The Man in the Iron Mask is one of the greatest enigmas in the history of France. Who was this individual locked up in the Bastille prison ?
Forced to wear an iron mask
The Man in the Iron Mask is one of the greatest enigmas in the history of France. Imprisoned in the Bastille at the end of the 17th century, a man in the iron mask, whose identity no one knows, died in 1703. Why was he imprisoned ? Why this mask ? And above all, who was he ? Mystery… During the 1680s, rumors of the existence of a mysterious prisoner began to spread in France. If the details remain unclear, the story is gripping: a man of unknown identity was imprisoned on the orders of King Louis XIV. Beyond his anonymity, he was forced to wear an iron mask, thus shielding his face from all eyes. In 1703, the remains of a man in his fifties were buried in the Saint-Paul cemetery in Paris, while his personal effects and his clothes were burned at dawn. The walls of his cell were even scraped and whitewashed.
Who was the Man in the Iron Mask ?
Agents from the Netherlands spread the rumor that the masked prisoner was a former lover of the Queen Mother and the real father of the King, thus making Louis XIV an illegitimate king. Even in the French ranks, several members of the royal family were suspected of hiding behind the identity of the masked prisoner. According to some speculation, it could have been Louis de Bourbon, Count of Vermandois and son of the Sun King and his mistress Louise de La Vallière. Louis de Bourbon had been banished from court after his homosexuality was exposed. The latter then tries to regain his father’s esteem during military campaigns in Flanders, where he falls ill and most likely perishes. According to conspiracy theorists, he actually survived and was secretly imprisoned by his father. In the 18th century, the number of presumed identities continued to increase. According to some, the man in the iron mask is the illegitimate son of Anne of Austria, Louis’s mother, and therefore the king’s half-brother. For some pamphleteers, the mask was the punishment inflicted by Louis XIV on the lovers of his wife, Marie-Thérèse of Austria.
A simple valet
The researchers resume the investigation ten years ago and their investigations lead them to a man. It is neither a fallen prince nor a cumbersome bastard but a simple valet: Eustache Dangers. Eustache Dangers was arrested in Calais at the beginning of August 1669 and taken to Pignerol where he was handed over to Monsieur de Saint-Mars with curious instructions. He is told: « You must build a dungeon where no one can hear what this man may say or shout, never listen yourself to what he wants to say to you, threatening to kill him if he opens the door. stuffy « . It is also specified that it will be necessary to prepare the furniture necessary for this wretch but that, as he is only a valet, he will not need considerable. »
An embarassing witness
An embarrassing witness to the « great secret » ? But there remains a question: what was this terrible secret that cost the valet the last thirty-four years of his life? Jean-Christian Petitfils, historian, has a hypothesis: At the time of Eustache Dangers’ arrest, extremely secret negotiations were taking place between Louis XIV and Charles II of England. We spoke, in encrypted correspondence, of the “great secret”. The idea was that Charles II would go to war against the Protestant United Provinces who had stopped Louis XIV in his conquest of the Spanish Netherlands, in exchange for supporting the King of England who wanted to convert to Catholicism. Which was obviously explosive in the Anglican, Protestant England of that time. Eustache Dangers, a valet close to the court, may have heard discussions and seen documents related to this secret and dangerous affair. But it’s only an hypothesis.