The Man in the Iron Mask [An Essay]
Alexandre Dumas, Pere

This eBook was produced by David Widger
Extensive proofing of this file was done by Trevor Carlson


We place little credence in a "story"--perhaps, a bit more faith in
"his-story". Dumas (Pere) has given us some of the world's finest
"stories", and as in this short monograph on "The Man in the Iron
Mask," some very well documented "history." He concluded 150 years
ago that these events were a mystery and now 300 years from the era
of Louis XIV--they remain so. Many historians from Voltaire down
through other famous authorities have given us the final answer to
this puzzle. But history students should keep always in mind the
words of the revered historian Will Durant:

"If you believe history--and you must not....."


This is the essay entitled The Man in the Iron Mask, not the novel
[The Man in the Iron Mask [The Novel] Dumas #28[]2759]



For nearly one hundred years this curious problem has exercised the
imagination of writers of fiction--and of drama, and the patience of
the learned in history. No subject is more obscure and elusive, and
none more attractive to the general mind. It is a legend to the
meaning of which none can find the key and yet in which everyone
believes. Involuntarily we feel pity at the thought of that long
captivity surrounded by so many extraordinary precautions, and when
we dwell on the mystery which enveloped the captive, that pity is not
only deepened but a kind of terror takes possession of us. It is
very likely that if the name of the hero of this gloomy tale had been
known at the time, he would now be forgotten. To give him a name
would be to relegate him at once to the ranks of those commonplace
offenders who quickly exhaust our interest and our tears. But this
being, cut off from the world without leaving any discoverable trace,
and whose disappearance apparently caused no void--this captive,
distinguished among captives by the unexampled nature of his
punishment, a prison within a prison, as if the walls of a mere cell
were not narrow enough, has come to typify for us the sum of all the
human misery and suffering ever inflicted by unjust tyranny.

Who was the Man in the Mask? Was he rapt away into this silent
seclusion from the luxury of a court, from the intrigues of
diplomacy, from the scaffold of a traitor, from the clash of battle?
What did he leave behind? Love, glory, or a throne? What did he
regret when hope had fled? Did he pour forth imprecations and curses
on his tortures and blaspheme against high Heaven, or did he with a
sigh possess his soul in patience?

The blows of fortune are differently received according to the
different characters of those on whom they fall; and each one of us
who in imagination threads the subterranean passages leading to the
cells of Pignerol and Exilles, and incarcerates himself in the Iles
Sainte-Marguerite and in the Bastille, the successive scenes of that
long-protracted agony will give the prisoner a form shaped by his own
fancy and a grief proportioned to his own power of suffering. How we
long to pierce the thoughts and feel the heart-beats and watch the
trickling tears behind that machine-like exterior, that impassible
mask! Our imagination is powerfully excited by the dumbness of that
fate borne by one whose words never reached the outward air, whose
thoughts could never be read on the hidden features; by the isolation
of forty years secured by two-fold barriers of stone and iron, and
she clothes the object of her contemplation in majestic splendour,
connects the mystery which enveloped his existence with mighty
interests, and persists in regarding the prisoner as sacrificed for
the preservation of some dynastic secret involving the peace of the
world and the stability of a throne.

And when we calmly reflect on the whole case, do we feel that our
first impulsively adopted opinion was wrong? Do we regard our belief
as a poetical illusion? I do not think so; on the contrary, it seems
to me that our good sense approves our fancy's flight. For what can
be more natural than the conviction that the secret of the name, age,
and features of the captive, which was so perseveringly kept through
long years at the cost of so much care, was of vital importance to
the Government? No ordinary human passion, such as anger, hate, or
vengeance, has so dogged and enduring a character; we feel that the
measures taken were not the expression of a love of cruelty, for even
supposing that Louis XIV were the most cruel of princes, would he not
have chosen one of the thousand methods of torture ready to his hand
before inventing a new and strange one? Moreover, why did he
voluntarily burden himself with the obligation of surrounding a
prisoner with such numberless precautions and such sleepless
vigilance? Must he not have feared that in spite of it all the walls
behind which he concealed the dread mystery would one day let in the
light? Was it not through his entire reign a source of unceasing
anxiety? And yet he respected the life of the captive whom it was so
difficult to hide, and the discovery of whose identity would have
been so dangerous. It would have been so easy to bury the secret in
an obscure grave, and yet the order was never given. Was this an
expression of hate, anger, or any other passion? Certainly not; the
conclusion we must come to in regard to the conduct of the king is
that all the measures he took against the prisoner were dictated by
purely political motives; that his conscience, while allowing him to
do everything necessary to guard the secret, did not permit him to
take the further step of putting an end to the days of an unfortunate
man, who in all probability was guilty of no crime.

Courtiers are seldom obsequious to the enemies of their master, so
that we may regard the respect and consideration shown to the Man in
the Mask by the governor Saint-Mars, and the minister Louvois, as a
testimony, not only to his high rank, but also to his innocence.

For my part, I make no pretensions to the erudition of the bookworm,
and I cannot read the history of the Man in the Iron Mask without
feeling my blood boil at the abominable abuse of power--the heinous
crime of which he was the victim.

A few years ago, M. Fournier and I, thinking the subject suitable for
representation on the stage, undertook to read, before dramatising
it, all the different versions of the affair which had been published
up to that time. Since our piece was successfully performed at the
Odeon two other versions have appeared: one was in the form of a
letter addressed to the Historical Institute by M. Billiard, who
upheld the conclusions arrived at by Soulavie, on whose narrative our
play was founded; the other was a work by the bibliophile Jacob, who
followed a new system of inquiry, and whose book displayed the
results of deep research and extensive reading. It did not, however,
cause me to change my opinion. Even had it been published before I
had written my drama, I should still have adhered to the idea as to
the most probable solution of the problem which I had arrived at in
1831, not only because it was incontestably the most dramatic, but
also because it is supported by those moral presumptions which have
such weight with us when considering a dark and doubtful question
like the one before us. It will, be objected, perhaps, that dramatic
writers, in their love of the marvellous and the pathetic, neglect
logic and strain after effect, their aim being to obtain the applause
of the gallery rather than the approbation of the learned. But to
this it may be replied that the learned on their part sacrifice a
great deal to their love of dates, more or less exact; to their
desire to elucidate some point which had hitherto been considered
obscure, and which their explanations do not always clear up; to the
temptation to display their proficiency in the ingenious art of
manipulating facts and figures culled from a dozen musty volumes into
one consistent whole.

Our interest in this strange case of imprisonment arises, not alone
from its completeness and duration, but also from our uncertainty as
to the motives from which it was inflicted. Where erudition alone
cannot suffice; where bookworm after bookworm, disdaining the
conjectures of his predecessors, comes forward with a new theory
founded on some forgotten document he has hunted out, only to find
himself in his turn pushed into oblivion by some follower in his
track, we must turn for guidance to some other light than that of
scholarship; especially if, on strict investigation, we find that not
one learned solution rests on a sound basis of fact.

In the question before us, which, as we said before, is a double one,
asking not only who was the Man in the Iron Mask, but why he was
relentlessly subjected to this torture till the moment of his death,
what we need in order to restrain our fancy is mathematical
demonstration, and not philosophical induction.

While I do not go so far as to assert positively that Abbe Soulavie
has once for all lifted the veil which hid the truth, I am yet
persuaded that no other system of research is superior to his, and
that no other suggested solution has so many presumptions in its
favour. I have not reached this firm conviction on account of the
great and prolonged success of our drama, but because of the ease
with which all the opinions adverse to those of the abbe may be
annihilated by pitting them one against the other.

The qualities that make for success being quite different in a novel
and in a drama, I could easily have founded a romance on the
fictitious loves of Buckingham and the queen, or on a supposed secret
marriage between her and Cardinal Mazarin, calling to my aid a work
by Saint-Mihiel which the bibliophile declares he has never read,
although it is assuredly neither rare nor difficult of access. I
might also have merely expanded my drama, restoring to the personages
therein their true names and relative positions, both of which the
exigencies of the stage had sometimes obliged me to alter, and while
allowing them to fill the same parts, making them act more in
accordance with historical fact. No fable however far-fetched, no
grouping of characters however improbable, can, however, destroy the
interest which the innumerable writings about the Iron Mask excite,
although no two agree in details, and although each author and each
witness declares himself in possession of complete knowledge. No
work, however mediocre, however worthless even, which has appeared on
this subject has ever failed of success, not even, for example, the
strange jumble of Chevalier de Mouhy, a kind of literary braggart,
who was in the pay of Voltaire, and whose work was published
anonymously in 1746 by Pierre de Hondt of The Hague. It is divided
into six short parts, and bears the title, 'Le Masque de Fer, ou les
Aventures admirables du Prre et du Fils'. An absurd romance by
Regnault Warin, and one at least equally absurd by Madame Guenard,
met with a like favourable reception. In writing for the theatre, an
author must choose one view of a dramatic situation to the exclusion
of all others, and in following out this central idea is obliged by
the inexorable laws of logic to push aside everything that interferes
with its development. A book, on the contrary, is written to be
discussed; it brings under the notice of the reader all the evidence
produced at a trial which has as yet not reached a definite
conclusion, and which in the case before us will never reach it,
unless, which is most improbable, some lucky chance should lead to
some new discovery.

The first mention of the prisoner is to be found in the 'Memoires
secrets pour servir a l'Histoire de Perse' in one 12mo volume, by an
anonymous author, published by the 'Compagnie des Libraires Associes
d'Amsterdam' in 1745.

"Not having any other purpose," says the author (page 20, 2nd edit.),
"than to relate facts which are not known, or about which no one has
written, or about which it is impossible to be silent, we refer at
once to a fact which has hitherto almost escaped notice concerning
Prince Giafer (Louis de Bourbon, Comte de Vermandois, son of Louis
XIV and Mademoiselle de la Valliere), who was visited by Ali-Momajou
(the Duc d'Orleans, the regent) in the fortress of Ispahan (the
Bastille), in which he had been imprisoned for several years. This
visit had probably no other motive than to make sure that this prince
was really alive, he having been reputed dead of the plague for over
thirty years, and his obsequies having been celebrated in presence of
an entire army.

"Cha-Abas (Louis XIV) had a legitimate son, Sephi-Mirza (Louis,
Dauphin of France), and a natural son, Giafer. These two princes, as
dissimilar in character as in birth, were always rivals and always at
enmity with each other. One day Giafer so far forgot himself as to
strike Sephi-Mirza. Cha-Abas having heard of the insult offered to
the heir to the throne, assembled his most trusted councillors, and
laid the conduct of the culprit before them--conduct which, according
to the law of the country, was punishable with death, an opinion in
which they all agreed. One of the councillors, however, sympathising
more than the others with the distress of Cha-Abas, suggested that
Giafer should be sent to the army, which was then on the frontiers of
Feidrun (Flanders), and that his death from plague should be given
out a few days after his arrival. Then, while the whole army was
celebrating his obsequies, he should be carried off by night, in the
greatest secrecy, to the stronghold on the isle of Ormus (Sainte-
Marguerite), and there imprisoned for life.

