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Man in the Iron Mask

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Trina Kennedy
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« on: November 20, 2007, 12:47:01 am »



« L'Homme au Masque de Fer. »
L'Homme au Masque de Fer" ("The Man in the Iron Mask"). Anonymous print (etching and mezzotint, hand-colored) from 1789. According to the caption, the Man in the Iron Mask was fr:Louis de Bourbon, comte de Vermandois, an illegitimate son of Louis XIV. No evidence is given to support this claim, which is just one among many, and may have been merely a piece of revolutionary propaganda.
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Caption (in French, with modernized spelling): "L'Homme au Masque de Fer" ("The Man in the Iron Mask"). "L'Homme au Masque de Fer, ou plutôt son histoire, qui a si longtemps fixé les recherches d'une infinité d'auteurs, vient de sortir enfin du ténébreux chaos où la discrétion barbare d'intermédiaires ministériels l'avaient plongé jusqu'à présent. Des papiers trouvés à la Bastille nous apprennent que cette dénomination n'a jamais appartenu qu'à Louis de Bourbon, comte de Vermandois, fils naturel de Louis XIV, né le 2 octobre 1667, qui fut condamné à un emprisonnement perpétuel pour avoir, à l'âge de 16 ans, donné un soufflet au Dauphin. Pour envelopper ses traits d'un voile impénétrable, on lui couvrit le visage d'un masque de fer dont la mentonnière et les ressorts d'acier lui permettaient néanmoins de prendre sa subsistance. C'est en 1683 que l'on place l'époque de sa détention. Ce malheureux Prince mourut à la Bastille en 1703 après une captivité de 20 ans dans différentes prisons. (Ceux qui voudront avoir des renseignements plus étendus sur cet objet pourront consulter un papier qui se vend Rue de Chartres N°85.)"
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Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2007, 12:48:06 am »

The Man in the Iron Mask (d. November 1703) was a prisoner in the mid 15th century who was held in a number of jails, including the Bastille and the Chateau d'If, during the reign of Louis XIV of France. The identity of this man has been thoroughly discussed, mainly because no one ever saw his face which was hidden by a mask of black velvet cloth. Later retellings of the story have claimed that it was an iron mask.

What facts are known about this prisoner are based mainly on correspondence between his jailer and his superiors in Paris.

The first surviving records of the masked prisoner are from July 1, 1669, when Louis XIV's minister the Marquis de Louvois sent a prisoner to the care of Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, governor of the prison of Pignerol, then part of France.

According to Louvois' letter, the man's name was Eustache Dauger. Louvois instructed Saint-Mars to prepare a cell with multiple doors which were to prevent anyone from the outside listening in. Dauger was also to be told that if he spoke of anything other than his immediate needs he would be killed. Saint-Mars was to see Dauger only once a day in order to provide food and whatever else he needed. But, according to Louvois, the prisoner should not require much since he was "only a valet".

The first rumours of the prisoner's identity (as a Marshal of France) began to circulate at this point. According to many versions of the legend, the prisoner wore the mask at all times. It is more probable that he was masked only during transport — such as when he was taken from prison to prison — and when there were outside visitors to the jail.

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Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2007, 12:48:47 am »

The prison at Pignerol, like the others that Dauger was later held at, was used for men who were considered an embarrassment to the state and usually only had about half-a-dozen prisoners at a time.

Saint-Mars' other prisoners at Pignerol included Count Ercole Antonio Mattioli (or Matthioli), an Italian diplomat who had been kidnapped and jailed for double-crossing the French over the buying of the important fortress town of Casale on the Italian border. There was also Nicolas Fouquet, a former government minister who had been jailed for embezzlement, and the Marquis de Lauzun, who had married the Duchess of Montpensier, a cousin of the King, without the King's consent. Fouquet's cell was above that of Lauzun.

Dauger was not always isolated from the other prisoners. Wealthy and important ones usually had man-servants: Fouquet for instance was served by a man called La Riviere. These servants, however, would become as much prisoners as their masters and it was thus difficult to find men willing to volunteer for such an occupation. Since La Riviere was often ill, Saint-Mars applied for permission for Dauger to act as servant for Fouquet. In 1675 Louvois gave permission for such an arrangement on condition that he was only to serve Fouquet while La Riviere was unavailable and that he was not to meet anyone else: for instance, if Fouquet and Lauzun were to meet, Dauger was not to be present.

