Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "This does not make the authors of those narratives liars; it makes them servants of fallible human memory and perception."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Man In The Iron Mask

    by Alexandre Dumas pere
    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode
    (this is an essay Dumas wrote on the actual "Man in the Iron Mask." The link to the book is listed under "Fiction" on the author's main page.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "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
    letters:--

    "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
    passage:--

    "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
    Lauzun.'"

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

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

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

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

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

    "A female attendant being wanted for the prisoner, a woman of the
    village of Mongin offered herself for the place, being under the
    impression that she would thus be able to make her children's
    fortune; but on being told that she would not only never be allowed
    to see her children again, but would be cut off from the rest of the
    world as well, she refused to be shut up with a prisoner whom it cost
    so much to serve. I may mention here that at the two outer angles of
    the wall of the fort which faced the sea two sentries were placed,
    with orders to fire on any boat which approached within a certain
    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 1685.

    This is what the English historian says :

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Further," wrote Sainte-Foix, "an English surgeon called Nelaton, who
    frequented the Caf‚ 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
    terms:--

    "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.
    "REILH."

    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 Mask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    8. 3.

    "'NARRATIVE OF THE BIRTH AND EDUCATION OF THE UNFORTUNATE PRINCE WHO
    WAS SEPARATED FROM THE WORLD BY CARDINALS RICHELIEU AND MAZARIN AND
    IMPRISONED BY ORDER OF LOUIS XIV.

    "'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, 1649).

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

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

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

    "This anxiety, caused by the pressure of public business, was most
    probably only dwelt on as a pretext for a pretended attack of
    illness. Anne of Austria had no cause for worry and anxiety till
    1649. She did not begin to complain of the despotism of Mazarin till
    towards the end of 1645" (Ibid., 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. 342).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    To nullify this simple and natural conclusion strong evidence will be
    required.

    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.
    If you're writing a Man In The Iron Mask essay and need some advice, post your Alexandre Dumas pere essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?