Dumas’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, was a French nobleman and his mother a black slave. Thomas-Alexandre joined the French army, served with distinction in the French Revolutionary Wars and was promoted to general by age 31.
However, he, like many, he fell out of favor and by 1800 sought a return to France. During his voyage back, Thomas-Alexandre’s ship put in at Taranto, in the Kingdom of Naples, and he and others were held as prisoners of war under trying circumstances, a situation that would continue for two years.
By the time Alexandre was born, his father’s health was broken and he was impoverished. Thomas-Alexandre died in 1806 when his son was just 4 years old.
His widowed mother could not provide her son with much of an education, but the young Dumas read everything he could and taught himself Spanish.
In addition, stories of his father’s bravery during the campaigns of the Revolutionary Wars inspired the boy’s imagination. Although poor, the family had their father’s distinguished reputation and aristocratic rank.
In 1822, after the restoration of the French monarchy, the 20-year old Alexandre moved to Paris and was able to obtain a position at the Palais Royal in the office of Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans.