The secret of the "iron mask": who really could be hiding behind a terrible mask
The secret of the "iron mask": who really could be hiding behind a terrible mask
The man in the iron mask

In 1698, a prisoner was brought to the Bastille, whose face was hidden by a terrible iron mask. His name was unknown, but in prison he was listed under the number 64489001. The created aura of mystery gave rise to many versions of who this masked man could be.

A prisoner in an iron mask in an anonymous engraving from the time of the French Revolution (1789)

The authorities knew absolutely nothing about the prisoner transferred from another prison. They were ordered to place the masked man in the deafest cell and not talk to him. The prisoner died 5 years later. He was buried under the name Marchialli. All the belongings of the deceased were burned, and the walls were ripped open so that no notes remained.

When the Bastille fell at the end of the 18th century under the onslaught of the Great French Revolution, the new government published documents that shed light on the fate of the prisoners. But there was not a single word about the masked man.

Bastille is a French prison

Jesuit Griffe, who was a confessor in the Bastille at the end of the 17th century, wrote that a prisoner was taken to prison in a velvet (not iron) mask. In addition, the prisoner put it on only when someone appeared in the cell. From a medical point of view, if the prisoner really wore a mask made of metal, it would invariably disfigure his face. The iron mask was "made" by writers who shared their assumptions about who this mysterious prisoner really could be.

The man in the iron mask

For the first time, the masked prisoner is mentioned in the "Secret Notes of the Persian Court", published in 1745 in Amsterdam. According to the "Notes", prisoner no. 64489001 was none other than the illegitimate son of Louis XIV and his favorite Louise Françoise de Lavaliere. He bore the title of Duke of Vermandois, allegedly slapping his brother the Great Dauphin, for which he ended up in jail. In fact, this version is implausible, since the illegitimate son of the French king died at the age of 16 in 1683. And according to the records of the confessor of the Bastille Jesuit Griffe, the unknown was imprisoned in 1698, and he died in 1703.

Still from the movie "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1998)

François Voltaire, in his 1751 Age of Louis XIV, first pointed out that the Iron Mask could well have been the twin brother of the Sun King. To avoid problems with the succession to the throne, one of the boys was raised in secret. When Louis XIV found out about his brother's existence, he condemned him to eternal imprisonment. This hypothesis explained so logically that the prisoner had a mask that it became the most popular among other versions and was subsequently filmed more than once by directors.

The Italian adventurer Ercol Antonio Mattioli could be hiding under the mask

It is believed that the famous Italian adventurer Ercol Antonio Mattioli was forced to wear the mask. The Italian in 1678 entered into an agreement with Louis XIV, according to which he pledged to force his duke to surrender the fortress of Casale to the king in exchange for a reward of 10,000 scudo. The adventurer took the money, but did not fulfill the contract. Moreover, Mattioli gave this state secret to several other countries for a separate fee. For this treason, the French government sent him to the Bastille, forcing him to wear a mask.

Russian Emperor Peter I

Some researchers have put forward completely implausible versions of the man in the iron mask. According to one of them, this prisoner could have been the Russian emperor Peter I. It was during that period that Peter I was in Europe with his diplomatic mission (“The Great Embassy”). The autocrat was allegedly imprisoned in the Bastille, and a figurehead was sent home instead. Like, how else to explain the fact that the tsar left Russia as a Christian who piously revered traditions, and returned back as a typical European who wished to break the patriarchal foundations of Russia.

In past centuries, with the help of masks, they not only hid the faces of people, but also made them real instruments of torture. One of these was "Abusive bridle" - a kind of iron mask for punishing grumpy women.

Popular by topic