1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Iron Mask

IRON MASK (masque de fer). The identity of the “man in the iron mask” is a famous historical mystery. The person so called was a political prisoner under Louis XIV., who died in the Bastille in 1703. To the mask itself no real importance attaches, though that feature of the story gave it a romantic interest; there is no historical evidence that the mask he was said always to wear was made of anything but black velvet (velours), and it was only afterwards that legend converted its material into iron. As regards the “man,” we have the contemporary official journals of Étienne du Junca (d. 1706), the king’s lieutenant at the Bastille, from which we learn that on the 18th of September 1698 a new governor, Bénigne D’Auvergne de Saint-Mars, arrived from the fortress of the Isles Ste Marguerite (in the bay of Cannes), bringing with him “un ancien prisonnier qu’il avait à Pignerol” (Pinerolo, in Piedmont), whom he kept always masked and whose name remained untold. (Saint-Mars, it may here be noted, had been commandant at Pignerol from the end of 1664 till 1681; he was in charge there of such important prisoners as Fouquet, from 1665 to his death in 1680, and Lauzun, from 1671 till his release in 1681; he was then in authority at Exiles from 1681 to 1687, and at Ste Marguerite from 1687 to 1698). Du Junca subsequently records that “on Monday the 19th of November 1703, the unknown prisoner, always masked with a black velvet mask, whom M. de Saint-Mars had brought with him from the islands of Ste Marguerite, and had kept for a long time,... died at about ten o’clock in the evening.” He adds that “this unknown prisoner was buried on the 20th in the parish cemetery of Saint Paul, and was registered under a name also unknown”—noting in the margin that he has since learnt that the name in the register was “M. de Marchiel.” The actual name in the register of the parish cemetery of Saint Paul (now destroyed, but a facsimile is still in existence) was “Marchioly”; and the age of the deceased was there given as “about 45.”

The identity of this prisoner was already, it will be observed, a mystery before he died in 1703, and soon afterwards we begin to see the fruit of the various legends concerning him which presumably started as early as 1670, when Saint-Mars himself (see below) found it necessary to circulate “fairy tales” (contes jaunes). In 1711 the Princess Palatine wrote to the Electress Sophia of Hanover, and suggested that he was an English nobleman who had taken part in a plot of the duke of Berwick against William III. Voltaire, in his Siècle de Louis XIV (1751), told the story of the mysterious masked prisoner with many graphic details; and, under the heading of “Ana” in the Questions sur l’encyclopédie (Geneva, 1771), he asserted that he was a bastard brother of Louis XIV., son of Mazarin and Anne of Austria. Voltaire’s influence in creating public interest in the “man in the mask” was indeed enormous; he had himself been imprisoned in the Bastille in 1717 and again in 1726; as early as 1745 he is found hinting that he knows something; in the Siècle de Louis XIV he justifies his account on the score of conversations with de Bernaville, who succeeded Saint-Mars (d. 1708) as governor of the Bastille, and others; and after Heiss in 1770 had identified the “mask” with Mattioli (see below), Voltaire was not above suggesting that he really knew more than he had said, but thought it sufficient to have given the clue to the enigma. According to the Abbé Soulavie, the duke of Richelieu’s advice was to reflect on Voltaire’s “last utterances” on the subject. In Soulavie’s Mémoires of Richelieu (London, 1790) the masked man becomes (on the authority of an apocryphal note by Saint-Mars himself) the legitimate twin brother of Louis XIV. In 1801 the story went that this scion of the royal house of France had a son born to him in prison, who settled in Corsica under the name of “De Buona Parte,” and became the ancestor of Napoleon! Dumas’s Vicomte de Bragelonne afterwards did much to popularize the theory that he was the king’s brother. Meanwhile other identifications, earlier or later, were also supported, in whose case the facts are a sufficient refutation. He was Louis, count of Vermandois, son of Louise de la Vallière (Mémoires secrets pour servir à l’histoire de Perse, Amsterdam, 1745); Vermandois, however, died in 1683. He was the duke of Monmouth (Lettre de Sainte Foy ... Amsterdam, 1768), although Monmouth was beheaded in 1685. He was François de Vendôme, duke of Beaufort, who disappeared (and pretty certainly died) at the siege of Candia (1669); Avedick, an Armenian patriarch seized by the Jesuits, who was not imprisoned till 1706 and died in 1711; Fouquet, who undoubtedly died at Pignerol in 1680; and even, according to A. Loquin (1883), Molière!

