The author of the " Siecle de Louis XIV" (Voltaire) is the first to speak of the man in the iron mask in an authenticated history. The reason is that he was very well informed about the anecdote which astonishes the present century, which will astonish posterity, and which is only too true. He was deceived about the date of the death of this singularly unfortunate unknown. The date of his burial at St. Paul was March 3rd, 1703, and not 1704. (Note: According to a certificate reported by Saint-Foix, the date was November 20th, 1703.)
He was imprisoned first of all at Pignerol before being so on St. Margaret's Islands, and later in the Bastille; always under the same man's guard, Saint-Mars, who saw him die. Father Griffet, Jesuit, has communicated to the public the diary of the Bastille, which testifies to the dates. He had this diary without difficulty, for he held the delicate position of confessor of prisoners imprisoned in the Bastille.
The man in the iron mask is a riddle to which everyone wishes to guess the answer. Some say that he was the Due de Beaufort: but the Duc de Beaufort was killed by the Turks at the defence of Candia, in 1669; and the man in the iron mask was at Pignerol, in 1662. Besides, how would one have arrested the Duke de Beaufort surrounded by his army? How would one have transferred him to France without anybody knowing anything about it? And why slould he have been put in prison, and why this mask?
Others have considered the Comte de Vermandois, natural son of Louis XIV., who died publicly of the small-pox in 1683, with the army, and was buried in the town of Arras.
Later it was thought that the Duke of Monmouth, whose head King James II. had cut off publicly in London in 1685, was the man in the iron mask. It would have been necessary for him to be resuscitated, and then for him to change the order of the times, for him to put the year 1662 in place of 1685; for King James who never pardoned anyone, and who on that account deserved all his misfortunes, to have pardoned the Duke of Monmouth, and to have caused the death, in his place, of a man exactly like him. It would have been necessary to find this double who would have been so kind as to have his neck cut off in public in order to save the Duke of Monmouth. It would have been necessary for the whole of England to have been under a misapprehension; for James then to have sent his earnest entreaties to Louis XIV. to be so good as to serve as his constable and gaoler. Then Louis XIV. having done King James this little favour, would not have failed to have the same consideration for King William and for Queen Anne, with whom he was at war; and he would carefully have preserved in these two monarchs' consideration his dignity of gaoler, with which King James had honoured him.
All these illusions being dissipated, it remains to be learned who was this prisoner who was always masked, the age at which he died, and under what name he was buried. It is clear that if he was not allowed to pass into the courtyard of the Bastille, if he was not allowed to speak to his doctor, unless covered by a mask, it was for fear that in his features might be recognized some too striking resemblance. He might show his tongue, and never his face. As regards his age, he himself said to the Bastille apothecary, a few days before his death, that lie thought he was about sixty; and Master Marsolan, surgeon to the Marechal de Richelieu, and later to the Duc d'Orleans, regent, son-in-law of this apothecary, has repeated it to me more than once.
Finally, why give him an Italian name? he was always called Marchiali! He who writes this article knows more about it, maybe, than Father Griffet, and will not say more.