"This course was adopted, and carried out by faithful and discreet
agents. The prince, whose premature death was mourned by the army,
being carried by unfrequented roads to the isle of Ormus, was placed
in the custody of the commandant of the island, who, had received
orders beforehand not to allow any person whatever to see the
prisoner. A single servant who was in possession of the secret was
killed by the escort on the journey, and his face so disfigured by
dagger thrusts that he could not be recognised.

"The commandant treated his prisoner with the most profound respect;
he waited on him at meals himself, taking the dishes from the cooks
at the door of the apartment, none of whom ever looked on the face of
Giafer. One day it occurred to the prince to scratch, his name on
the back of a plate with his knife. One of the servants into whose
hands the plate fell ran with it at once to the commandant, hoping he
would be pleased and reward the bearer; but the unfortunate man was
greatly mistaken, for he was at once made away with, that his
knowledge of such an important secret might be buried with himself.

"Giafer remained several years in the castle Ormus, and was then
transported to the fortress of Ispahan; the commandant of Ormus
having received the governorship of Ispahan as a reward for faithful

"At Ispahan, as at Ormus, whenever it was necessary on account of
illness or any other cause to allow anyone to approach the prince, he
was always masked; and several trustworthy persons have asserted that
they had seen the masked prisoner often, and had noticed that he used
the familiar 'tu' when addressing the governor, while the latter
showed his charge the greatest respect. As Giafer survived Cha-Abas
and Sephi-Mirza by many years, it may be asked why he was never set
at liberty; but it must be remembered it would have been impossible
to restore a prince to his rank and dignities whose tomb actually
existed, and of whose burial there were not only living witnesses but
documentary proofs, the authenticity of which it would have been
useless to deny, so firm was the belief, which has lasted down to the
present day, that Giafer died of the plague in camp when with the
army on the frontiers of Flanders. Ali-Homajou died shortly after
the visit he paid to Giafer."

This version of the story, which is the original source of all the
controversy on the subject, was at first generally received as true.
On a critical examination it fitted in very well with certain events
which took place in the reign of Louis XIV.

The Comte de Vermandois had in fact left the court for the camp very
soon after his reappearance there, for he had been banished by the
king from his presence some time before for having, in company with
several young nobles, indulged in the most reprehensible excesses.

"The king," says Mademoiselle de Montpensier ('Memoires de
Mademoiselle de Montpensier', vol. xliii. p. 474., of 'Memoires
Relatifs d'Histoire de France', Second Series, published by
Petitot), "had not been satisfied with his conduct and refused to see
him. The young prince had caused his mother much sorrow, but had
been so well lectured that it was believed that he had at last turned
over a new leaf." He only remained four days at court, reached the
camp before Courtrai early in November 1683, was taken ill on the
evening of the 12th, and died on the 19th of the same month of a
malignant fever. Mademoiselle de Montpensier says that the Comte de
Vermandois "fell ill from drink."

There are, of course, objections of all kinds to this theory.

For if, during the four days the comte was at court, he had struck
the dauphin, everyone would have heard of the monstrous crime, and
yet it is nowhere spoken of, except in the 'Memoires de Perse'. What
renders the story of the blow still more improbable is the difference
in age between the two princes. The dauphin, who already had a son,
the Duc de Bourgogne, more than a year old, was born the 1st November
1661, and was therefore six years older than the Comte de Vermandois.
But the most complete answer to the tale is to be found in a letter
written by Barbezieux to Saint-Mars, dated the 13th August 1691:--

"When you have any information to send me relative to the prisoner
who has been in your charge for twenty years, I most earnestly enjoin
on you to take the same precautions as when you write to M. de

The Comte de Vermandois, the official registration of whose death
bears the date 1685, cannot have been twenty years a prisoner in

Six years after the Man in the Mask had been thus delivered over to
the curiosity of the public, the 'Siecle de Louis XIV' (2 vols.
octavo, Berlin, 1751) was published by Voltaire under the pseudonym
of M. de Francheville. Everyone turned to this work, which had been
long expected, for details relating to the mysterious prisoner about
whom everyone was talking.

Voltaire ventured at length to speak more openly of the prisoner than
anyone had hitherto done, and to treat as a matter of history "an
event long ignored by all historians." (vol. ii. p. 11, 1st
edition, chap. xxv.). He assigned an approximate date to the
beginning of this captivity, "some months after the death of Cardinal
Mazarin" (1661); he gave a description of the prisoner, who
according to him was "young and dark-complexioned; his figure was
above the middle height and well proportioned; his features were
exceedingly handsome, and his bearing was noble. When he spoke his
voice inspired interest; he never complained of his lot, and gave no
hint as to his rank." Nor was the mask forgotten: "The part which
covered the chin was furnished with steel springs, which allowed the
prisoner to eat without uncovering his face." And, lastly, he fixed
the date of the death of the nameless captive; who "was buried," he
says, "in 1704., by night, in the parish church of Saint-Paul."

Voltaire's narrative coincided with the account given in the
'Memoires de Peyse', save for the omission of the incident which,
according to the 'Memoires', led in the first instance to the
imprisonment of Giafer. "The prisoner," says Voltaire, "was sent to
the Iles Sainte-Marguerite, and afterwards to the Bastille, in charge
of a trusty official; he wore his mask on the journey, and his escort
had orders to shoot him if he took it off. The Marquis de Louvois
visited him while he was on the islands, and when speaking to him
stood all the time in a respectful attitude. The prisoner was
removed to the Bastille in 1690, where he was lodged as comfortably
as could be managed in that building; he was supplied with everything
he asked for, especially with the finest linen and the costliest
lace, in both of which his taste was perfect; he had a guitar to play
on, his table was excellent, and the governor rarely sat in his

Voltaire added a few further details which had been given him by M.
de Bernaville, the successor of M. de Saint-Mars, and by an old
physician of the Bastille who had attended the prisoner whenever his
health required a doctor, but who had never seen his face, although
he had "often seen his tongue and his body." He also asserted that
M. de Chamillart was the last minister who was in the secret, and
that when his son-in-law, Marshal de la Feuillade, besought him on
his knees, de Chamillart being on his deathbed, to tell him the name
of the Man in the Iron Mask, the minister replied that he was under a
solemn oath never to reveal the secret, it being an affair of state.
To all these details, which the marshal acknowledges to be correct,
Voltaire adds a remarkable note: "What increases our wonder is, that
when the unknown captive was sent to the Iles Sainte-Marguerite no
personage of note disappeared from the European stage."

The story of the Comte de Vermandois and the blow was treated as an
absurd and romantic invention, which does not even attempt to keep
within the bounds of the possible, by Baron C. (according to P.
Marchand, Baron Crunyngen) in a letter inserted in the 'Bibliotheque
raisonnee des Ouvrages des Savants de d'Europe', June 1745. The
discussion was revived somewhat later, however, and a few Dutch
scholars were supposed to be responsible for a new theory founded on
history; the foundations proving somewhat shaky, however,--a quality
which it shares, we must say, with all the other theories which have
ever been advanced.

According to this new theory, the masked prisoner was a young foreign
nobleman, groom of the chambers to Anne of Austria, and the real
father of Louis XIV. This anecdote appears first in a duodecimo
volume printed by Pierre Marteau at Cologne in 1692, and which bears
the title, 'The Loves of Anne of Austria, Consort of Louis XIII, with
M. le C. D. R., the Real Father of Louis XIV, King of France; being a
Minute Account of the Measures taken to give an Heir to the Throne of
France, the Influences at Work to bring this to pass, and the
Denoument of the Comedy'.

This libel ran through five editions, bearing date successively,
1692, 1693, 1696, 1722, and 1738. In the title of the edition of
1696 the words "Cardinal de Richelieu" are inserted in place of the
initials "C. D. R.," but that this is only a printer's error everyone
who reads the work will perceive. Some have thought the three
letters stood for Comte de Riviere, others for Comte de Rochefort,
whose 'Memoires' compiled by Sandras de Courtilz supply these
initials. The author of the book was an Orange writer in the pay of
William III, and its object was, he says, "to unveil the great
mystery of iniquity which hid the true origin of Louis XIV." He goes
on to remark that "the knowledge of this fraud, although
comparatively rare outside France, was widely spread within her
borders. The well-known coldness of Louis XIII; the extraordinary
birth of Louis-Dieudonne, so called because he was born in the
twenty-third year of a childless marriage, and several other
remarkable circumstances connected with the birth, all point clearly
to a father other than the prince, who with great effrontery is
passed off by his adherents as such. The famous barricades of Paris,
and the organised revolt led by distinguished men against Louis XIV
on his accession to the throne, proclaimed aloud the king's
illegitimacy, so that it rang through the country; and as the
accusation had reason on its side, hardly anyone doubted its truth."

We give below a short abstract of the narrative, the plot of which is
rather skilfully constructed:--

"Cardinal Richelieu, looking with satisfied pride at the love of
Gaston, Duc d'Orleans, brother of the king, for his niece Parisiatis
(Madame de Combalet), formed the plan of uniting the young couple in
marriage. Gaston taking the suggestion as an insult, struck the
cardinal. Pere Joseph then tried to gain the cardinal's consent and
that of his niece to an attempt to deprive Gaston of the throne,
which the childless marriage of Louis XIII seemed to assure him. A
young man, the C. D. R. of the book, was introduced into Anne of
Austria's room, who though a wife in name had long been a widow in
reality. She defended herself but feebly, and on seeing the cardinal
next day said to him, "Well, you have had your wicked will; but take
good care, sir cardinal, that I may find above the mercy and goodness
which you have tried by many pious sophistries to convince me is
awaiting me. Watch over my soul, I charge you, for I have yielded!"
The queen having given herself up to love for some time, the joyful
news that she would soon become a mother began to spread over the
kingdom. In this manner was born Louis XIV, the putative son of
Louis XIII. If this installment of the tale be favourably received,
says the pamphleteer, the sequel will soon follow, in which the sad
fate of C. D. R. will be related, who was made to pay dearly for his
short-lived pleasure."

Although the first part was a great success, the promised sequel
never appeared. It must be admitted that such a story, though it
never convinced a single person of the illegitimacy of Louis XIV, was
an excellent prologue to the tale of the unfortunate lot of the Man
in the Iron Mask, and increased the interest and curiosity with which
that singular historical mystery was regarded. But the views of the
Dutch scholars thus set forth met with little credence, and were soon
forgotten in a new solution.

The third historian to write about the prisoner of the Iles Sainte-
Marguerite was Lagrange-Chancel. He was just twenty-nine years of
age when, excited by Freron's hatred of Voltaire, he addressed a
letter from his country place, Antoniat, in Perigord, to the 'Annee
Litteraire' (vol. iii. p. 188), demolishing the theory advanced in
the 'Siecle de Louis XIV', and giving facts which he had collected
whilst himself imprisoned in the same place as the unknown prisoner
twenty years later.

