For which both of them were branded by a legal official. She was with a man in Athos' village and pretending to be his sister. When Athos, a nobleman (the Comte de La Fère), fell in love with her and, despite her obscure origins, married her. Out in the forest one day, he discovered the brand on her shoulder.
Identifying her as a convicted criminal. Thinking she had married him only for his money, and feeling dishonored, Athos hanged her from a tree on the spot, but she survived.
Role in the novel
After being expelled by Athos, she winds up in the employ of Cardinal Richelieu, working as his spy, assassin, and messenger. She steals the jewels that Anne of Austria, wife of King Louis XIII, entrusted to her lover, the English minister Duke of Buckingham, but the intended scandal is averted. D'Artagnan himself later meets Milady and falls under her spell, though he also pursues an affair with her maid, Kitty.
When the French troops lay siege to the Hugenot city of La Rochelle, the Duke of Buckingham leads an unsuccessful expedition to assist the besieged. In a house near La Rochelle, Athos and his friends Porthos and Aramis overhear a conversation between the Cardinal and Milady, plotting to kill Buckingham before he can make another attempt.
Even if he is the enemy of France, the musketeers regard Buckingham, the man, as a friend. They commit treason to the crown and thus warn him of the threat and upon arriving in England, Milady is arrested and imprisoned in a house by her hostile brother-in-law, the new Lord de Winter.
She seduces her jailer, John Felton, persuading him that she is a Puritan at heart and that Buckingham is persecuting her because she refused his advances. Felton has his own grievances against Buckingham, whom he blames for his lack of promotion in the army. He thus proceeds to murder the Duke (a historical event), but after carrying out the murder he is aghast to see Milady's ship sailing away without him. He is later hanged.
Returning to France, Milady murders d'Artagnan's lover, Constance Bonacieux, when the two happen upon one another in a convent. The musketeers and Lord de Winter hunt Milady and track her at Lille, where she is beheaded after a mock trial.
She uses or is referred to by the following names throughout the novel:
Charlotte Backson (the name Milady's brother-in-law, Lord de Winter, attempts to bestow upon her in his plan to banish her to the colonies)
Anne de Breuil (the name by which Athos knew Milady when he met her)
Comtesse de La Fère (the title and name Milady assumed when she married Athos, who was Comte de La Fère at the time)
Milady de Winter, Baroness of Sheffield (the general name Milady is referred to throughout the story)
Lady Clarick (a variation on the previous name; in some English translations, this is translated as Clarisse or Clarice)
Film and television
Actresses who have played Milady on screen include:
Barbara La Marr, in The Three Musketeers (1921)
Lana Turner, in The Three Musketeers (1948)
Mylène Demongeot, in Les trois mousquetaires: Premiere époque-Les ferrets de la reine and Les trois mousquetaires: La vengeance de Milady (aka "The Fighting Musketeers" and "The Vengeance of Milady") (both 1961)
Faye Dunaway, in The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974)
Margarita Terekhova in D'Artagnan and Three Musketeers (1978 miniseries)