The fact that the man in the mask served as a valet is an important one. Fouquet was never expected to be released, thus meeting Dauger was no great matter, but Lauzun was expected to be set free eventually and it would have been important not to have him spread rumours of Dauger's existence. Historians have also argued that 17th-century protocol made it unthinkable that a man of Royal blood would serve as a manservant — thus very much discrediting those suggestions that Dauger was in any way related to the King.

After Fouquet's death in 1680, Saint-Mars discovered a secret hole between Fouquet and Lauzun's cells. He was sure that they had communicated through this hole without supervision by him or his guards and thus that Lauzun must have been made aware of Dauger's existence. Louvois instructed Saint-Mars to move Lauzun to Fouquet's cell and to tell him that Dauger and La Riviere had been released. In fact they were held in another cell in another part of the prison, their presence there being highly secret.

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Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2007, 12:49:26 am »

Lauzun was freed in 1681. Later that same year Saint-Mars was appointed governor of the prison fortress of Exiles (now Exilles in Italy). He went there, taking Dauger and La Riviere with him. La Riviere's death was reported in January 1687 and in May Saint-Mars and Dauger moved to the island of Sainte-Marguerite, one of the Lérins Islands.

It was during the journey to Sainte-Marguerite that rumours spread that the prisoner was wearing an iron mask. Again, he was placed in a cell with multiple doors.

On September 18, 1698, Saint-Mars took up his new post as governor of the Bastille prison in Paris, bringing the masked prisoner with him. He was placed in a solitary cell in the pre-furnished third chamber of the Bertaudiere tower. The prison's second-in-command, de Rosarges, was to feed him.

Most of the details of the masked man (constant wearing of a mask and preferential treatment) come from around this period. Lieutenant du Junca of the Bastille noted that the prisoner wore "a mask of black velvet". In 1711, King Louis' sister-in-law, the Princess Palatine sent a letter to her aunt, Sophia, Electress of Hanover, stating that the prisoner had "two musketeers at his side to kill him if he removed his mask". She describes him as very devout and that he was well treated and received everything he desired. It might be noted though that the Princess had not necessarily seen the prisoner for herself and was quite likely reporting on rumors she had heard at court.

The prisoner died on November 19, 1703, and was buried the next day under the name of Marchioly. All his furniture and clothing were reportedly destroyed afterwards.

The fate of the mysterious prisoner — and the extent of apparent precautions his jailers took — created much interest and many legends. There are almost a hundred theories in existence and many books have been written about the case. Some were presented after the existence of the letters was widely known. Later commentators have still presented their own theories, possibly based on embellished versions of the original tale, mixed with details from stories of other famous contemporary prisoners, including the ones held at Pignerol at the same time as Dauger.

Theories about his identity made at the time included that he was a Marshal of France; or Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver Cromwell; or Francois de Vendôme, Duc de Beaufort. Later, many people such as Voltaire put forward other theories about the man in the mask.
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Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2007, 12:50:17 am »

The King's Relative

Voltaire claimed that the prisoner was a son of Mazarin and Anne of Austria and therefore an illegitimate older half-brother of King Louis XIV. How serious he was is hard to say. Alexandre Dumas used this theory in his book, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, but made the prisoner a twin brother. It is this book that has been adapted for the many film versions of the story, and also on the game show Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Hugh Ross Williamson argues that the man in the iron mask was actually the father of Louis XIV. According to this theory, the 'miraculous' birth of Louis XIV in 1638, after Louis XIII had been estranged from his wife for over twenty years, implies that Louis XIII was not the father.

The suggestion is that the King's minister, Cardinal Richelieu, had arranged for a substitute, probably an illegitimate son or grandson of Henry IV, to sleep with the Queen and father an heir. At the time, the heir-apparent was Louis XIII's brother Gaston d'Orléans, who was also Richelieu's enemy. If Gaston became King, Richelieu would quite likely have lost both his job as minister and his head, so it was in his interests to thwart Gaston's ambitions. Louis XIII also hated Gaston and might thus have agreed to the scheme.

Supposedly the father then left for the New World, but in the 1660s returned to France with the aim of extorting money for keeping his secret, and was rapidly imprisoned. This theory would explain both the secrecy surrounding the prisoner, whose true identity would have destroyed the legitimacy of Louis XIV had it been revealed, and (because of the King's respect for his own father) the comfort of the terms of his imprisonment.