"My detention in the Iles-Saint-Marguerite," says Lagrange-Chancel,
"brought many things to my knowledge which a more painstaking
historian than M. de Voltaire would have taken the trouble to find
out; for at the time when I was taken to the islands the imprisonment
of the Man in the Iron Mask was no longer regarded as a state secret.
This extraordinary event, which M. de Voltaire places in 1662, a few
months after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, did not take place till
1669, eight years after the death of His Eminence. M. de La Motte-
Guerin, commandant of the islands in my time, assured me that the
prisoner was the Duc de Beaufort, who was reported killed at the
siege of Candia, but whose body had never been recovered, as all the
narratives of that event agree in stating. He also told me that M.
de Saint-Mars, who succeeded Pignerol as governor of the islands,
showed great consideration for the prisoner, that he waited on him at
table, that the service was of silver, and that the clothes supplied
to the prisoner were as costly as he desired; that when he was ill
and in need of a physician or surgeon, he was obliged under pain of
death to wear his mask in their presence, but that when he was alone
he was permitted to pull out the hairs of his beard with steel
tweezers, which were kept bright and polished. I saw a pair of these
which had been actually used for this purpose in the possession of M.
de Formanoir, nephew of Saint-Mars, and lieutenant of a Free Company
raised for the purpose of guarding the prisoners. Several persons
told me that when Saint-Mars, who had been placed over the Bastille,
conducted his charge thither, the latter was heard to say behind his
iron mask, 'Has the king designs on my life?' To which Saint-Mars
replied, 'No, my prince; your life is safe: you must only let
yourself be guided.'

"I also learned from a man called Dubuisson, cashier to the well-
known Samuel Bernard, who, having been imprisoned for some years in
the Bastile, was removed to the Iles Sainte-Marguerite, where he was
confined along with some others in a room exactly over the one
occupied by the unknown prisoner. He told me that they were able to
communicate with him by means of the flue of the chimney, but on
asking him why he persisted in not revealing his name and the cause
of his imprisonment, he replied that such an avowal would be fatal
not only to him but to those to whom he made it.

"Whether it were so or not, to-day the name and rank of this
political victim are secrets the preservation of which is no longer
necessary to the State; and I have thought that to tell the public
what I know would cut short the long chain of circumstances which
everyone was forging according to his fancy, instigated thereto by an
author whose gift of relating the most impossible events in such a
manner as to make them seem true has won for all his writings such
success--even for his Vie de Charles XII"

This theory, according to Jacob, is more probable than any of the

"Beginning with the year 1664.," he says, "the Duc de Beaufort had by
his insubordination and levity endangered the success of several
maritime expeditions. In October 1666 Louis XIV remonstrated with
him with much tact, begging him to try to make himself more and more
capable in the service of his king by cultivating the talents with
which he was endowed, and ridding himself of the faults which spoilt
his conduct. 'I do not doubt,' he concludes, 'that you will be all
the more grateful to me for this mark of my benevolence towards you,
when you reflect how few kings have ever shown their goodwill in a
similar manner.'" ( 'Oeuvres de Louis XIV', vol. v. p. 388).
Several calamities in the royal navy are known to have been brought
about by the Duc de Beaufort. M. Eugene Sue, in his 'Histoire de la
Marine', which is full of new and curious information, has drawn a
very good picture of the position of the "roi des halles," the "king
of the markets," in regard to Colbert and Louis XIV. Colbert wished
to direct all the manoeuvres of the fleet from his study, while it
was commanded by the naval grandmaster in the capricious manner which
might be expected from his factious character and love of bluster
(Eugene Sue, vol. i., 'Pieces Justificatives'). In 1699 Louis XIV
sent the Duc de Beaufort to the relief of Candia, which the Turks
were besieging. Seven hours after his arrival Beaufort was killed in
a sortie. The Duc de Navailles, who shared with him the command of
the French squadron, simply reported his death as follows: "He met a
body of Turks who were pressing our troops hard: placing himself at
the head of the latter, he fought valiantly, but at length his
soldiers abandoned him, and we have not been able to learn his fate"
('Memoires du Duc de Navailles', book iv. P. 243)

The report of his death spread rapidly through France and Italy;
magnificent funeral services were held in Paris, Rome, and Venice,
and funeral orations delivered. Nevertheless, many believed that he
would one day reappear, as his body had never been recovered.

Guy Patin mentions this belief, which he did not share, in two of his

"Several wagers have been laid that M. de Beaufort is not dead!
'O utinam'!" (Guy Patin, September 26, 1669).

"It is said that M. de Vivonne has been granted by commission the
post of vice-admiral of France for twenty years; but there are many
who believe that the Duc de Beaufort is not dead, but imprisoned in
some Turkish island. Believe this who may, I don't; he is really
dead, and the last thing I should desire would be to be as dead as
he",(Ibid., January 14, 1670).

The following are the objections to this theory:

"In several narratives written by eye-witnesses of the siege of
Candia," says Jacob, "it is related that the Turks, according to
their custom, despoiled the body and cut off the head of the Duc de
Beaufort on the field of battle, and that the latter was afterwards
exhibited at Constantinople; and this may account for some of the
details given by Sandras de Courtilz in his 'Memoires du Marquis de
Montbrun' and his 'Memoires d'Artagnan', for one can easily imagine
that the naked, headless body might escape recognition. M. Eugene
Sue, in his 'Histoire de la Marine' (vol. ii, chap. 6), had adopted
this view, which coincides with the accounts left by Philibert de
Jarry and the Marquis de Ville, the MSS. of whose letters and
'Memoires' are to be found in the Bibliotheque du Roi.

"In the first volume of the 'Histoire de la Detention des Philosophes
et des Gens de Lettres a la Bastille, etc.', we find the following

"Without dwelling on the difficulty and danger of an abduction, which
an Ottoman scimitar might any day during this memorable siege render
unnecessary, we shall restrict ourselves to declaring positively that
the correspondence of Saint-Mars from 1669 to 1680 gives us no ground
for supposing that the governor of Pignerol had any great prisoner of
state in his charge during that period of time, except Fouquet and

While we profess no blind faith in the conclusions arrived at by the
learned critic, we would yet add to the considerations on which he
relies another, viz. that it is most improbable that Louis XIV should
ever have considered it necessary to take such rigorous measures
against the Duc de Beaufort. Truculent and self-confident as he was,
he never acted against the royal authority in such a manner as to
oblige the king to strike him down in secret; and it is difficult to
believe that Louis XIV, peaceably seated on his throne, with all the
enemies of his minority under his feet, should have revenged himself
on the duke as an old Frondeur.

The critic calls our attention to another fact also adverse to the
theory under consideration. The Man in the Iron Mask loved fine
linen and rich lace, he was reserved in character and possessed of
extreme refinement, and none of this suits the portraits of the 'roi
des halles' which contemporary historians have drawn.

Regarding the anagram of the name Marchiali (the name under which the
death of the prisoner was registered), 'hic amiral', as a proof, we
cannot think that the gaolers of Pignerol amused themselves in
propounding conundrums to exercise the keen intellect of their
contemporaries; and moreover the same anagram would apply equally
well to the Count of Vermandois, who was made admiral when only
twenty-two months old. Abbe Papon, in his roamings through Provence,
paid a visit to the prison in which the Iron Mask was confined, and
thus speaks:--

"It was to the Iles Sainte-Marguerite that the famous prisoner with
the iron mask whose name has never been discovered, was transported
at the end of the last century; very few of those attached to his
service were allowed to speak to him. One day, as M. de Saint-Mars
was conversing with him, standing outside his door, in a kind of
corridor, so as to be able to see from a distance everyone who
approached, the son of one of the governor's friends, hearing the
voices, came up; Saint-Mars quickly closed the door of the room, and,
rushing to meet the young man, asked him with an air of great anxiety
if he had overheard anything that was said. Having convinced himself
that he had heard nothing, the governor sent the young man away the
same day, and wrote to the father that the adventure was like to have
cost the son dear, and that he had sent him back to his home to
prevent any further imprudence.

"I was curious enough to visit the room in which the unfortunate man
was imprisoned, on the 2nd of February 1778. It is lighted by one
window to the north, overlooking the sea, about fifteen feet above
the terrace where the sentries paced to and fro. This window was
pierced through a very thick wall and the embrasure barricaded by
three iron bars, thus separating the prisoner from the sentries by a
distance of over two fathoms. I found an officer of the Free Company
in the fortress who was nigh on fourscore years old; he told me that
his father, who had belonged to the same Company, had often related
to him how a friar had seen something white floating on the water
under the prisoner's window. On being fished out and carried to
M. de Saint-Mars, it proved to be a shirt of very fine material,
loosely folded together, and covered with writing from end to end.
M. de Saint-Mars spread it out and read a few words, then turning to
the friar who had brought it he asked him in an embarrassed manner if
he had been led by curiosity to read any of the writing. The friar
protested repeatedly that he had not read a line, but nevertheless he
was found dead in bed two days later. This incident was told so
often to my informant by his father and by the chaplain of the fort
of that time that he regarded it as incontestably true. The
following fact also appears to me to be equally well established by
the testimony of many witnesses. I collected all the evidence I
could on the spot, and also in the Lerins monastery, where the
tradition is preserved.

"A female attendant being wanted for the prisoner, a woman of the
village of Mongin offered herself for the place, being under the
impression that she would thus be able to make her children's
fortune; but on being told that she would not only never be allowed
to see her children again, but would be cut off from the rest of the
world as well, she refused to be shut up with a prisoner whom it cost
so much to serve. I may mention here that at the two outer angles of
the wall of the fort which faced the sea two sentries were placed,
with orders to fire on any boat which approached within a certain

"The prisoner's personal attendant died in the Iles Sainte-
Marguerite. The brother of the officer whom I mentioned above was
partly in the confidence of M. de Saint-Mars, and he often told how
he was summoned to the prison once at midnight and ordered to remove
a corpse, and that he carried it on his shoulders to the burial-
place, feeling certain it was the prisoner who was dead; but it was
only his servant, and it was then that an effort was made to supply
his place by a female attendant."

Abbe Papon gives some curious details, hitherto unknown to the
public, but as he mentions no names his narrative cannot be
considered as evidence. Voltaire never replied to Lagrange-Chancel,
who died the same year in which his letter was published. Freron
desiring to revenge himself for the scathing portrait which Voltaire
had drawn of him in the 'Ecossaise', called to his assistance a more
redoubtable adversary than Lagrange-Chancel. Sainte-Foix had brought
to the front a brand new theory, founded on a passage by Hume in an
article in the 'Annee Litteraire' (1768, vol. iv.), in which he
maintained that the Man in the Iron Mask was the Duke of Monmouth, a
natural son of Charles II, who was found guilty of high treason and
beheaded in London on the 15th July 1685.

