Leonardo di Caprio’s immortalised Alexander Dumas’ legendary story on-screen but what truth lies behind a man enslaved in an iron mask?
The name The Man in the Iron Mask has been immortalised in fiction and is infamous in both film and literature. From Alexandre Dumas’ legendary Three Musketeers saga to the 1998 movie The Man in the Iron Mask, (one of 11 films made with the same name).
The identity of this illusive character has become subject to myth and while the fictitious accounts vary on the subject of the prisoners identity, we can be sure of one thing. He was a real man.
Famously rumoured to be the illegitimate brother of the Sun King, Louis XIV, the mysterious prisoner was arrested in 1669 under the name Eustache Dauger and spent 34 years in solitary confinement, supposedly forced to wear the mask in order to protect his identity from fellow prisoners.
While Dumas’ semi fictional account of imprisoned royalty perhaps seems far fetched, it is not without its evidence, in fact French enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire was the first to circulate this myth after being imprisoned in the same jail as the masked man himself. Speaking to fellow inmates, who claimed to have known the prisoners identity, Voltaire stated that the masked man was none other than the kings twin brother, hidden and imprisoned by the kind to protect his claim to the throne, perhaps not such a far fetched idea after all…
The place of both men’s incarceration was the iconic Bastille prison, only a few of Its fragments are still visible today in various locations around Paris, seen here in the square Henri Gallant, Boulevard Henri IV.