Modern criticism, however, has narrowed the issue. The “man in the mask” was either (1) Count Mattioli, who became the prisoner of Saint-Mars at Pignerol in 1679, or (2) the person called Eustache Dauger, who was imprisoned in July 1669 in the same fortress. The evidence shows conclusively that these two were the only prisoners under Saint-Mars at Pignerol who could have been taken by him to the Bastille in 1698. The arguments in favour of Mattioli (first suggested by Heiss, and strongly supported by Topin in 1870) are summed up, with much weight of critical authority, by F. Funck-Brentano in vol. lvi. of the Revue historique (1894); the claims of Eustache Dauger were no less ably advocated by J. Lair in vol. ii. of his Nicolas Foucquet (1890). But while we know who Mattioli was, and why he was imprisoned, a further question still remains for supporters of Dauger, because his identity and the reason for his incarceration are quite obscure.

It need only be added, so far as other modern theories are concerned, that in 1873 M. Jung (La Vérité sur la masque de fer) had brought forward another candidate, with the attractive name of “Marechiel,” a soldier of Lorraine who had taken part in a poisoning plot against Louis XIV., and was arrested at Peronne by Louvois in 1673, and said to be lodged in the Bastille and then sent to Pignerol. But Jung’s arguments, though strong destructively against the Mattioli theory, break down as regards any valid proof either that the prisoner arrested at Peronne was a Bastille prisoner in 1673 or that he was ever at Pignerol, where indeed we find no trace of him. Another theory, propounded by Captain Bazeries (La Masque de fer, 1883), identified the prisoner with General du Bulonde, punished for cowardice at the siege of Cuneo; but Bulonde only went to Pignerol in 1691, and has been proved to be living in 1705.

The Mattioli Theory.—Ercole Antonio Mattioli (born at Bologna on the 1st of December 1640) was minister of Charles IV., duke of Mantua, who as marquess of Montferrat was in possession of the frontier fortress of Casale, which was coveted by Louis XIV. He negotiated the sale of Casale to the French king for 100,000 crowns, and himself received valuable presents from Louis. But on the eve of the occupation of Casale by the French, Mattioli—actuated by a tardy sense of patriotism or by the hope of further gain—betrayed the transaction to the governments of Austria, Spain, Venice and Savoy. Louis, in revenge, had him kidnapped (1679) by the French envoy, J. F. d’Estrades, abbé of Moissac, and Mattioli was promptly lodged in the fortress of Pignerol. This kidnapping of Mattioli, however, was no secret, and it was openly discussed in La Prudenza trionfante di Casale (Cologne, 1682), where it was stated that Mattioli was masked when he was arrested. In February 1680 he is described as nearly mad, no doubt from the effects of solitary confinement. When Saint-Mars was made governor of Exiles in 1681 we know from one of his letters that Mattioli was left at Pignerol; but in March 1694, Pignerol being about to be given up by France to Savoy, he and two other prisoners were removed with much secrecy to Ste Marguerite, where Saint-Mars had been governor since 1687. Funck-Brentano emphasizes the fact that, although Eustache Dauger was then at Ste Marguerite, the king’s minister Barbezieux, writing to Saint-Mars (March 20, 1694) about the transfer of these prisoners, says: “You know that they are of more consequence (plus de conséquence), at least one” (presumably Mattioli), “than those who are at present at the island.” From this point, however, the record is puzzling. A month after his arrival at Ste Marguerite, a prisoner who had a valet died there.[1] Now Mattioli undoubtedly had a valet at Pignerol, and nobody else at Ste Marguerite is known at this time to have had one; so that he may well have been the prisoner who died. In that case he was clearly not “the mask” of 1698 and 1703. Funck-Brentano’s attempt to prove that Mattioli did not die in 1604 is far from convincing; but the assumption that he did is inferential, and to that extent arguable. “Marchioly” in the burial register of Saint Paul naturally suggests indeed at first that the “ancien prisonnier” taken by Saint-Mars to the Bastille in 1698 was Mattioli, Saint-Mars himself sometimes writing the name “Marthioly” in his letters; but further consideration leaves this argument decidedly weak. In any case the age stated in the burial register, “about 45,” was fictitious, whether for Mattioli (63) or Dauger (at least 53); and, as Lair points out, Saint-Mars is known to have given false names at the burial of other prisoners. Monsignor Barnes, in The Man of the Mask (1908), takes the entry “Marchioly” as making it certain that the prisoner was not Mattioli, on the ground (1) that the law[2] explicitly ordered a false name to be given, and (2) that after hiding his identity so carefully the authorities were not likely to give away the secret by means of a burial register.