This is what the English historian says:

"It was commonly reported in London that the Duke of Monmouth's life
had been saved, one of his adherents who bore a striking resemblance
to the duke having consented to die in his stead, while the real
culprit was secretly carried off to France, there to undergo a
lifelong imprisonment."

The great affection which the English felt for the Duke of Monmouth,
and his own conviction that the people only needed a leader to induce
them to shake off the yoke of James II, led him to undertake an
enterprise which might possibly have succeeded had it been carried
out with prudence. He landed at Lyme, in Dorset, with only one
hundred and twenty men; six thousand soon gathered round his
standard; a few towns declared in his favour; he caused himself to be
proclaimed king, affirming that he was born in wedlock, and that he
possessed the proofs of the secret marriage of Charles II and Lucy
Waiters, his mother. He met the Royalists on the battlefield, and
victory seemed to be on his side, when just at the decisive moment
his ammunition ran short. Lord Gray, who commanded the cavalry, beat
a cowardly retreat, the unfortunate Monmouth was taken prisoner,
brought to London, and beheaded.

The details published in the 'Siecle de Louis XIV' as to the personal
appearance of the masked prisoner might have been taken as a
description of Monmouth, who possessed great physical beauty.
Sainte-Foix had collected every scrap of evidence in favour of his
solution of the mystery, making use even of the following passage
from an anonymous romance called 'The Loves of Charles II and James
II, Kings of England':--

"The night of the pretended execution of the Duke of Monmouth, the
king, attended by three men, came to the Tower and summoned the duke
to his presence. A kind of loose cowl was thrown over his head, and
he was put into a carriage, into which the king and his attendants
also got, and was driven away."

Sainte-Foix also referred to the alleged visit of Saunders, confessor
to James II, paid to the Duchess of Portsmouth after the death of
that monarch, when the duchess took occasion to say that she could
never forgive King James for consenting to Monmouth's execution, in
spite of the oath he had taken on the sacred elements at the deathbed
of Charles II that he would never take his natural brother's life,
even in case of rebellion. To this the priest replied quickly, "The
king kept his oath."

Hume also records this solemn oath, but we cannot say that all the
historians agree on this point. 'The Universal History' by Guthrie
and Gray, and the 'Histoire d'Angleterre' by Rapin, Thoyras and de
Barrow, do not mention it.

"Further," wrote Sainte-Foix, "an English surgeon called Nelaton, who
frequented the Cafe Procope, much affected by men of letters, often
related that during the time he was senior apprentice to a surgeon
who lived near the Porte Saint-Antoine, he was once taken to the
Bastille to bleed a prisoner. He was conducted to this prisoner's
room by the governor himself, and found the patient suffering from
violent headache. He spoke with an English accent, wore a gold-
flowered dressing-gown of black and orange, and had his face covered
by a napkin knotted behind his head."

This story does not hold water: it would be difficult to form a mask
out of a napkin; the Bastille had a resident surgeon of its own as
well as a physician and apothecary; no one could gain access to a
prisoner without a written order from a minister, even the Viaticum
could only be introduced by the express permission of the lieutenant
of police.

This theory met at first with no objections, and seemed to be going
to oust all the others, thanks, perhaps, to the combative and restive
character of its promulgator, who bore criticism badly, and whom no
one cared to incense, his sword being even more redoubtable than his

It was known that when Saint-Mars journeyed with his prisoner to the
Bastille, they had put up on the way at Palteau, in Champagne, a
property belonging to the governor. Freron therefore addressed
himself to a grand-nephew of Saint-Mars, who had inherited this
estate, asking if he could give him any information about this visit.
The following reply appeared in the 'Annee Litteraire' (June 1768):--

"As it appears from the letter of M. de Sainte-Foix from which you
quote that the Man in the Iron Mask still exercises the fancy of your
journalists, I am willing to tell you all I know about the prisoner.
He was known in the islands of Sainte-Marguerite and at the Bastille
as 'La Tour.' The governor and all the other officials showed him
great respect, and supplied him with everything he asked for that
could be granted to a prisoner. He often took exercise in the yard
of the prison, but never without his mask on. It was not till the
'Siecle' of M. de Voltaire appeared that I learned that the mask was
of iron and furnished with springs; it may be that the circumstance
was overlooked, but he never wore it except when taking the air, or
when he had to appear before a stranger.

"M. de Blainvilliers, an infantry officer who was acquainted with M.
de Saint-Mars both at Pignerol and Sainte-Marguerite, has often told
me that the lot of 'La Tour' greatly excited his curiosity, and that
he had once borrowed the clothes and arms of a soldier whose turn it
was to be sentry on the terrace under the prisoner's window at
Sainte-Marguerite, and undertaken the duty himself; that he had seen
the prisoner distinctly, without his mask; that his face was white,
that he was tall and well proportioned, except that his ankles were
too thick, and that his hair was white, although he appeared to be
still in the prime of life. He passed the whole of the night in
question pacing to and fro in his room. Blainvilliers added that he
was always dressed in brown, that he had plenty of fine linen and
books, that the governor and the other officers always stood
uncovered in his presence till he gave them leave to cover and sit
down, and that they often bore him company at table.

"In 1698 M. de Saint-Mars was promoted from the governorship of the
Iles Sainte-Marguerite to that of the Bastille. In moving thither,
accompanied by his prisoner, he made his estate of Palteau a halting-
place. The masked man arrived in a litter which preceded that of M.
de Saint-Mars, and several mounted men rode beside it. The peasants
were assembled to greet their liege lord. M. de Saint-Mars dined
with his prisoner, who sat with his back to the dining-room windows,
which looked out on the court. None of the peasants whom I have
questioned were able to see whether the man kept his mask on while
eating, but they all noticed that M. de Saint-Mars, who sat opposite
to his charge, laid two pistols beside his plate; that only one
footman waited at table, who went into the antechamber to change the
plates and dishes, always carefully closing the dining-room door
behind him. When the prisoner crossed the courtyard his face was
covered with a black mask, but the peasants could see his lips and
teeth, and remarked that he was tall, and had white hair. M. de
Saint-Mars slept in a bed placed beside the prisoner's. M. de
Blainvilliers told me also that 'as soon as he was dead, which
happened in 1704, he was buried at Saint-Paul's,' and that 'the
coffin was filled with substances which would rapidly consume the
body.' He added, 'I never heard that the masked man spoke with an
English accent.'"

Sainte-Foix proved the story related by M. de Blainvilliers to be
little worthy of belief, showing by a circumstance mentioned in the
letter that the imprisoned man could not be the Duc de Beaufort;
witness the epigram of Madame de Choisy, "M. de Beaufort longs to
bite and can't," whereas the peasants had seen the prisoner's teeth
through his mask. It appeared as if the theory of Sainte-Foix were
going to stand, when a Jesuit father, named Griffet, who was
confessor at the Bastille, devoted chapter xiii of his 'Traite des
differentes Sortes de Preuves qui servent a etablir la Verite dans
l'Histoire' (12mo, Liege, 1769) to the consideration of the Iron
Mask. He was the first to quote an authentic document which
certifies that the Man in the Iron Mask about whom there was so much
disputing really existed. This was the written journal of M. du
Jonca, King's Lieutenant in the Bastille in 1698, from which Pere
Griffet took the following passage:--

"On Thursday, September the 8th, 1698, at three o'clock in the
afternoon, M. de Saint-Mars, the new governor of the Bastille,
entered upon his duties. He arrived from the islands of Sainte-
Marguerite, bringing with him in a litter a prisoner whose name is a
secret, and whom he had had under his charge there, and at Pignerol.
This prisoner, who was always masked, was at first placed in the
Bassiniere tower, where he remained until the evening. At nine
o'clock p.m. I took him to the third room of the Bertaudiere tower,
which I had had already furnished before his arrival with all needful
articles, having received orders to do so from M. de Saint-Mars.
While I was showing him the way to his room, I was accompanied by
M. Rosarges, who had also arrived along with M. de Saint-Mars, and
whose office it was to wait on the said prisoner, whose table is to
be supplied by the governor."

Du Jonca's diary records the death of the prisoner in the following

"Monday, 19th November 1703. The unknown prisoner, who always wore a
black velvet mask, and whom M. de Saint-Mars brought with him from
the Iles Sainte-Marguerite, and whom he had so long in charge, felt
slightly unwell yesterday on coming back from mass. He died to-day
at 10 p.m. without having a serious illness, indeed it could not have
been slighter. M. Guiraut, our chaplain, confessed him yesterday,
but as his death was quite unexpected he did not receive the last
sacraments, although the chaplain was able to exhort him up to the
moment of his death. He was buried on Tuesday the 20th November at
4 P.M. in the burial-ground of St. Paul's, our parish church. The
funeral expenses amounted to 40 livres."

His name and age were withheld from the priests of the parish. The
entry made in the parish register, which Pere Griffet also gives, is
in the following words:--

"On the 19th November 1703, Marchiali, aged about forty-five, died in
the Bastille, whose body was buried in the graveyard of Saint-Paul's,
his parish, on the 20th instant, in the presence of M. Rosarges and
of M. Reilh, Surgeon-Major of the Bastille.

"(Signed) ROSARGES.

As soon as he was dead everything belonging to him, without
exception, was burned; such as his linen, clothes, bed and bedding,
rugs, chairs, and even the doors of the room he occupied. His
service of plate was melted down, the walls of his room were scoured
and whitewashed, the very floor was renewed, from fear of his having
hidden a note under it, or left some mark by which he could be

Pere Griffet did not agree with the opinions of either Lagrange-
Chancel or Sainte-Foix, but seemed to incline towards the theory set
forth in the 'Memoires de Perse', against which no irrefutable
objections had been advanced. He concluded by saying that before
arriving at any decision as to who the prisoner really was, it would
be necessary to ascertain the exact date of his arrival at Pignerol.

Sainte-Foix hastened to reply, upholding the soundness of the views
he had advanced. He procured from Arras a copy of an entry in the
registers of the Cathedral Chapter, stating that Louis XIV had
written with his own hand to the said Chapter that they were to admit
to burial the body of the Comte de Vermandois, who had died in the
city of Courtrai; that he desired that the deceased should be
interred in the centre of the choir, in the vault in which lay the
remains of Elisabeth, Comtesse de Vermandois, wife of Philip of
Alsace, Comte de Flanders, who had died in 1182. It is not to be
supposed that Louis XIV would have chosen a family vault in which to
bury a log of wood.

Sainte-Foix was, however, not acquainted with the letter of
Barbezieux, dated the 13th August 1691, to which we have already
referred, as a proof that the prisoner was not the Comte de
Vermandois; it is equally a proof that he was not the Duke of
Monmouth, as Sainte-Foix maintained; for sentence was passed on the
Duke of Monmouth in 1685, so that it could not be of him either that
Barbezieux wrote in 1691, "The prisoner whom you have had in charge
for twenty years."

