Good Question: Who Was the Man in the Iron Mask?

Q: Who was The Man in the Iron Mask?

A: Have you ever heard about the “man in the iron mask?” Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio can refresh your memory, then!

The legends say that during the reign of King Louis XIV, Bastille was inhabited by a mysterious man whose identity was never revealed. No one knew who this person was, the reason for his imprisonment or how he looked like. Of course, the writings of Voltaire and Alexandre Dumas contributed to the development of various myths.

Dumas’ version said that the prisoner was in fact Louis XIV’s twin brother who was thrown in jail in order to eliminate any threat to the succession at the royal throne. At that moment, killing a prince was impossible, so the alternative of imprisonment became much more appealing.

Other names vehiculated at the time, and theorists discovered that two prisoners were in custody at the time the “mask” appeared: Eustache Dauger and Ercole Matthiole.

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Photo source:

Eustache Dauger was arrested in 1669 and he was “delivered” to prison with a letter restricting his contact with others. He was moved from one prison to the other and his face was always covered so as no one could certify his identity. This started many speculations that said he was either a nobleman, a valet or a paid assassin.

On the other hand, Matthiole was a count of Italian origin who was jailed for betrayal during political negotiations. Stories say that Louis XIV was not happy about it so he made sure all access to the exterior world or even inside people would be limited. However, Matthiole died in 1694, too early for taking over the role of the “mask.”

Now here comes the bomb. According to specialists, there were clues that could help them discover the identity of the mask. These clues were grouped into something that had the name of The Great Cipher, a code that was used to keep all the secrets at the court.

Etienne Bazeries, a French cryptanalyst, tried his hand at decoding the cipher. After a lot of work replacing numbers with letters and banging his head against a window repeatedly, Bazieres cracked the code. Apparently, Louis XIV was chatting with his minister of war about a guy named Vivien de Bulonde, a military man who was supposed to be in charge of the Italian border during the war. But instead of showing off his muscles and winning the battle, Bulonde ran like a squeaky mouse, leaving his troops behind. For this shameful act, he was thrown in prison and forced to wear a mask during the day.

Not as fascinating as the movie, but it seems to be closer to the truth. In the end, everyone makes their own history and chooses what they want to believe. What do you believe in?

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