This article is about an aspect of French history. For other uses, see Man in the Iron Mask (disambiguation).
"Iron Mask" redirects here. For the band, see Iron Mask (band).
Writer and philosopher Voltaire claimed in the second edition of his Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (published in 1771) that the prisoner wore a mask made of iron rather than of cloth, and that he was the older, illegitimate brother of Louis XIV. In the late 1840s, writer Alexandre Dumas elaborated on the story in the novel The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, the final installment of his classic D'Artagnan saga: here the prisoner is forced to wear an iron mask and is Louis XIV's identical twin. Dumas also presented a review of the popular theories about the prisoner extant in his time in the chapter "L'homme au masque de fer" in the sixth volume of his Crimes Célèbres. What little is known about the historical Man in the Iron Mask is based mainly on correspondence between Saint-Mars and his superiors in Paris. The National Archives of France, on its official website, has now put the original data relating to a very important discovery about the Man in the Iron Mask : the inventories of the goods and papers of Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, who was his jailer for 34 years (one inventory was drawn up at the Bastille in 1708, the other at the citadel of Sainte-Marguerite in 1691, in which the notary describes his miserable first cell). These documents (64 and 68 pages in length) have been searched for in vain for more than a century and were thought to have been lost. They were discovered only in 2015, among the 100 million or so documents of the Minutier central des notaires.
They show that some of the 800 documents in the possession of the jailer Saint-Mars were analysed after his death. These documents confirm the reputed avarice of Saint-Mars, who appears to have diverted the funds paid by the king Louis XIV for the prisoner. Among other things, for the first time we have a description of a cell occupied by the masked prisoner, which was miserable (containing only a sleeping mat), and not luxurious as was previously thought.