In the very year in which Sainte-Foix began to flatter himself that
his theory was successfully established, Baron Heiss brought a new
one forward, in a letter dated "Phalsburg, 28th June 1770," and
addressed to the 'Journal Enclycopedique'. It was accompanied by a
letter translated from the Italian which appeared in the 'Histoire
Abregee de l'Europe' by Jacques Bernard, published by Claude Jordan,
Leyden, 1685-87, in detached sheets. This letter stated (August
1687, article 'Mantoue') that the Duke of Mantua being desirous to
sell his capital, Casale, to the King of France, had been dissuaded
therefrom by his secretary, and induced to join the other princes of
Italy in their endeavours to thwart the ambitious schemes of Louis
XVI. The Marquis d'Arcy, French ambassador to the court of Savoy,
having been informed of the secretary's influence, distinguished him
by all kinds of civilities, asked him frequently to table, and at
last invited him to join a large hunting party two or three leagues
outside Turin. They set out together, but at a short distance from
the city were surrounded by a dozen horsemen, who carried off the
secretary, 'disguised him, put a mask on him, and took him to
Pignerol.' He was not kept long in this fortress, as it was 'too
near the Italian frontier, and although he was carefully guarded it
was feared that the walls would speak'; so he was transferred to the
Iles Sainte-Marguerite, where he is at present in the custody of M.
de Saint-Mars.

This theory, of which much was heard later, did not at first excite
much attention. What is certain is that the Duke of Mantua's
secretary, by name Matthioli, was arrested in 1679 through the agency
of Abbe d'Estrade and M. de Catinat, and taken with the utmost
secrecy to Pignerol, where he was imprisoned and placed in charge of
M. de Saint-Mars. He must not, however, be confounded with the Man
in the Iron Mask.

Catinat says of Matthioli in a letter to Louvois "No one knows the
name of this knave."

Louvois writes to Saint-Mars: "I admire your patience in waiting for
an order to treat such a rogue as he deserves, when he treats you
with disrespect."

Saint-Mars replies to the minister: "I have charged Blainvilliers to
show him a cudgel and tell him that with its aid we can make the
froward meek."

Again Louvois writes: "The clothes of such people must be made to
last three or four years."

This cannot have been the nameless prisoner who was treated with such
consideration, before whom Louvois stood bare-headed, who was
supplied with fine linen and lace, and so on.

Altogether, we gather from the correspondence of Saint-Mars that the
unhappy man alluded to above was confined along with a mad Jacobin,
and at last became mad himself, and succumbed to his misery in 1686.

Voltaire, who was probably the first to supply such inexhaustible
food for controversy, kept silence and took no part in the
discussions. But when all the theories had been presented to the
public, he set about refuting them. He made himself very merry, in
the seventh edition of 'Questions sur l'Encyclopedie distibuees en
forme de Dictionnaire' (Geneva, 1791), over the complaisance
attributed to Louis XIV in acting as police-sergeant and gaoler for
James II, William III, and Anne, with all of whom he was at war.
Persisting still in taking 1661 or 1662 as the date when the
incarceration of the masked prisoner began, he attacks the opinions
advanced by Lagrange-Chancel and Pere Griffet, which they had drawn
from the anonymous 'Memoires secrets pour servir a l'Histoire de
Perse'. "Having thus dissipated all these illusions," he says, "let
us now consider who the masked prisoner was, and how old he was when
he died. It is evident that if he was never allowed to walk in the
courtyard of the Bastille or to see a physician without his mask, it
must have been lest his too striking resemblance to someone should be
remarked; he could show his tongue but not his face. As regards his
age, he himself told the apothecary at the Bastille, a few days
before his death, that he thought he was about sixty; this I have
often heard from a son-in-law to this apothecary, M. Marsoban,
surgeon to Marshal Richelieu, and afterwards to the regent, the Duc
d'Orleans. The writer of this article knows perhaps more on this
subject than Pere Griffet. But he has said his say."

This article in the 'Questions on the Encyclopaedia' was followed by
some remarks from the pen of the publisher, which are also, however,
attributed by the publishers of Kelh to Voltaire himself. The
publisher, who sometimes calls himself the author, puts aside without
refutation all the theories advanced, including that of Baron Heiss,
and says he has come to the conclusion that the Iron Mask was,
without doubt, a brother and an elder brother of Louis XIV, by a
lover of the queen. Anne of Austria had come to persuade herself
that hers alone was the fault which had deprived Louis XIII [the
publisher of this edition overlooked the obvious typographical error
of "XIV" here when he meant, and it only makes sense, that it was
XIII. D.W.] of an heir, but the birth of the Iron Mask undeceived
her. The cardinal, to whom she confided her secret, cleverly
arranged to bring the king and queen, who had long lived apart,
together again. A second son was the result of this reconciliation;
and the first child being removed in secret, Louis XIV remained in
ignorance of the existence of his half-brother till after his
majority. It was the policy of Louis XIV to affect a great respect
for the royal house, so he avoided much embarrassment to himself and
a scandal affecting the memory of Anne of Austria by adopting the
wise and just measure of burying alive the pledge of an adulterous
love. He was thus enabled to avoid committing an act of cruelty,
which a sovereign less conscientious and less magnanimous would have
considered a necessity.

After this declaration Voltaire made no further reference to the Iron
Mask. This last version of the story upset that of Sainte-Foix.
Voltaire having been initiated into the state secret by the Marquis
de Richelieu, we may be permitted to suspect that being naturally
indiscreet he published the truth from behind the shelter of a
pseudonym, or at least gave a version which approached the truth, but
later on realising the dangerous significance of his words, he
preserved for the future complete silence.

We now approach the question whether the prince who thus became the
Iron Mask was an illegitimate brother or a twin-brother of Louis XIV.
The first was maintained by M. Quentin-Crawfurd; the second by Abbe
Soulavie in his 'Memoires du Marechal Duc de Richelieu' (London,
1790). In 1783 the Marquis de Luchet, in the 'Journal des Gens du
Monde' (vol. iv. No. 23, p. 282, et seq.), awarded to Buckingham the
honour of the paternity in dispute. In support of this, he quoted
the testimony of a lady of the house of Saint-Quentin who had been a
mistress of the minister Barbezieux, and who died at Chartres about
the middle of the eighteenth century. She had declared publicly that
Louis XIV had consigned his elder brother to perpetual imprisonment,
and that the mask was necessitated by the close resemblance of the
two brothers to each other.

The Duke of Buckingham, who came to France in 1625, in order to
escort Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII, to England, where she
was to marry the Prince of Wales, made no secret of his ardent love
for the queen, and it is almost certain that she was not insensible
to his passion. An anonymous pamphlet, 'La Conference du Cardinal
Mazarin avec le Gazetier' (Brussels, 1649), says that she was
infatuated about him, and allowed him to visit her in her room. She
even permitted him to take off and keep one of her gloves, and his
vanity leading him to show his spoil, the king heard of it, and was
vastly offended. An anecdote, the truth of which no one has ever
denied, relates that one day Buckingham spoke to the queen with such
passion in the presence of her lady-in-waiting, the Marquise de
Senecey, that the latter exclaimed, "Be silent, sir, you cannot speak
thus to the Queen of France!" According to this version, the Man in
the Iron Mask must have been born at latest in 1637, but the mention
of any such date would destroy the possibility of Buckingham's
paternity; for he was assassinated at Portsmouth on September 2nd,

After the taking of the Bastille the masked prisoner became the
fashionable topic of discussion, and one heard of nothing else. On
the 13th of August 1789 it was announced in an article in a journal
called 'Loisirs d'un Patriote francais', which was afterwards
published anonymously as a pamphlet, that the publisher had seen,
among other documents found in the Bastille, a card bearing the
unintelligible number "64389000," and the following note: "Fouquet,
arriving from Les Iles Sainte-Marguerite in an iron mask." To this
there was, it was said, a double signature, viz. "XXX," superimposed
on the name "Kersadion." The journalist was of opinion that Fouquet
had succeeded in making his escape, but had been retaken and
condemned to pass for dead, and to wear a mask henceforward, as a
punishment for his attempted evasion. This tale made some
impression, for it was remembered that in the Supplement to the
'Siecle de Louis XIV' it was stated that Chamillart had said that
"the Iron Mask was a man who knew all the secrets of M. Fouquet."
But the existence of this card was never proved, and we cannot accept
the story on the unsupported word of an anonymous writer.

From the time that restrictions on the press were removed, hardly a
day passed without the appearance of some new pamphlet on the Iron
Mask. Louis Dutens, in 'Correspondence interceptee' (12mo, 1789),
revived the theory of Baron Heiss, supporting it by new and curious
facts. He proved that Louis XIV had really ordered one of the Duke
of Mantua's ministers to be carried off and imprisoned in Pignerol.
Dutens gave the name of the victim as Girolamo Magni. He also quoted
from a memorandum which by the wish of the Marquis de Castellane was
drawn up by a certain Souchon, probably the man whom Papon questioned
in 1778. This Souchon was the son of a man who had belonged to the
Free Company maintained in the islands in the time of Saint-Mars, and
was seventy-nine years old. This memorandum gives a detailed account
of the abduction of a minister in 1679, who is styled a "minister of
the Empire," and his arrival as a masked prisoner at the islands, and
states that he died there in captivity nine years after he was
carried off.

Dutens thus divests the episode of the element of the marvellous with
which Voltaire had surrounded it. He called to his aid the testimony
of the Duc de Choiseul, who, having in vain attempted to worm the
secret of the Iron Mask out of Louis XV, begged Madame de Pompadour
to try her hand, and was told by her that the prisoner was the
minister of an Italian prince. At the same time that Dutens wrote,
"There is no fact in history better established than the fact that
the Man in the Iron Mask was a minister of the Duke of Mantua who was
carried off from Turin," M. Quentin-Crawfurd was maintaining that the
prisoner was a son of Anne of Austria; while a few years earlier
Bouche, a lawyer, in his 'Essai sur l'Histoire de Provence' (2 vols.
4to, 1785), had regarded this story as a fable invented by Voltaire,
and had convinced himself that the prisoner was a woman. As we see,
discussion threw no light on the subject, and instead of being
dissipated, the confusion became ever "worse confounded."

In 1790 the 'Memoires du Marechal de Richelieu' appeared. He had
left his note-books, his library, and his correspondence to Soulavie.
The 'Memoires' are undoubtedly authentic, and have, if not certainty,
at least a strong moral presumption in their favour, and gained the
belief of men holding diverse opinions. But before placing under the
eyes of our readers extracts from them relating to the Iron Mask, let
us refresh our memory by recalling two theories which had not stood
the test of thorough investigation.

According to some MS. notes left by M. de Bonac, French ambassador at
Constantinople in 1724, the Armenian Patriarch Arwedicks, a mortal
enemy of our Church and the instigator of the terrible persecutions
to which the Roman Catholics were subjected, was carried off into
exile at the request of the Jesuits by a French vessel, and confined
in a prison whence there was no escape. This prison was the fortress
of Sainte-Marguerite, and from there he was taken to the Bastille,
where he died. The Turkish Government continually clamoured for his
release till 1723, but the French Government persistently denied
having taken any part in the abduction.

