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- self in silver plate, and frequently provided him with clothes as rich as he desired; but the prisoner was obliged, on pain of death, to appear only with his iron mask on in presence of the physician and surgeon, when he needed their services; and his only amusement when alone was to pluck hairs from his beard with small steel pincers, highly polished and shining." He added, that he had himself seen one of these pincers in the hands of the Sieur de Formanoir, the nephew of Saint-Mars. Thus was all doubt dispelled from the public mind, and it became a universally admitted fact that some one had been kept in confinement by Louis XIV., with his face concealed by a mask, the most lively curiosity being excited to determine who the victim of such jealous tyranny could have been. The mere circumstance of so extraordinary a precaution seemed to prove incontestably that he must have been a prisoner of the greatest consequence, and in all probability of the highest rank—a supposition fortified by the studied respect said to be paid him. Hence, it is scarcely a matter of surprise that the great majority of the writers who have handled the subject seek some exalted personage as the hero of their various hypotheses, although Voltaire himself has remarked that no considerable individual disappeared from the European stage at the time, unless by real or apparent death.
The first supposition was that of the author of the Persian fiction, to which Voltaire himself perhaps at one time leant, there being, indeed, good grounds to suspect that the story itself was the offspring of his own fertile brain, and which, as has been stated, pointed to the Count de Vermandois. Yet this Count de Vermandois had died in the very midst of a camp, after an illness of seven days: having fallen sick on the evening of the 12th November 1683, and died on the 19th, he was buried with extraordinary pomp in the cathedral church of Arras, upon the express requisition of the king himself, Louis XIV., to the chapter, that his body might be deposited in the same vault as that in which reposed the remains of Elizabeth, Countess of Vermandois, wife of Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders, who died in 1182; and a sum of 10,000 livres was granted to the same chapter for a perpetual dirge to be chanted to his memory. There seems no good reason to suppose all this a solemn farce, enacted to conceal the imprisonment of a youth, who could never have been an object of apprehension, whether in durance or at large. The mere allegation of a rumour to that effect can be esteemed of no weight in the absence of anything like corroborative proof.
The next conjecture as to who was the Iron Mask, was that put forward by at least two respectable writers. These affirmed that the queen, wife of Louis XIII., after giving birth to Louis XIV., was delivered at a subsequent hour of a second son, whose birth the king resolved to conceal, to avoid the danger of a disputed succession, it being the opinion of certain legal authorities that the first-born of twins has a doubtful claim to any inheritance depending on birth. With this view, the child was confided to a •nurse, and afterwards to a governor, who took him to his seat in Burgundy, where, growing to manhood, he discovered the secret -of his birth, and was forthwith placed in confinement, with a mask to conceal his features, which were the exact counterpart of his brother the king's. Such was the story of these authors, -which, upon careful consideration, seems utterly unworthy of credit. Nevertheless, the notion that a brother of Louis XIV>, whether older, younger, or of the same age, and whether legiti•mate or illegitimate, was in truth the unfortunate victim of the Iron Mask, has had a host of firm believers in France and other countries, and amongst the rest our ingenious countryman Mr Quintin Crawford, who decides in favour of a son. It would seem that Napoleon, whose curiosity was keenly excited by this mystery of the Iron Mask, also inclined to the hypothesis of a royal prince.*
Meanwhile, suppositions of a less creative, though of an equally fanciful nature, challenged from day to day public acquiescence, though the only consequence of this diversity of theories was greater perplexity and doubt. First in order was the hypothesis -which assigned the Iron Mask to the Duke of Beaufort, advanced by two several authors, Dufresnoy and Lagrange-Chancel, in 1759, and afterwards maintained by others. This Duke of Beaufort had been intrusted by Louis XIV. with the command of a squadron destined for the relief of Candia, then besieged by the Turks (1669). Seven days after his arrival at the island, he took part in a sally on the besiegers, and was never seen again. The Duke de Navailles, his coadjutor in the command, reported that he had been abandoned by his troops when in front of the Turks, and he knew not what had become of him. The probability is that he was slain, and his head sent to the sultan at Constantinople, according to the custom of the Turks. But as his body was not found, or at least identified, which might readily be the case if it were decapitated, a rumour prevailed that he was not dead, but had mysteriously disappeared. This was sufficient to elevate him into a candidate for the martyrdom of the Iron Mask; but his supporters signally fail, both in probability and the more decisive matter of dates. The age of the prince would incapacitate him for the part, and there appears no cause to suppose he had given any mortal offence either to the king or to his vindictive minister Colbert. He was a man of gross and vulgar habits, passing by the nickname of the King of the Markets, indicative of his low tastes. He enjoyed no consideration, and might be an object of contempt or disgust, but not of inhuman persecution.
