Looking for the Man in the Iron Mask
Just a short boat ride from Cannes (France) one discovers the Island of Sainte-Marguerite. A few fishermen live here and there are only two restaurants. The place is frequented by tourists for its natural beauty but you find here also the historic Fort Royal. Not much, right? So why are so many writers and historians trying to digg up what actually happened on Sainte-Marguerite in the 17th century? Why the attention?
Those who read the Three Musketeers series by Alexandre Dumas know the answer. The last book of the trilogy The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later describes the twin brother of French King Louis XIV being a prisoner who was forced to wear an iron mask so that his identity could never be revealed. He spent several years behind bars on Sainte-Marguerite and his cell still exists.
However, French King Louis XIV is only one of many theories. The French poet Voltaire describe the Man in the Iron Mask as the illegitimate half-brother of Louis XIV. Other names have been mentioned, including the father of Louis XIV and the son of Oliver Cromwell. Historians continue digging, writers and movie producers continue bringing the story to a mass audience. Remember Randall Wallace’s movie The Man in the Iron Mask from 1998 where Leonardo DiCaprio plays both King Louis XIV and his identical twin brother Philippe? It was also filmed here on the island.
In reality, nobody really knows the name of the person hidden behind the mask. Was he a nobleman who went afoul of the King, a general who failed in battle?