In spite of Funck-Brentano it appears practically certain that Mattioli must be ruled out. If he was the individual who died in 1703 at the Bastille, the obscurity which gathered round the nameless masked prisoner is almost incomprehensible, for there was no real secret about Mattioli’s incarceration. The existence of a “legend” as to Dauger can, however, be traced, as will be seen below, from the first. Any one who accepts the Mattioli theory must be driven, as Lang suggests, to suppose that the mystery which grew up about the unknown prisoner was somehow transferred to Mattioli from Dauger.

The Dauger Theory.—What then was Dauger’s history? Unfortunately it is only in his capacity as a prisoner that we can trace it. On the 19th of July 1669 Louvois, Louis XIV.’s minister, writes to Saint-Mars at Pignerol that he is sending him “le nommé Eustache Dauger” (Dauger, D’Angers—the spelling is doubtful),[3] whom it is of the last importance to keep with special closeness; Saint-Mars is to threaten him with death if he speaks about anything except his actual needs. On the same day Louvois orders Vauroy, major of the citadel of Dunkirk, to seize Dauger and conduct him to Pignerol. Saint-Mars writes to Louvois (Aug. 21) that Vauroy had brought Dauger, and that people “believe him to be a marshal of France.” Louvois (March 26, 1670) refers to a report that one of Fouquet’s valets—there was constant trouble about them—had spoken to Dauger, who asked to be left in peace, and he emphasizes the importance of there being no communication. Saint-Mars (April 12, 1670) reports Dauger as “resigné à la volonté de Dieu et du Roy,” and (again the legend grows) says that “there are persons who are inquisitive about my prisoner, and I am obliged to tell contes jaunes pour me moquer d’eux.” In 1672 Saint-Mars proposes—the significance of this action is discussed later—to allow Dauger to act as “valet” to Lauzun; Louvois firmly refuses, but in 1675 allows him to be employed as valet to Fouquet, and he impresses upon Saint-Mars the importance of nobody learning about Dauger’s “past.” After Fouquet’s death (1680) Dauger and Fouquet’s other (old-standing) valet La Rivière are put together, by Louvois’s special orders, in one lower dungeon; Louvois evidently fears their knowledge of things heard from Fouquet, and he orders Lauzun (who had recently been allowed to converse freely with Fouquet) to be told that they are released. When Saint-Mars is transferred to Exiles, he is ordered to take these two with him, as too important to be in other hands; Mattioli is left behind. At Exiles they are separated and guarded with special precautions; and in January 1687 one of them (all the evidence admittedly pointing to La Rivière) dies. When Saint-Mars is again transferred, in May 1687, to Ste Marguerite, he takes his “prisoner” (apparently he now has only one—Dauger) with great show of caution; and next year (Jan. 8, 1688) he writes to Louvois that “mon prisonnier” is believed “in all this province” to be a son of Oliver Cromwell, or else the duke of Beaufort (a point which at once rules out Beaufort). In 1691 Louvois’s successor, Barbezieux, writes to him about his “prisonnier de vingt ans” (Dauger was first imprisoned in 1669, Mattioli in 1679), and Saint-Mars replies that “nobody has seen him but myself.” Subsequently Barbezieux and the governor continue to write to one another about their “ancien prisonnier” (Jan. 6, 1696; Nov. 17, 1697). When, therefore, we come to Saint-Mars’s appointment to the Bastille in 1698, Dauger appears almost certainly to be the “ancien prisonnier” he took with him.[4] There is at least good ground for supposing Mattioli’s death to have been indicated in 1694, but nothing is known that would imply Dauger’s, unless it was he who died in 1703.