* The memoirs of the Duchess d'Abrantes bear testimony to the interest taken in the elucidation of this question by Napoleon, who had ordered researches in the national archives without effect, which not a little fretted the imperious impatience of his mind for results.
Poullain de Saint-Foix has the merit of resuscitating another illustrious deceased to perform the character of the Iron Mask, and this he does with even more boldness than any of his contemporaries, since he selects a man who was publicly beheaded oa Tower Hill, in the city of London, in the year 1685; namely, the Duke of Monmouth, executed by his uncle James II. SaintFoix finds a substitute for the duke on the scaffold in the person of a devoted follower, who greatly resembled him, and consented to act as his proxy in the loss of his head. Setting aside this first startling difficulty, the hypothesis is otherwise utterly untenable in respect of dates. Yet, strange to say, for a time this theory became the favourite one, owing principally to the bold and confident tone of its advocate, until the Pere Griffet, a learned and profound historian, was provoked to take up arms against it, and by a skilful use of authentic documents effectually demolished it, although he failed to set up his own dogma in its place, for the erudite father gave his suffrage in favour of the Count de Vermandois. A furious contest ensued between these two champions in the columns of Freron's Annie Litteraire, is the midst of which a third claimant came forward in behalf of Mohammed IV., the Turkish sultan deposed in 1687: but while the conflict was still raging among these combatants, and the public excitement roused to the highest pitch, the Pere Griffet suddenly departed this life (1771), and so put an end to the hot discussion.
With regard to other parties of inferior grades, who have found partisans to urge their claims as the heroes of this enigmait is sufficient to say that the spirit of paradox has been carried so far as to pitch upon Henry Cromwell, the second son of the Protector, for one ot them, upon the ground, simply, that though known to be of a more lively temperament than his brother Richard, he lived and died in such obscurity, that nothing is known of his existence. But even if this were so, it is clear that Louis XIV. could have no possible interest in keeping a son of Cromwell in such close confinement, however prone to assume the part of a jailor. More plausible arguments have been advanced in favour of three other individuals, between whom, in fact, the controversy is unquestionably narrowed. These are, the Armenian patriarch, Ardewiks; the superintendent of the French finances, Fouquet; and the minister of the Duke of Mantua, Matthioli. Thus the story, it must be confessed, loses much of its romantic interest, shorn as it becomes of any thrilling mystery. But the object in view is, of course, the elucidation of the truth.
Before entering upon the inquiry which of these three was the actual Man with the Iron Mask, it will be proper to detail all that is precisely known respecting the prisoner detained under such extraordinary circumstances. To do so with demonstrative effect, all that is mere hearsay or tradition ought to be discarded. Thus, the statement of Voltaire, and all those who have followed in his wake, about the extraordinary respect paid by the governor of the fortress, and even by the Marquis de jjouvois, must be considered in the light of an unsupported, if not an invented, accessory to the romance of the incident. A manuscript journal kept by M. Dujonca, lieutenant of the Bastile, first quoted by the Pere Griffet, is the only authentic document extant upon the subject of the prisoner, apart from the official correspondence to be hereafter mentioned, inasmuch as the register of the Bastile, copied in the work called La Bastile Devoilie, or "The Bastile Exposed," is judged to be merely a compilation from Dujonca's journal, so far as concerns this particular case, as all the principal records are known to have been destroyed. This journal records that, "at three o'clock on the afternoon of Thursday the 18th September 1698, Saint-Mars arrived from the Isle de Sainte-Marguerite, bringing with him, in a litter, an old prisoner, whom he had had at Pignerol, whose name was not mentioned, and who was always kept masked. This prisoner was put into the tower of La Baziniere until night, when I myself conducted him at nine in the evening to the third chamber of the tower of La Bertaudiere, which care had been taken to furnish with all things necessary. The Sieur Rosarges, who likewise came from the Isle de Sainte-Marguerite with Saint-Mars, was directed to wait upon and take care of the aforesaid prisoner, who was fed by the governor."
