The Man in the Iron Mask: The True Story of Europe’s Most Famous Prisoner

Josephine Wilkinson. Pegasus, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-742-1
Historian Wilkinson (Louis XIV: The Power and the Glory) illuminates the political upheavals of 17th-century France in this meticulous look at the case of Eustache Dauger, the prisoner believed to be the Man in the Iron Mask. She documents harsh conditions at the prisons where Dauger was held, and fills in gaps in the historical record by profiling his fellow inmates, including Count Nicolas Foucquet, whose sentence was changed by Louis XIV from “perpetual banishment” to “perpetual imprisonment,” and the Comte de Lauzun, who was arrested after interfering in his cousin’s affair with the king. Noting that a letter written by the Marquis de Louvois ordered Dauger to be killed if “he tried to speak of anything except his basic needs,” Wilkinson speculates that the prisoner was a valet of Louvois’s “who had somehow betrayed him,” and not, as alleged by Voltaire, a relative of Louis XIV’s. (She also claims that Dauger’s mask was likely made of black velvet, and that he was only made to wear it “when he could be seen by others.”) Though Wilkinson writes in an academic register, she packs in plenty of gossip and convincingly separates fact from fiction. Readers will savor this authoritative account of a centuries-old mystery. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/19/2021
Release date: 07/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-4456-9392-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-64091-708-8
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