Theories as to Dauger’s Identity.—Here we find not only sufficient indication of the growth of a legend as to Dauger, but also the existence in fact of a real mystery as to who he was and what he had done, two things both absent in Mattioli’s case. The only “missing link” is the want of any precise allusion to a mask in the references to Dauger. But in spite of du Junca’s emphasis on the mask, it is in reality very questionable whether the wearing of a mask was an unusual practice. It was one obvious way of enabling a prisoner to appear in public (for exercise or in travelling) without betrayal of identity. Indeed three years before the arrival of Saint-Mars we hear (Gazette d’Amsterdam, March 14, 1695) of another masked man being brought to the Bastille, who eventually was known to be the son of a Lyons banker.

Who then was Dauger, and what was his “past”? We will take first a theory propounded by Andrew Lang in The Valet’s Tragedy (1903). As the result of research in the diplomatic correspondence at the Record Office in London[5] Mr Lang finds a clue in the affairs of the French Huguenot, Roux de Marsilly, the secret agent for a Protestant league against France between Sweden, Holland, England and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, who in February 1669 left London, where he had been negotiating with Arlington (apparently with Charles II.’s knowledge), for Switzerland, his confidential valet Martin remaining behind. On the 14th of April 1669 Marsilly was kidnapped for Louis XIV. in Switzerland, in defiance of international right, taken to Paris and on the 22nd of June tortured to death on a trumped-up charge of rape. The duke of York is said to have betrayed him to Colbert, the French ambassador in London. The English intrigue was undoubtedly a serious matter, because the shifty Charles II. was at the same time negotiating with Louis XIV. a secret alliance against Holland, in support of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in England. It would therefore be desirable for both parties to remove anybody who was cognizant of the double dealing. Now Louvois’s original letter to Saint-Mars concerning Dauger (July 19, 1669), after dealing with the importance of his being guarded with special closeness, and of Saint-Mars personally taking him food and threatening him with death if he speaks, proceeds as follows (in a second paragraph, as printed in Delort, i. 155, 156):—

Je mande au Sieur Poupart de faire incessamment travailler à ce que vous désirerez, et vous ferez préparer les meubles qui sont nécessaires pour la vie de celui que l’on vous aménera, observant que comme ce n est qu’un valet, il ne lui en faut pas de bien considérables, et je vous ferai rembourser tant de la déspenses des meubles, que de ce que vous désirerez pour sa nourriture.

Assuming the words here, “as he is only a valet,” to refer to Dauger, and taking into account the employment of Dauger from 1675 to 1680 as Fouquet’s valet, Mr Lang now obtains a solution of the problem of why a mere valet should be a political prisoner of so much concern to Louis XIV. at this time. He points out that Colbert, on the 3rd, 10th and 24th of June, writes from London to Louis XIV. about his efforts to get Martin, Roux de Marsilly’s valet, to go to France, and on the 1st of July expresses a hope that Charles II. will surrender “the valet.” Then, on the 19th of July, Dauger is arrested at Dunkirk, the regular port from England. Mr Lang regards his conclusion as to the identity between these valets as irresistible. It is true that what is certainly known about Martin hardly seems to provide sufficient reason for Eustache Dauger being regarded for so long a time as a specially dangerous person. But Mr Lang’s answer on that point is that this humble supernumerary in Roux de Marsilly’s conspiracy simply became one more wretched victim of the “red tape” of the old French absolute monarchy.

Unfortunately for this identification, it encounters at once a formidable, if not fatal, objection. Martin, the Huguenot conspirator Marsilly’s valet, must surely have been himself a Huguenot. Dauger, on the other hand, was certainly a Catholic; indeed Louvois’s second letter to Saint-Mars about him (Sept. 10, 1669) gives precise directions as to his being allowed to attend mass at the same time as Fouquet. It may perhaps be argued that Dauger (if Martin) simply did not make bad worse by proclaiming his creed; but against this, Louvois must have known that Martin was a Huguenot. Apart from that, it will be observed that the substantial reason for connecting the two men is simply that both were “valets.” The identification is inspired by the apparent necessity of an explanation why Dauger, being a valet, should be a political prisoner of importance. The assumption, however, that Dauger was a valet when he was arrested is itself as unnecessary as the fact is intrinsically improbable. Neither Louvois’s letter of July 19, 1669, nor Dauger’s employment as valet to Fouquet in 1675 (six years later)—and these are the only grounds on which the assumption rests—prove anything of the sort.

