The Man in the Iron Mask


By Anonymous

Hi Everyone! 

To those who came here because of my podcast, welcome! and to my ever loyal readers who have not heard the news, I have a podcast! You can listen to the first episode of The Historia Podcast on Spotify!

So are you ready to start your history lesson with a little bit of mystery?

L'homme au masque de fer, or The Man in the Iron Mask as many people know him isn't just some character in Assassins Creed or a random character in period shows like Versailles. 

Who is he? No idea. 

When was he born? MAYBE 1658? 

Why was he imprisoned? We don't know, all that we can say for certain is whatever he did, it must have been very bad. 

Let's clear one thing up, right off the bat, there was no iron mask, it was actually velvet. The theory of the mask being made of iron was first introduced by Alfred de Vigny in his poem "The Prison" but became ridiculously popular because of Alexandre Dumas's novel by the same name in the series "the Vicomte of Bargelonne: 10 years later" and there's been no evidence has been discovered yet to support this theory. 

Here's what we do know: 

  • Records show that he has been held in numerous French prisons such as the Fortress of Pignerol in Italy and the ever infamous Bastille. 
  • Rumours began in the 1680s that Louis XIV ordered that this unknown man be imprisoned and in a gazette or journal entry from 1687 mentions that the "unknown man" was going to be transferred to the citadel of Sainte-Margurite, located on the outskirts of Cannes. 
  • For 34 years he was under the supervision of Bénigne Dauvergne De Sainte-Mars who was a former musketeer. 
  • He was transferred to the Bastille on September 18, 1698, where he later died on November 19,1703.
  • His burial was registered in the Parish Cemetery of Saint Paul under the name "Marchioly" and his age was given as approximately 45.

As mentioned in the podcast, in this post I'll be talking about the theories I didn't mention and go into more detail. 

1. King's Relative 

Voltaire hypothesized that the Man in the Iron Mask could be an illegitimate older brother of Louis XIV.

2. The King's Twin brother? 

In 1965, French Novelist Marel Pagnol suggested that the Man in the Iron mask was probably Louis XIV's twin brother who was born second and was held captive, forced to wear a mask to avoid confusion. 

While there is evidence of twins in Louis XIV's family history, the possibility of this being the case is VERY slim. 

Childbirth at that time was difficult, the mother's body is going through a lot of things and a lot of pain, but royal births had one hell of a cherry on top of the sundae... people watching. 

Yea, that's right. Let's use the Queen as an example. 
She's been lying-in since her delivery date was close and then her water breaks. The doctor is called, and so are many courtiers of high standing and they're all pushed into the room to witness the child coming out of the Queen's Vagina. 

While we may think that it's kind of creepy, there was a reason for this. By them witnessing the birth, there is no opportunity, for example, a stillborn baby to be swapped with one that is alive, or a girl to be switched with a boy. They would also announce when the baby was out and what it was, so if Anne of Austria had twins, this would have been documented. 

3. The King's Father

Another theory is that the man in the iron mask is Louis XIV's biological father. According to this theory by Hugh Ross Williamson, Cardinal Richelieu arranged for one of Henry IV's illegitimate sons or grandson's to visit the Queen. Once an heir was produced, this person was shipped off to the colonies and returned sometime during the 1660s with the intent of extorting money from the crown which resulted in him being arrested. 

While many have disputed this theory that there is no evidence to support this hypothesis, Williamson argues that this theory is like all of the other Iron Mask theories, that there isn't a lot of evidence to support any of them. 

Personally, I don't buy it. Assuming that his age recorded at the time of this death is correct, this person would have been younger than the King. 

4. French General 

In 1890, French Military historian Louis Gendron found encoded letters that he then passed on to Etienne Bazeries who worked in the cryptology department of the French Army. 

The decoded letters pertained to General Vivien de Bulonde.

De Bulonde was supposed to attack the Italian town of Cuneo, but fled because he was so scared that he fled leaving behind wounded men and ammunition. The King then ordered that De Bulonde be imprisoned at the Fortress at Pignerol and walk the battlements during the day with 330 309, which according to the code; 330 meant "in a mask" and 309 means full stop (period). 

5.  One of Charles II's illegitimate sons.

There are some who think that the Man in the Iron Mask may be one of Charles II's illegitimate sons that have been proposed as the man in the iron mask: James de la Cloche or the Duke of Monmouth, who leads a rebellion against James II, which failed and he executed, but some believe that he was secretly sent to France because he didn't want to kill his nephew. 

6. Italian Diplomat 

I'm writing this post after I've released the episode, so I was finally able to find some information on Ercole Antonio Mattioli! He was an Italian diplomat that tried to fuck over Louis XIV and got his ass thrown in jail, and he happens to stay in two of the prisons that the Man in the Iron Mask is known to have stayed in. 

7. Valet 

As mentioned in the Podcast, this is one of the more popular theories out there, and its believed that events of Ercole Antonio Mattioli and Eustache Dauger lives were combined to create the myth of the Man in the Iron Mask. 

Eustache Dauger was believed to be the valet for Huguenot Roux de Marcilly who was imprisoned for trying to cut some sort of deal with Charles II. 

8. Eustache Dauger de Cavoye. 

This part was pretty confusing because there are two people with the same name. De Cavoye, was the son of Francois Dauger, who was a captain in Cardinal Richelieu's guard and inherited his father's position and title after Francois was killed in battle along with his two older brothers. 

He is rumoured to have participated in black masses, but from what I could find he was not imprisoned and it doesn't look like they investigated these charges at this time. During an Easter party at the Chateau de Saint Germain en Laye, he got into a fight with the Duc de Foix and as a result, a page boy was killed. 

Because the King was residing there, De Cavoye was prosecuted and was stripped of his titles and positions. Shortly after this, his mother had passed away and in accordance to her will, his youngest brother Louis inherited everything leave De Cavoye with very little money. 

With a piling amount of debt, it is believed that this was the reason many would believe lead to his involvement in what is known as the Affair of the Poisons, which I will be getting into on another episode. 

However, there is some "evidence" that De Cavoye was sent to the Prison Saint Lazare. We also have letters from him to his sister where he talks about the horrible living conditions he was living in and he had later sent a letter to the King, who just wasn't putting up with his shit and ordered that going forward De Cavoye must be supervised when writing any communications. 

According to a poem written by an inmate at that time, De Cavoye during the 1680s due to over drinking, which some historians seem to think is enough evidence to prove that he is not the Man in the Iron Mask. 

I really hope you guys enjoyed the episode. Don't forget to follow us on Spotify, and if you would like to become a Patreon member the link is on this page. 


  1. I love podcasts! And this sounds really interesting. Will check it out! Siobhan ♡ | Vegan Babe Life


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