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Title: Man in the Iron Mask (an Essay)
Author: Dumas, Alexandre, 1802-1870
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Man in the Iron Mask (an Essay)" ***

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ESSAY] ***

                 *THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK [An Essay]*


                        *Alexandre Dumas, Pere*

         _From the set of Eight Volumes of "Celebrated Crimes"_





    (This is the essay entitled The Man in the Iron Mask, not the
    "The Man in the Iron Mask" [The Novel] Dumas

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

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

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 service.

"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 Louvois."

The Comte de Vermandois, the official registration of whose death bears
the date 1685, cannot have been twenty years a prisoner in 1691.

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 presence."

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

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 instalment 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

"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 distance.

"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

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

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

"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 pen.

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 recognised.

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

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

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

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, 1628.

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 mystery.

We now come to the promised extracts from the ’Memoires du Marechal de

"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 fulfilled.

"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

"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 means.

"’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,

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.

"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., viol. 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.

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 Empire.

  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 forerunners.

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 side.

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 Bastille;

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. 1667).

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

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
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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