Was Dauger a valet? If Dauger was the “mask,” it is just as well to remove a misunderstanding which has misled too many commentators.

1. If Louvois’s letter of July 19 be read in connexion with the preceding correspondence it will be seen that ever since Fouquet’s incarceration in 1665 Saint-Mars had had trouble over his valets. They fall ill, and there is difficulty in replacing them, or they play the traitor. At last, on the 12th of March 1669, Louvois writes to Saint-Mars to say (evidently in answer to some suggestion from Saint-Mars in a letter which is not preserved): “It is annoying that both Fouquet’s valets should have fallen ill at the same time, but you have so far taken such good measures for avoiding inconvenience that I leave it to you to adopt whatever course is necessary.” There are then no letters in existence from Saint-Mars to Louvois up to Louvois’s letter of July 19, in which he first refers to Dauger; and for three months (from April 22 to July 19) there is a gap in the correspondence, so that the sequence is obscure. The portion, however, of the letter of the 19th of July, cited above, in which Louvois uses the words “ce n’est qu’un valet,” does not, in the present writer’s judgment, refer to Dauger at all, but to something which had been mooted in the meanwhile with a view to obtaining a valet for Fouquet. This is indeed the natural reading of the letter as a whole. If Louvois had meant to write that Dauger was “only a valet” he would have started by saying so. On the contrary, he gives precise and apparently comprehensive directions in the first part of the letter about how he is to be treated: “Je vous en donne advis par advance, afin que vous puissiez faire accomoder un cachot où vous le mettrez surement, observant de faire en sorte que les jours qu’aura le lieu où il sera ne donnent point sur les lieux qui puissent estre abordez de personne, et qu’il y ayt assez de portes fermées, les unes sur les autres, pour que vos sentinelles ne puissent bien entendre,” &c. Having finished his instructions about Dauger, he then proceeds in a fresh paragraph to tell Saint-Mars that orders have been given to “Sieur Poupart” to do “whatever you shall desire.” He is here dealing with a different question; and it is unreasonable to suppose, and indeed contrary to the style in which Louvois corresponds with Saint-Mars, that he devotes the whole letter to the one subject with which he started. The words “et vous ferez préparer les meubles qui sont nécessaires pour la vie de celui que l’on vous aménera” are not at all those which Louvois would use with regard to Dauger, after what he has just said about him. Why “celui que l’on vous aménera,” instead of simply “Dauger,” who was being brought, as he has said, by Vauroy? The clue to the interpretation of this phrase may be found in another letter from Louvois not six months later (Jan. 1, 1670), when he writes: “Le roy se remet à vous d’en uzer comme vous le jugerez à propos à l’esgard des valets de Monsieur Foucquet; il faut seulement observer que si vous luy donnez des valets que l’on vous aménera d’icy, il pourra bien arriver qu’ils seront gaignez par avance, et qu’ainsy ils feroient pis que ceux que vous en osteriez présentement.” Here we have the identical phrase used of valets whom it is contemplated to bring in from outside for Fouquet; though it does not follow that any such valet was in fact brought in. The whole previous correspondence (as well as a good deal afterwards) is full of the valet difficulty; and it is surely more reasonable to suppose that when Louvois writes to Saint-Mars on the 19th of July that he is sending Dauger, a new prisoner of importance, as to whom “il est de la dernière importance qu’il soit gardé avec une grande seureté,” his second paragraph as regards the instructions to “Sieur Poupart” refers to something which Saint-Mars had suggested about getting a valet from outside, and simply points out that in preparing furniture for “celui que l’on vous aménera” he need not do much, “comme ce n’est qu’un valet.”

