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Who was the Man in the Iron Mask?

Antonia R.Antonia R.
Iron Mask

During the reign of king Louis XIV, a mysterious man spent decades locked up in the Bastille and other French prisons. His identity is a genuine enigma, for he always wore a mask.

The mask was made of thick black velvet and covered the prisoner's entire face. No one ever managed to learn his name or the exact reason why he was denied his freedom.

Many modern historians have found plenty of evidence about the existence of this anonymous prisoner. His life was an inspiration for Alexandre Dumas and Voltaire, who, in order to further dramatize their hero, described his mask as being made of iron.

There are hundreds of possible individuals that have been thought to be the mysterious man behind the mask, among them a member of the royal family, a disgraced French general and even the popular playwright Molière.

But historical evidence shows that only 2 of the potential prisoners were held in arrest in that historical period. One of them was Ercole Mattioli and the other - Eustache Dauger.


Mattioli was an Italian count, who one night was kidnapped and put in jail along with his servant, after an attempt to sabotage Louis XIV during his conquest of Italian lands in 1678. His nickname as a prisoner was Marchioli and was claimed to have been buried with a mask covering his face.

Found documents from the time of Louis XV and Louis XVI give evidence of an imprisoned Italian nobleman with a mask on his face.

A different theory states that Mattioli had died prior to when they even began talking about a man in an iron mask. According to some historians, the person behind the mask was Eustache Dauger.

His arrest warrant was issued in 1669. To it was attached a decree by the Imperial Minister, instructing the jailers to prevent the identity of the prisoner from getting out in any way and any leaked information was punishable by death.

Dauger was taken to the prison in a completely covered vehicle so that no one could see his face. But the conspiracies surrounding him do not end there; his name is considered to simply be a pseudonym to conceal his noble birth.

Some of the legends state that Dauger was an aristocrat that planned the murder of Louis XIV, while according to others he was the twin brother of the French king and a potential heir to the throne.