Even if it were not a matter of history that Arwedicks went over to
the Roman Catholic Church and died a free man in Paris, as may be
seen by an inspection of the certificate of his death preserved among
the archives in the Foreign Office, one sentence from the note-book
of M. de Bonac would be sufficient to annihilate this theory. M. de
Bonac says that the Patriarch was carried off, while M. de Feriol,
who succeeded M. de Chateauneuf in 1699, was ambassador at
Constantinople. Now it was in 1698 that Saint-Mars arrived at the
Bastille with his masked prisoner.

Several English scholars have sided with Gibbon in thinking that the
Man in the Iron Mask might possibly have been Henry, the second son
of Oliver Cromwell, who was held as a hostage by Louis XIV.

By an odd coincidence the second son of the Lord Protector does
entirely disappear from the page of history in 1659; we know nothing
of where he afterwards lived nor when he died. But why should he be
a prisoner of state in France, while his elder brother Richard was
permitted to live there quite openly? In the absence of all proof,
we cannot attach the least importance to this explanation of the

We now come to the promised extracts from the 'Memoires du Marechal
de Richelieu':

"Under the late king there was a time when every class of society was
asking who the famous personage really was who went by the name of
the Iron Mask, but I noticed that this curiosity abated somewhat
after his arrival at the Bastille with Saint-Mars, when it began to
be reported that orders had been given to kill him should he let his
name be known. Saint-Mars also let it be understood that whoever
found out the secret would share the same fate. This threat to
murder both the prisoner and those who showed too much curiosity
about him made such an impression, that during the lifetime of the
late king people only spoke of the mystery below their breath. The
anonymous author of 'Les Memoires de Perse', which were published in
Holland fifteen years after the death of Louis XIV, was the first who
dared to speak publicly of the prisoner and relate some anecdotes
about him.

"Since the publication of that work, liberty of speech and the
freedom of the press have made great strides, and the shade of Louis
XIV having lost its terrors, the case of the Iron Mask is freely
discussed, and yet even now, at the end of my life and seventy years
after the death of the king, people are still asking who the Man in
the Iron Mask really was.

"This question was one I put to the adorable princess, beloved of the
regent, who inspired in return only aversion and respect, all her
love being given to me. As everyone was persuaded that the regent
knew the name, the course of life, and the cause of the imprisonment
of the masked prisoner, I, being more venturesome in my curiosity
than others, tried through my princess to fathom the secret. She had
hitherto constantly repulsed the advances of the Duc d' Orleans, but
as the ardour of his passion was thereby in no wise abated, the least
glimpse of hope would be sufficient to induce him to grant her
everything she asked; I persuaded her, therefore, to let him
understand that if he would allow her to read the 'Memoires du
Masque' which were in his possession his dearest desires would be

"The Duc d'Orleans had never been known to reveal any secret of
state, being unspeakably circumspect, and having been trained to keep
every confidence inviolable by his preceptor Dubois, so I felt quite
certain that even the princess would fail in her efforts to get a
sight of the memoranda in his possession relative to the birth and
rank of the masked prisoner; but what cannot love, and such an ardent
love, induce a man to do?

"To reward her goodness the regent gave the documents into her hands,
and she forwarded them to me next day, enclosed in a note written in
cipher, which, according to the laws of historical writing, I
reproduce in its entirety, vouching for its authenticity; for the
princess always employed a cipher when she used the language of
gallantry, and this note told me what treaty she had had to sign in
order that she might obtain the documents, and the duke the desire of
his heart. The details are not admissible in serious history, but,
borrowing the modest language of the patriarchal time, I may say that
if Jacob, before he obtained possession of the best beloved of
Laban's daughters, was obliged to pay the price twice over, the
regent drove a better bargain than the patriarch. The note and the
memorandum were as follows:

"'2. 1. 17. 12. 9. 2. 20. 2. 1. 7. 14

20. 10. 3. 21. 1. 11. 14. 1. 15. 16. 12.

17. 14. 2. 1. 21. 11. 20. 17. 12. 9. 14.

9. 2. 8. 20. 5. 20. 2. 2. 17. 8. 1. 2. 20.

9. 21. 21. 1. 5. 12. 17. 15. 00. 14. 1. 15.

14. 12. 9. 21. 5. 12. 9. 21. 16. 20. 14.

8. 3.


"'Drawn up by the Governor of this Prince on his deathbed.

"'The unfortunate prince whom I brought up and had in charge till
almost the end of my life was born on the 5th September 1638 at 8.30
o'clock in the evening, while the king was at supper. His brother,
who is now on the throne, was born at noon while the king was at
dinner, but whereas his birth was splendid and public, that of his
brother was sad and secret; for the king being informed by the
midwife that the queen was about to give birth to a second child,
ordered the chancellor, the midwife, the chief almoner, the queen's
confessor, and myself to stay in her room to be witnesses of whatever
happened, and of his course of action should a second child be born.

"'For a long time already it had been foretold to the king that his
wife would give birth to two sons, and some days before, certain
shepherds had arrived in Paris, saying they were divinely inspired,
so that it was said in Paris that if two dauphins were born it would
be the greatest misfortune which could happen to the State. The
Archbishop of Paris summoned these soothsayers before him, and
ordered them to be imprisoned in Saint-Lazare, because the populace
was becoming excited about them--a circumstance which filled the king
with care, as he foresaw much trouble to his kingdom. What had been
predicted by the soothsayers happened, whether they had really been
warned by the constellations, or whether Providence by whom His
Majesty had been warned of the calamities which might happen to
France interposed. The king had sent a messenger to the cardinal to
tell him of this prophecy, and the cardinal had replied that the
matter, must be considered, that the birth of two dauphins was not
impossible, and should such a case arrive, the second must be
carefully hidden away, lest in the future desiring to be king he
should fight against his brother in support of a new branch of the
royal house, and come at last to reign.

"'The king in his suspense felt very uncomfortable, and as the queen
began to utter cries we feared a second confinement. We sent to
inform the king, who was almost overcome by the thought that he was
about to become the father of two dauphins. He said to the Bishop of
Meaux, whom he had sent for to minister to the queen, "Do not quit
my wife till she is safe; I am in mortal terror." Immediately after
he summoned us all, the Bishop of Meaux, the chancellor M. Honorat,
Dame Peronete the midwife, and myself, and said to us in presence of
the queen, so that she could hear, that we would answer to him with
our heads if we made known the birth of a second dauphin; that it was
his will that the fact should remain a state secret, to prevent the
misfortunes which would else happen, the Salic Law not having
declared to whom the inheritance of the kingdom should come in case
two eldest sons were born to any of the kings.

"'What had been foretold happened: the queen, while the king was at
supper, gave birth to a second dauphin, more dainty and more
beautiful than the first, but who wept and wailed unceasingly, as if
he regretted to take up that life in which he was afterwards to
endure such suffering. The chancellor drew up the report of this
wonderful birth, without parallel in our history; but His Majesty not
being pleased with its form, burned it in our presence, and the
chancellor had to write and rewrite till His Majesty was satisfied.
The almoner remonstrated, saying it would be impossible to hide the
birth of a prince, but the king returned that he had reasons of state
for all he did.

"'Afterwards the king made us register our oath, the chancellor
signing it first, then the queen's confessor, and I last. The oath
was also signed by the surgeon and midwife who attended on the
queen, and the king attached this document to the report, taking both
away with him, and I never heard any more of either. I remember that
His Majesty consulted with the chancellor as to the form of the oath,
and that he spoke for a long time in an undertone to the cardinal:
after which the last-born child was given into the charge of the
midwife, and as they were always afraid she would babble about his
birth, she has told me that they often threatened her with death
should she ever mention it: we were also forbidden to speak, even to
each other, of the child whose birth we had witnessed.

"'Not one of us has as yet violated his oath; for His Majesty dreaded
nothing so much as a civil war brought about by the two children born
together, and the cardinal, who afterwards got the care of the second
child into his hands, kept that fear alive. The king also commanded
us to examine the unfortunate prince minutely; he had a wart above
the left elbow, a mole on the right side of his neck, and a tiny wart
on his right thigh; for His Majesty was determined, and rightly so,
that in case of the decease of the first-born, the royal infant whom
he was entrusting to our care should take his place; wherefore he
required our signmanual to the report of the birth, to which a small
royal seal was attached in our presence, and we all signed it after
His Majesty, according as he commanded. As to the shepherds who had
foretold the double birth, never did I hear another word of them, but
neither did I inquire. The cardinal who took the mysterious infant
in charge probably got them out of the country.

"'All through the infancy of the second prince Dame Peronete treated
him as if he were her own child, giving out that his father was a
great nobleman; for everyone saw by the care she lavished on him and
the expense she went to, that although unacknowledged he was the
cherished son of rich parents, and well cared for.

"'When the prince began to grow up, Cardinal Mazarin, who succeeded
Cardinal Richelieu in the charge of the prince's education, gave him
into my hands to bring up in a manner worthy of a king's son, but in
secret. Dame Peronete continued in his service till her death, and
was very much attached to him, and he still more to her. The prince
was instructed in my house in Burgundy, with all the care due to the
son and brother of a king.

"'I had several conversations with the queen mother during the
troubles in France, and Her Majesty always seemed to fear that if the
existence of the prince should be discovered during the lifetime of
his brother, the young king, malcontents would make it a pretext for
rebellion, because many medical men hold that the last-born of twins
is in reality the elder, and if so, he was king by right, while many
others have a different opinion.

"'In spite of this dread, the queen could never bring herself to
destroy the written evidence of his birth, because in case of the
death of the young king she intended to have his twin-brother
proclaimed. She told me often that the written proofs were in her
strong box.

"'I gave the ill-starred prince such an education as I should have
liked to receive myself, and no acknowledged son of a king ever had a
better. The only thing for which I have to reproach myself is that,
without intending it, I caused him great unhappiness; for when he was
nineteen years old he had a burning desire to know who he was, and as
he saw that I was determined to be silent, growing more firm the more
he tormented me with questions, he made up his mind henceforward to
disguise his curiosity and to make me think that he believed himself
a love-child of my own. He began to call me 'father,' although when
we were alone I often assured him that he was mistaken; but at length
I gave up combating this belief, which he perhaps only feigned to
make me speak, and allowed him to think he was my son, contradicting
him no more; but while he continued to dwell on this subject he was
meantime making every effort to find out who he really was. Two
years passed thus, when, through an unfortunate piece of
forgetfulness on my part, for which I greatly blame myself, he became
acquainted with the truth. He knew that the king had lately sent me
several messengers, and once having carelessly forgotten to lock up a
casket containing letters from the queen and the cardinals, he read
part and divined the rest through his natural intelligence; and later
confessed to me that he had carried off the letter which told most
explicitly of his birth.