2. But this is not all. If Dauger had been originally a valet, he might as well have been used as such at once, when one was particularly wanted. On the contrary, Louvois flatly refused Saint-Mars’s request in 1672 to be allowed to do so, and was exceedingly chary of allowing it in 1675 (only “en cas de nécessité,” and “vous pouvez donner le dit prisonnier à M. Foucquet, si son valet venoit à luy manquer et non autrement”). The words used by Saint-Mars in asking Louvois in 1672 if he might use Dauger as Lauzun’s valet are themselves significant to the point of conclusiveness: “Il ferait, ce me semble, un bon valet.” Saint-Mars could not have said this if Dauger had all along been known to be a valet. The terms of his letter to Louvois (Feb 20, 1672) show that Saint-Mars wanted to use Dauger as a valet simply because he was not a valet. That a person might be used as a valet who was not really a valet is shown by Louvois having told Saint-Mars in 1666 (June 4) that Fouquet’s old doctor, Pecquet, was not to be allowed to serve him “soit dans sa profession, soit dans le mestier d’un simple valet.” The fact was that Saint-Mars was hard put to it in the prison for anybody who could be trusted, and that he had convinced himself by this time that Dauger (who had proved a quiet harmless fellow) would give no trouble. Probably he wanted to give him some easy employment, and save him from going mad in confinement. It is worth noting that up to 1672 (when Saint-Mars suggested utilizing Dauger as valet to Lauzun) none of the references to Dauger in letters after that of July 19, 1669, suggests his being a valet; and their contrary character makes it all the more clear that the second part of the letter of July 19 does not refer to Dauger.

In this connexion it may be remarked (and this is a point on which Funck-Brentano entirely misinterprets the allusion) that, even in his capacity as valet to Fouquet, Dauger was still regarded an as exceptional sort of prisoner; for in 1679 when Fouquet and Lauzun were afterwards allowed to walk freely all over the citadel, Louvois impresses on Saint-Mars that “le nommé Eustache” is never to be allowed to be in Fouquet’s room when Lauzun or any other stranger, or anybody but Fouquet and the “ancien valet,” La Rivière, is there, and that he is to stay in Fouquet’s room when the latter goes out to walk in the citadel, and is only to go out walking with Fouquet and La Rivière when they promenade in the special part of the fortress previously set apart for them (Louvois’s letter to Saint-Mars, Jan. 30, 1670).

Was Dauger James de la Cloche? In The Man of the Mask (1908) Monsignor Barnes, while briefly dismissing Mr Lang’s identification with Martin, and apparently not realizing the possibility of reading Louvois’s letter of July 19, 1669, as indicated above[6] deals in detail with the history of James de la Cloche, the natural son of Charles II. (acknowledged privately as such by the king) in whom he attempts to unmask the personality of Dauger. Mr Lang, in The Valet’s Tragedy, had some years earlier ironically wondered why nobody made this suggestion, which, however, he regarded as untenable. The story of James de la Cloche is indeed itself another historical mystery; he abruptly vanishes as such at Rome at the end of 1668, and thus provides a disappearance of convenient date; but the question concerning him is complicated by the fact that a James Henry de Bovere Roano Stuardo, who married at Naples early in 1669 and undoubtedly died in the following August, claiming to be a son of Charles II., makes just afterwards an equally abrupt appearance; in many respects the two men seem to be the same, but Monsignor Barnes, following Lord Acton, here regards James Stuardo as an impostor who traded on a knowledge of James de la Cloche’s secret. If the latter then did not die in 1669, what became of him? According to Monsignor Barnes’s theory, James de la Cloche, who had been brought up to be a Jesuit and knew his royal father’s secret profession of Roman Catholicism, was being employed by Charles II. as an intermediary with the Catholic Church and with the object of making him his own private confessor; he returned from Rome at the beginning of 1669, and is then identified by Monsignor Barnes with a certain Abbé Pregnani, an “astrologer” sent by Louis in February 1669 to influence Charles II. towards the French alliance. Pregnani, however, made a bad start by “tipping winners” at Newmarket with disastrous results, and was quickly recalled to France, actually departing on July 5th (French 15th). But he too now disappears, though a letter from Lionne (the French foreign secretary) to Colbert of July 17 (two days before Louvois’s letter to Saint-Mars about Dauger) says that he is expected in Paris. Monsignor Barnes’s theory is that Pregnani alias James de la Cloche, without the knowledge of Charles II., was arrested by order of Louis and imprisoned as Dauger on account of his knowing too much about the French schemes in regard to Charles II. This identification of Pregnani with James de la Cloche is, however, intrinsically incredible. We are asked to read into the Pregnani story a deliberate intrigue on Charles’s part for an excuse for having James de la Cloche in England. But this does not at all seem to square with the facts given in the correspondence, and it is hard to understand why Charles should have allowed Pregnani to depart, and should not have taken any notice of his son’s “disappearance.” There would still remain, no doubt, the possibility that Pregnani, though not James de la Cloche, was nevertheless the “man in the mask.” But even then the dates will not suit; for Lionne wrote to Colbert on July 27, saying, “Pregnani has been so slow on his voyage that he has only given me (m’a rendu) your despatch of July 4 several days after I had already received those of the 8th and the 11th.” Allowing for the French style of dating this means that instead of arriving in Paris by July 18, Pregnani only saw Lionne there at earliest on July 25. This seems to dispose of his being sent to Pignerol on the 19th. Apart altogether, however, from such considerations, it now seems fairly certain, from Mr Lang’s further research into the problem of James de la Cloche (see La Cloche), that the latter was identical with the “Prince” James Stuardo who died in Naples in 1669, and that he hoaxed the general of the Jesuits and forged a number of letters purporting to be from Charles II. which were relied on in Monsignor Barnes’s book; so that the theory breaks down at all points.

