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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Man in the Iron Mask - Theories Abound

The story of the Man in the Iron Mask is a story that has fascinated people since the late 1700’s. In her new book, Before Versailles, Karleen Koen seamlessly weaves this story into her narrative and tackles one theory of who this man might have been. Famous writers, including Alexandre Dumas and Voltaire, offer their own explanations as to who this mystery man was.

Here is what is basically believed to be true: A man was arrested and imprisoned rather secretly and imprisoned in such a way as to prevent contact with others and provide only the most basic of needs. The name I have encountered most often for this man was Eustache Dauger. This prisoner was masked – most likely with a cloth mask, although rumor began to spread that it was an iron mask.

The true identity of this man is unknown, but that has not stopped people from creating a vast array of possibilities for who he may have been. Here are a few of the most widely circulated.

The most widely known theory is that the man was a relative of the French king – Louis XIV. Depending on the author, the exact relation differs. Voltaire claimed he was the elder, illegitimate brother of the king, a child of Anne of Austria (Louis’ mother) and Cardinal Mazarin. Dumas also took on the theory of a brother, but made him out to be the twin brother of the king. To note: this twin theory has been spun into many films including: the 1998 Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Man in the Iron Mask, 1979’s The 5th Musketeer, and 1929’s The Iron Mask. There were also rumors that this mysterious man was actually the father of Louis XIV – seeing as the future king was born after King Louis XIII and Queen Anne had long been estranged.

Another possible person was an illegitimate son of King Charles II of England. King Charles was a contemporary of Louis XIV and his sister, Henriette, was the wife of Louis’ brother. One theory places him as a man named James who was a part of the French court and possibly imprisoned because he knew too much. Another theory is that he was the Duke of Monmouth – who was supposedly executed in 1685, but who was whisked away and imprisoned in France and had someone else stand in for him at the execution.

Various smaller rumors have also persisted that it was a political man – possibly Nicholas Fouquet or Count Mattioli – both of whom were known to have been imprisoned.

While we may never know who this masked man really was, it doesn’t stop writers from creating plausible novels based on this man or filmmakers from producing movies. Here are a few of those movies.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The 5th Musketeer (1979)

The Iron Mask (1929) – the full movie can currently be watched on YouTube Openflix – here is the link
or on instant play on Netflix.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Interesting article, thank you.

  2. I never would have thought about the Man in the Mask having connections to Charles. He spent time in France during his exile. And the familial ties would have helped.
    Interesting! Thanks Heather!

  3. This was a very interesting read! Thank you! I have watched the movie, and read the book by Dumas - I enjoyed both.

  4. Great post -- I loved the '98 film which was my first introduction to him!

  5. Interesting topic to bring up. There are many theories...personally I'm not sure.

  6. Tea - thanks.

    Allison - I didn't think about that either - but it certainly could be possible.

    Misha - I haven't read the book and I have only seen bits and pieces of the movie, but it is on my Netflix list.

    Audra - I still need to see that one.

    Carole Rae - I don't have the slightest idea myself either.

  7. I hate it when I go out of town and end up with so many good posts to catch up on.
    I had not heard of many of the theories put forth on the mystery man's identity. Interesting post. Thanks.

  8. Librarypat - I had not heard most of these myself and there are so many more. These are just the most well known.


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