In the same journal, the death of the prisoner is mentioned under date of the 19th November 1703 in the following terms: —" The unknown prisoner, always masked with a black velvet mask, whom M. de Saint-Mars had brought with him, and had long. kept under his charge, feeling slightly indisposed after attending mass, died to-day at ten at night, without having experienced any considerable illness: he could not have suffered less. M. Giraut, our chaplain, confessed him yesterday. Surprised by death, he was unable to receive the sacraments, and our chaplain exhorted him for a moment before he died. He was interred on Tuesday, 20th November, at four in the afternoon, in the cemetery of St Paul. His interment cost forty livres."
By an extract from the register of burials for the parish of St Paul, accredited by the vicar under his hand on the 9th February 1790, the exactitude of Dujonca is fully borne out. This entry is as follows:—" The year 1703, on the 19th November, died at the Bastile Marchiali, aged forty-five or thereabouts; whose body was interred in the burial-ground of St Paul, his parish, on the 20th of the said month, in the presence of M. Rosarges, major of the Bastile, and of M. Reih, surgeon of the Bastile, who have affixed their signatures."
Marchiali was of course an assumed name, given to baffle inquiry, as likewise was most probably the alleged age. Voltaire relates that the prisoner was always called Marchiali at the Bastile, and that he himself declared to the apothecary of the prison, a few days before his death, that he thought he was about sixty years old. After his death, the utmost care was taken to destroy every vestige of his existence: everything he had been in the habit of using, such as clothes, linen, bedding, &c. was burnt; the walls of his room were scraped and re-plastered, the panes of the windows were changed, and, according to some authorities, his body itself was consumed with quicklime.
As Saint-Mars passed with his prisoner from the Isle of SainteMarguerite, he halted at his own estate of Palteau, and an account of his visit is given by his great-nephew, M. de Palteau, as he had received it from persons resident on the property at the time. This is contained in a letter published by M. de Palteau in the Annie Litteraire of 1769. He states "that the masked prisoner arrived at Palteau in a litter which preceded the one in which Saint-Mars himself travelled, under an escort of several men on horseback, and accompanied by the peasants who had gone to meet their landlord. Dinner was served in the diningroom on the ground-floor; the prisoner sat with his back to the court, and Saint-Mars opposite him, with a brace of pistols on the table. They were waited on by a single servant, who brought all the dishes from the anteroom, where they were deposited, and whenever he came in or went out, he shut the door carefully after him. The prisoner was observed to be tall in stature, and he always wore a black mask, which did not prevent his lips, teeth, and gray hair from being seen. The peasants frequently saw him cross the court with the mask over his face. Saint-Mars caused a bed for himself to be placed close to that of his prisoner, in which he slept. The remembrance of this occurrence is still fresh in the memory of many old men still living."
Such is all that is positively known of this famous captive. The question is, which of the three persons last indicated he was— Ardewiks, Fouquet, or Matthioli?
The pretensions of Ardewiks are quickly disposed of. He was the Armenian patriarch at Constantinople, and had contrived to incur the deadly animosity of the Jesuits, then all-powerful in France and in other countries. They availed to procure his exile, and ultimately to have him kidnapped on board a French vessel, which conveyed him to France, where he was imprisoned in the Isle of Sainte-Marguerite, and afterwards in the Bastile, where he died. This atrocious proceeding was strenuously denied by the French government when the Ottoman court remonstrated, but is placed beyond all question by a memoir on the subject left by M. de Bonac, French ambassador at Constantinople in 1724. The Chevalier de Taules has laboured with commendable zeal to demonstrate that this abducted patriarch was the genuine Iron Mask, mainly with the view of relieving French royalty from the stigma of the suspicions which attached to it from the'undia