"'I can recall that from this time on, his manner to me showed no
longer that respect for me in which I had brought him up, but became
hectoring and rude, and that I could not imagine the reason of the
change, for I never found out that he had searched my papers, and he
never revealed to me how he got at the casket, whether he was aided
by some workmen whom he did not wish to betray, or had employed other

"'One day, however, he unguardedly asked me to show him the portraits
of the late and the present king. I answered that those that existed
were so poor that I was waiting till better ones were taken before
having them in my house.

"'This answer, which did not satisfy him, called forth the request to
be allowed to go to Dijon. I found out afterwards that he wanted to
see a portrait of the king which was there, and to get to the court,
which was just then at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, because of the approaching
marriage with the infanta; so that he might compare himself with his
brother and see if there were any resemblance between them. Having
knowledge of his plan, I never let him out of my sight.

"'The young prince was at this time as beautiful as Cupid, and
through the intervention of Cupid himself he succeeded in getting
hold of a portrait of his brother. One of the upper servants of the
house, a young girl, had taken his fancy, and he lavished such
caresses on her and inspired her with so much love, that although the
whole household was strictly forbidden to give him anything without
my permission, she procured him a portrait of the king. The unhappy
prince saw the likeness at once, indeed no one could help seeing it,
for the one portrait would serve equally well for either brother, and
the sight produced such a fit of fury that he came to me crying out,
"There is my brother, and this tells me who I am!" holding out a
letter from Cardinal Mazarin which he had stolen from me, and making
a great commotion in my house.

"'The dread lest the prince should escape and succeed in appearing at
the marriage of his brother made me so uneasy, that I sent off a
messenger to the king to tell him that my casket had been opened, and
asking for instructions. The king sent back word through the
cardinal that we were both to be shut up till further orders, and
that the prince was to be made to understand that the cause of our
common misfortune was his absurd claim. I have since shared his
prison, but I believe that a decree of release has arrived from my
heavenly judge, and for my soul's health and for my ward's sake I
make this declaration, that he may know what measures to take in
order to put an end to his ignominious estate should the king die
without children. Can any oath imposed under threats oblige one to
be silent about such incredible events, which it is nevertheless
necessary that posterity should know?'"

Such were the contents of the historical document given by the regent
to the princess, and it suggests a crowd of questions. Who was the
prince's governor? Was he a Burgundian? Was he simply a landed
proprietor, with some property and a country house in Burgundy? How
far was his estate from Dijon? He must have been a man of note, for
he enjoyed the most intimate confidence at the court of Louis XIII,
either by virtue of his office or because he was a favourite of the
king, the queen, and Cardinal Richelieu. Can we learn from the list
of the nobles of Burgundy what member of their body disappeared from
public life along with a young ward whom he had brought up in his own
house just after the marriage of Louis XIV? Why did he not attach
his signature to the declaration, which appears to be a hundred years
old? Did he dictate it when so near death that he had not strength
to sign it? How did it find its way out of prison? And so forth.

There is no answer to all these questions, and I, for my part, cannot
undertake to affirm that the document is genuine. Abbe Soulavie
relates that he one day "pressed the marshal for an answer to some
questions on the matter, asking, amongst other things, if it were not
true that the prisoner was an elder brother of Louis XIV born without
the knowledge of Louis XIII. The marshal appeared very much
embarrassed, and although he did not entirely refuse to answer, what
he said was not very explanatory. He averred that this important
personage was neither the illegitimate brother of Louis XIV, nor the
Duke of Monmouth, nor the Comte de Vermandois, nor the Duc de
Beaufort, and so on, as so many writers had asserted." He called all
their writings mere inventions, but added that almost every one of
them had got hold of some true incidents, as for instance the order
to kill the prisoner should he make himself known. Finally he
acknowledged that he knew the state secret, and used the following
words: "All that I can tell you, abbe, is, that when the prisoner
died at the beginning of the century, at a very advanced age, he had
ceased to be of such importance as when, at the beginning of his
reign, Louis XIV shut him up for weighty reasons of state."

The above was written down under the eyes of the marshal, and when
Abbe Soulavie entreated him to say something further which, while not
actually revealing the secret, would yet satisfy his questioner's
curiosity, the marshal answered, "Read M. de Voltaire's latest
writings on the subject, especially his concluding words, and reflect
on them."

With the exception of Dulaure, all the critics have treated
Soulavie's narrative with the most profound contempt, and we must
confess that if it was an invention it was a monstrous one, and that
the concoction of the famous note in cipher was abominable. "Such
was the great secret; in order to find it out, I had to allow myself
5, 12, 17, 15, 14, 1, three times by 8, 3." But unfortunately for
those who would defend the morals of Mademoiselle de Valois, it would
be difficult to traduce the character of herself, her lover, and her
father, for what one knows of the trio justifies one in believing
that the more infamous the conduct imputed to them, the more likely
it is to be true. We cannot see the force of the objection that
Louvois would not have written in the following terms to Saint-Mars
in 1687 about a bastard son of Anne of Austria: "I see no objection
to your removing Chevalier de Thezut from the prison in which he is
confined, and putting your prisoner there till the one you are
preparing for him is ready to receive him." And we cannot understand
those who ask if Saint-Mars, following the example of the minister,
would have said of a prince "Until he is installed in the prison
which is being prepared for him here, which has a chapel adjoining"?
Why should he have expressed himself otherwise? Does it evidence an
abatement of consideration to call a prisoner a prisoner, and his
prison a prison?

A certain M. de Saint-Mihiel published an 8vo volume in 1791, at
Strasbourg and Paris, entitled 'Le veritable homme, dit au MASQUE DE
FER, ouvrage dans lequel on fait connaitre, sur preuves
incontestables, a qui le celebre infortune dut le jour, quand et ou
il naquit'. The wording of the title will give an idea of the
bizarre and barbarous jargon in which the whole book is written. It
would be difficult to imagine the vanity and self-satisfaction which
inspire this new reader of riddles. If he had found the
philosopher's stone, or made a discovery which would transform the
world, he could not exhibit more pride and pleasure. All things
considered, the "incontestable proofs" of his theory do not decide
the question definitely, or place it above all attempts at
refutation, any more than does the evidence on which the other
theories which preceded and followed his rest. But what he lacks
before all other things is the talent for arranging and using his
materials. With the most ordinary skill he might have evolved a
theory which would have defied criticism at least as successfully, as
the others, and he might have supported it by proofs, which if not
incontestable (for no one has produced such), had at least moral
presumption in their favour, which has great weight in such a
mysterious and obscure affair, in trying to explain, which one can
never leave on one side, the respect shown by Louvois to the
prisoner, to whom he always spoke standing and with uncovered head.

According to M. de Saint-Mihiel, the 'Man in the Iron Mask was a
legitimate son of Anne of Austria and Mazarin'.

He avers that Mazarin was only a deacon, and not a priest, when he
became cardinal, having never taken priest's orders, according to the
testimony of the Princess Palatine, consort of Philip I, Duc
d'Orleans, and that it was therefore possible for him to marry, and
that he did marry, Anne of Austria in secret.

"Old Madame Beauvais, principal woman of the bed-chamber to the queen
mother, knew of this ridiculous marriage, and as the price of her
secrecy obliged the queen to comply with all her whims. To this
circumstance the principal bed-chamber women owe the extensive
privileges accorded them ever since in this country" (Letter of the
Duchesse d'Orleans, 13th September 1713).

"The queen mother, consort of Louis XIII, had done worse than simply
to fall in love with Mazarin, she had married him, for he had never
been an ordained priest, he had only taken deacon's orders. If he
had been a priest his marriage would have been impossible. He grew
terribly tired of the good queen mother, and did not live happily
with her, which was only what he deserved for making such a marriage"
(Letter of the Duchesse d'Orleans, 2nd November 1717).

"She (the queen mother) was quite easy in her conscience about
Cardinal Mazarin; he was not in priest's orders, and so could marry.
The secret passage by which he reached the queen's rooms every
evening still exists in the Palais Royal" (Letter of the Duchesse
d'Orleans, 2nd July 1719)

"The queen's, manner of conducting affairs is influenced by the
passion which dominates her. When she and the cardinal converse
together, their ardent love for each other is betrayed by their looks
and gestures; it is plain to see that when obliged to part for a time
they do it with great reluctance. If what people say is true, that
they are properly married, and that their union has been blessed by
Pere Vincent the missioner, there is no harm in all that goes on
between them, either in public or in private" ('Requete civile contre
la Conclusion de la Paix', 1649).

The Man in the Iron Mask told the apothecary in the Bastille that he
thought he was about sixty years of age ('Questions sur
d'Encyclopedie'). Thus he must have been born in 1644, just at the
time when Anne of Austria was invested with the royal power, though
it was really exercised by Mazarin.

Can we find any incident recorded in history which lends support to
the supposition that Anne of Austria had a son whose birth was kept
as secret as her marriage to Mazarin?

"In 1644, Anne of Austria being dissatisfied with her apartments in
the Louvre, moved to the Palais Royal, which had been left to the
king by Richelieu. Shortly after taking up residence there she was
very ill with a severe attack of jaundice, which was caused, in the
opinion of the doctors, by worry, anxiety, and overwork, and which
pulled her down greatly" ('Memoire de Madame de Motteville', 4 vols.
12mo, vol i. p. 194).

"This anxiety, caused by the pressure of public business, was most
probably only dwelt on as a pretext for a pretended attack of
illness. Anne of Austria had no cause for worry and anxiety till
1649. She did not begin to complain of the despotism of Mazarin till
towards the end of 1645" (Ibid., vol. i. pp. 272, 273).

"She went frequently to the theatre during her first year of
widowhood, but took care to hide herself from view in her box."
(Ibid., vol. i. p. 342).

Abbe Soulavie, in vol. vi. of the 'Memoires de Richelieu', published
in 1793, controverted the opinions of M. de Saint-Mihiel, and again
advanced those which he had published some time before, supporting
them by a new array of reasons.

The fruitlessness of research in the archives of the Bastille, and
the importance of the political events which were happening, diverted
the attention of the public for some years from this subject. In the
year 1800, however, the 'Magazin encyclopedique' published (vol. vi.
p. 472) an article entitled 'Memoires sur les Problemes historiques,
et la methode de les resoudre appliquee a celui qui concerne l'Homme
au Masque de Fer', signed C. D. O., in which the author maintained
that the prisoner was the first minister of the Duke of Mantua, and
says his name was Girolamo Magni.

In the same year an octavo volume of 142 pages was produced by M.
Roux-Fazillac. It bore the title 'Recherches historiques et
critiques sur l'Homme au Masque de Fer, d'ou resultent des Notions
certaines sur ce prisonnier'. These researches brought to light a
secret correspondence relative to certain negotiations and intrigues,
and to the abduction of a secretary of the Duke of Mantua whose name
was Matthioli, and not Girolamo Magni.