The identification of Dauger thus still remains the historical problem behind the mystery of the “man in the mask.” He was not the valet Martin; he was not a valet at all when he was sent to Pignerol; he was not James de la Cloche. The fact nevertheless that he was employed as a valet, even in special circumstances, for Fouquet, makes it difficult to believe that Dauger was a man of any particular social standing. We may be forced to conclude that the interest of the whole affair, so far as authentic history is concerned, is really nugatory, and that the romantic imagination has created a mystery in a fact of no importance.

Authorities.—The correspondence between Saint-Mars and Louvois is printed by J. Delort in Histoire de la détention des philosophes (1829). Apart from the modern studies by Lair, Funck-Brentano, Lang and Barnes, referred to above, there is valuable historical matter in the work of Roux-Fazaillac, Recherches historiques sur l’homme au masque de fer (1801); see also Marius Topin, L’Homme au masque de fer (Paris, 1870), and Loiseleur, Trois Énigmes historiques (1882).  (H. Ch.) 

  1. Barbezieux to Saint-Mars, May 10, 1694: “J’ai reçu la lettre que vous avez pris la peine de m’écrire le 29 du mois passé; vous pouvez, suivant que vous le proposez, faire mettre dans la prison voûtée le valet du prisonnier qui est mort.” It may be noted that Barbezieux had recently told Saint-Mars to designate his prisoners by circumlocutions in his correspondence, and not by name.
  2. He cites Bingham’s Bastille, i. 27.
  3. It was the common practice to give pseudonyms to prisoners, and this is clearly such a case. Mattioli’s prison name was Lestang.
  4. Funck-Brentano argues that “un ancien prisonnier qu’il avait à Pignerol” (du Junca’s words) cannot apply to Dauger, because then du Junca would have added “et à Exiles.” But this is decidedly far-fetched; du Junca would naturally refer specially to Pignerol, the fortress with which Saint-Mars had been originally and particularly associated. Funck-Brentano also insists that the references to the “ancien prisonnier” in 1696 and 1697 must be to Mattioli, giving ancien the meaning of “late” or “former” (as in the phrase “ancien ministre”), and regarding it as an expression pertinent to Mattioli, who had been at Pignerol with Saint-Mars but not at Exiles, and not to Dauger, who had always been with Saint-Mars. But when he attempts to force du Junca’s phrase “un ancien prisonnier qu’il avait à Pignerol” into this sense, he is straining language. The natural interpretation of the word ancien is simply “of old standing,” and Barbezieux’s use of it, coming after Louvois’s phrase in 1691, clearly points to Dauger being meant
  5. This identification had been previously suggested by H. Montaudon in Revue de la société des études historiques for 1888, p. 452, and by A. le Grain in L’Intermédiaire des chercheurs for 1891, col. 227-228.
  6. The view taken by Monsignor Barnes of the phrase “Ce n’est qu’un valet” in Louvois’s letter of July 19, is that (reading this part of the letter as a continuation of what precedes) the mere fact of Louvois’s saying that Dauger is only a valet means that that was just what he was not! Monsignor Barnes is rather too apt to employ the method of interpretation by contraries, on the ground that in such letters the writer always concealed the real facts.