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Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2007, 12:50:58 am »

The General

In 1890 Louis Gendron, a French military historian, came across some coded letters and passed them on to Etienne Bazeries in the French Army's cryptographic department. After three years Bazeries managed to read some messages in the Great Cypher of Louis XIV. One of them referred to a prisoner and identified him as General Vivien de Bulonde. One of the letters written by Louvois made specific reference to de Bulonde's crime.

At the siege of Cuneo, Bulonde was concerned about enemy troops arriving from Austria and ordered a hasty withdrawal, leaving behind his munitions and wounded men. Louis XIV was furious and in another of the letters specifically ordered him "to be conducted to the fortress at Pignerol where he will be locked in a cell and under guard at night, and permitted to walk the battlements during the day with a mask". The dates of the letters fit the dates of the original records about the man in the mask.

Some believe that the evidence of the letters means that there is now little need of an alternative explanation for the man in the mask. Other sources, however, claim that Bulonde's arrest was no secret, was actually published in a newspaper at the time and that he was released after just a few months. His death is also recorded as happening in 1709, six years after that of the man in the mask.


The Valet

In 1801 revolutionary legislator Roux Fazaillac stated that the tale of the masked prisoner was an amalgamation of the fates of two separate prisoners, Ercole Antonio Mattioli (see below) and an imprisoned valet named "Eustache D'auger".

Andrew Lang, in his The Valet's Tragedy and Other Stories (1903), presented a theory that "Eustache Dauger" was a prison pseudonym of a man called "Martin", valet of the Huguenot Roux de Marsilly. After his master's execution in 1669 the valet was taken to France, possibly by capture or subterfuge, and imprisoned because he might have known too much about his master's affairs.

« Last Edit: November 20, 2007, 12:51:48 am by Trina Kennedy » Report Spam   Logged
Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2007, 12:52:27 am »

The Son of Charles II

In The Man of the Mask (1908), Arthur Barnes presents James de la Cloche, the illegitimate but acknowledged son of the reluctant Protestant Charles II of England, who would have been his father's secret intermediary with the Catholic court of France. Louis XIV could have imprisoned him because he knew too much about French affairs with England.

Another of Charles' sons who has been proposed as the man in the mask was the Duke of Monmouth. A Protestant, he led a rebellion against his uncle, the Catholic King James II. The rebellion failed and Monmouth was executed in 1685. But in 1768 a writer called Saint-Foix claimed that another man was executed in his place and that Monmouth became the masked prisoner, it being in Louis XIV's interests to assist a fellow Catholic like James who would not necessarily want to kill his own nephew. It must be pointed out though that Saint-Foix's case was based on unsubstantiated rumours and allegations that Monmouth's execution was faked and that he was still alive in the early 18th century
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Trina Kennedy
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2007, 12:53:26 am »

The Government Minister

Other popular suspects have included men known to have been held at Pignerol at the same time as Dauger. Fouquet himself has been considered, but the fact that Dauger is known to have served as his valet makes this unlikely. During the taking of the Bastille during the French Revolution of 1789, it was reported that a skeleton was found, still chained to the wall, and with an iron mask next to him. An inscription claimed that his name was "Fouquet".

This discovery has since been discredited, however, and it is supposed that it was an attempt by the leaders of the Revolution to make up for the fact that there were no actual political prisoners in the Bastille at the time of its taking. In fact there were only a handful of men serving time for forgery and a couple of lunatics.


The Italian Diplomat

Another candidate, much favoured in the 19th-century, was Fouquet's fellow prisoner Count Ercole Antonio Mattioli (or Matthioli). He was an Italian diplomat who, in 1678, acted on behalf of the debt-ridden Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, in the selling of Casale, a strategic fortified town near the border with France. Because a French occupation would be unpopular, discretion was essential, but, after pocketing his commission once the sale had been concluded, Mattioli leaked the details to France's Spanish enemies who made a bid of their own before the French forces could occupy the town. Mattioli was kidnapped by the French and thrown into nearby Pignerol in April 1679. The French took possession of Casale two years later.

Since the prisoner is known to have been buried under the name "Marchioly", many believe that this is proof enough that he was the man in the mask. But letters sent by Saint-Mars indicate that he was only held at Pignerol and Sainte-Marguerite. He was never at Exiles or the Bastille and can therefore be discounted
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