In 1802 an octavo pamphlet containing 11 pages, of which the author
was perhaps Baron Lerviere, but which was signed Reth, was published.
It took the form of a letter to General Jourdan, and was dated from
Turin, and gave many details about Matthioli and his family. It was
entitled 'Veritable Clef de l'Histoire de l'Homme au Masque de Fer'.
It proved that the secretary of the Duke of Mantua was carried off,
masked, and imprisoned, by order of Louis XIV in 1679, but it did not
succeed in establishing as an undoubted fact that the secretary and
the Man in the Iron Mask were one and the same person.

It may be remembered that M. Crawfurd writing in 1798 had said in his
'Histoire de la Bastille' (8vo, 474 pages), "I cannot doubt that the
Man in the Iron Mask was the son of Anne of Austria, but am unable to
decide whether he was a twin-brother of Louis XIV or was born while
the king and queen lived apart, or during her widowhood." M.
Crawfurd, in his 'Melanges d'Histoire et de Litterature tires dun
Portefeuille' (quarto 1809, octavo 1817), demolished the theory
advanced by Roux-Fazillac.

In 1825, M. Delort discovered in the archives several letters
relating to Matthioli, and published his Histoire de l'Homme au
Masque de Fer (8vo). This work was translated into English by George
Agar-Ellis, and retranslated into French in 1830, under the title
'Histoire authentique du Prisonnier d'Etat, connu sons le Nom de
Masque de Fer'. It is in this work that the suggestion is made that
the captive was the second son of Oliver Cromwell.

In 1826, M. de Taules wrote that, in his opinion, the masked prisoner
was none other than the Armenian Patriarch. But six years later the
great success of my drama at the Odeon converted nearly everyone to
the version of which Soulavie was the chief exponent. The
bibliophile Jacob is mistaken in asserting that I followed a
tradition preserved in the family of the Duc de Choiseul; M. le Duc
de Bassano sent me a copy made under his personal supervision of a
document drawn up for Napoleon, containing the results of some
researches made by his orders on the subject of the Man in the Iron
Mask. The original MS., as well as that of the Memoires du Duc de
Richelieu, were, the duke told me, kept at the Foreign Office. In
1834 the journal of the Institut historique published a letter from
M. Auguste Billiard, who stated that he had also made a copy of this
document for the late Comte de Montalivet, Home Secretary under the

M. Dufey (de l'Yonne) gave his 'Histoire de la Bastille' to the world
in the same year, and was inclined to believe that the prisoner was a
son of Buckingham.

Besides the many important personages on whom the famous mask had
been placed, there was one whom everyone had forgotten, although his
name had been put forward by the minister Chamillart: this was the
celebrated Superintendent of Finance, Nicolas Fouquet. In 1837,
Jacob, armed with documents and extracts, once more occupied himself
with this Chinese puzzle on which so much ingenuity had been
lavished, but of which no one had as yet got all the pieces into
their places. Let us see if he succeeded better than his

The first feeling he awakes is one of surprise. It seems odd that he
should again bring up the case of Fouquet, who was condemned to
imprisonment for life in 1664, confined in Pignerol under the care of
Saint-Mars, and whose death was announced (falsely according to
Jacob) on March 23rd, 1680. The first thing to look for in trying to
get at the true history of the Mask is a sufficient reason of state
to account for the persistent concealment of the prisoner's features
till his death; and next, an explanation of the respect shown him by
Louvois, whose attitude towards him would have been extraordinary in
any age, but was doubly so during the reign of Louis XIV, whose
courtiers would have been the last persons in the world to render
homage to the misfortunes of a man in disgrace with their master.
Whatever the real motive of the king's anger against Fouquet may have
been, whether Louis thought he arrogated to himself too much power,
or aspired to rival his master in the hearts of some of the king's
mistresses, or even presumed to raise his eyes higher still, was not
the utter ruin, the lifelong captivity, of his enemy enough to
satiate the vengeance of the king? What could he desire more? Why
should his anger, which seemed slaked in 1664, burst forth into
hotter flames seventeen years later, and lead him to inflict a new
punishment? According to the bibliophile, the king being wearied by
the continual petitions for pardon addressed to him by the
superintendent's family, ordered them to be told that he was dead, to
rid himself of their supplications. Colbert's hatred, says he, was
the immediate cause of Fouquet's fall; but even if this hatred
hastened the catastrophe, are we to suppose that it pursued the
delinquent beyond the sentence, through the long years of captivity,
and, renewing its energy, infected the minds of the king and his
councillors? If that were so, how shall we explain the respect shown
by Louvois? Colbert would not have stood uncovered before Fouquet in
prison. Why should Colbert's colleague have done so?

It must, however, be confessed that of all existing theories, this
one, thanks to the unlimited learning and research of the
bibliophile, has the greatest number of documents with the various
interpretations thereof, the greatest profusion of dates, on its

For it is certain--

1st, that the precautions taken when Fouquet was sent to Pignerol
resembled in every respect those employed later by the custodians of
the Iron Mask, both at the Iles Sainte-Marguerite and at the

2nd, that the majority of the traditions relative to the masked
prisoner might apply to Fouquet;

3rd, that the Iron Mask was first heard of immediately after the
announcement of the death of Fouquet in 1680;

4th, that there exists no irrefragable proof that Fouquet's death
really occurred in the above year.

The decree of the Court of justice, dated 20th December 1664,
banished Fouquet from the kingdom for life. "But the king was of the
opinion that it would be dangerous to let the said Fouquet leave the
country, in consideration of his intimate knowledge of the most
important matters of state. Consequently the sentence of perpetual
banishment was commuted into that of perpetual imprisonment."
('Receuil des defenses de M. Fouquet'). The instructions signed by
the king and remitted to Saint-Mars forbid him to permit Fouquet to
hold any spoken or written communication with anyone whatsoever, or
to leave his apartments for any cause, not even for exercise. The
great mistrust felt by Louvois pervades all his letters to Saint-
Mars. The precautions which he ordered to be kept up were quite as
stringent as in the case of the Iron Mask.

The report of the discovery of a shirt covered with writing, by a
friar, which Abbe Papon mentions, may perhaps be traced to the
following extracts from two letters written by Louvois to Saint-Mars:
"Your letter has come to hand with the new handkerchief on which M.
Fouquet has written" (18th Dec. 1665 ); "You can tell him that if he
continues too employ his table-linen as note-paper he must not be
surprised if you refuse to supply him with any more" ( 21st Nov.

Pere Papon asserts that a valet who served the masked prisoner died
in his master's room. Now the man who waited on Fouquet, and who
like him was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment, died in February
1680 (see letter of Louvois to Saint-Mars, 12th March 1680). Echoes
of incidents which took place at Pignerol might have reached the Iles
Sainte-Marguerite when Saint-Mars transferred his "former prisoner"
from one fortress to the other. The fine clothes and linen, the
books, all those luxuries in fact that were lavished on the masked
prisoner, were not withheld from Fouquet. The furniture of a second
room at Pignerol cost over 1200 livres (see letters of Louvois, 12th
Dec. 1665, and 22nd Feb, 1666).

It is also known that until the year 1680 Saint-Mars had only two
important prisoners at Pignerol, Fouquet and Lauzun. However, his
"former prisoner of Pignerol," according to Du Junca's diary, must
have reached the latter fortress before the end of August 1681, when
Saint-Mars went to Exilles as governor. So that it was in the
interval between the 23rd March 1680, the alleged date of Fouquet's
death, and the 1st September 1681, that the Iron Mask appeared at
Pignerol, and yet Saint-Mars took only two prisoners to Exilles. One
of these was probably the Man in the Iron Mask; the other, who must
have been Matthioli, died before the year 1687, for when Saint-Mars
took over the governorship in the month of January of that year of
the Iles Sainte-Marguerite he brought only ONE prisoner thither with
him. "I have taken such good measures to guard my prisoner that I
can answer to you for his safety" ('Lettres de Saint-Mars a Louvois',
20th January 1687).

In the correspondence of Louvois with Saint-Mars we find, it is true,
mention of the death of Fouquet on March 23rd, 1680, but in his later
correspondence Louvois never says "the late M. Fouquet," but speaks
of him, as usual, as "M. Fouquet" simply. Most historians have given
as a fact that Fouquet was interred in the same vault as his father
in the chapel of Saint-Francois de Sales in the convent church
belonging to the Sisters of the Order of the Visitation-Sainte-Marie,
founded in the beginning of the seventeenth century by Madame de
Chantal. But proof to the contrary exists; for the subterranean
portion of St. Francis's chapel was closed in 1786, the last person
interred there being Adelaide Felicite Brulard, with whom ended the
house of Sillery. The convent was shut up in 1790, and the church
given over to the Protestants in 1802; who continued to respect the
tombs. In 1836 the Cathedral chapter of Bourges claimed the remains
of one of their archbishops buried there in the time of the Sisters
of Sainte-Marie. On this occasion all the coffins were examined and
all the inscriptions carefully copied, but the name of Nicolas
Fouquet is absent.

Voltaire says in his 'Dictionnaire philosophique', article "Ana,"
"It is most remarkable that no one knows where the celebrated Fouquet
was buried."

But in spite of all these coincidences, this carefully constructed
theory was wrecked on the same point on which the theory that the
prisoner was either the Duke of Monmouth or the Comte de Vermandois
came to grief, viz. a letter from Barbezieux, dated 13th August
1691, in which occur the words, "THE PRISONER WHOM YOU HAVE HAD IN
CHARGE FOR TWENTY YEARS." According to this testimony, which Jacob
had successfully used against his predecessors, the prisoner referred
to could not have been Fouquet, who completed his twenty-seventh year
of captivity in 1691, if still alive.

We have now impartially set before our readers all the opinions which
have been held in regard to the solution of this formidable enigma.
For ourselves, we hold the belief that the Man in the Iron Mask stood
on the steps of the throne. Although the mystery cannot be said to
be definitely cleared up, one thing stands out firmly established
among the mass of conjecture we have collected together, and that is,
that wherever the prisoner appeared he was ordered to wear a mask on
pain of death. His features, therefore, might during half a century
have brought about his recognition from one end of France to the
other; consequently, during the same space of time there existed in
France a face resembling the prisoner's known through all her
provinces, even to her most secluded isle.

Whose face could this be, if not that of Louis XVI, twin-brother of
the Man in the Iron Mask?

To nullify this simple and natural conclusion strong evidence will be

Our task has been limited to that of an examining judge at a trial,
and we feel sure that our readers will not be sorry that we have left
them to choose amid all the conflicting explanations of the puzzle.
No consistent narrative that we might have concocted would, it seems
to us, have been half as interesting to them as to allow them to
follow the devious paths opened up by those who entered on the search
for the heart of the mystery. Everything connected with the masked
prisoner arouses the most vivid curiosity. And what end had we in
view? Was it not to denounce a crime and to brand the perpetrator
thereof? The facts as they stand are sufficient for our object, and
speak more eloquently than if used to adorn a tale or to prove an
ingenious theory.


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