The man in the iron mask has been a historical enigma since the 18th century. Born circa 1658, he became a prisoner that hopped across the tightest facilities of France his entire life. But in all this time, his identity remained hidden behind a face mask. Several theories about who he was were floated and shot down over centuries, and only a few have held ground till date.
The man was first imprisoned in Pignerol in 1681. From there, he went from one prison to another, always under high security, until being transferred to Bastille, where he met his death. His grave at St Paul cemetery held the name Marchioly and gave his age as “about 45”. But speculations about his real name and origins had begun long before his passing. Records of the Bastille recorded the incarceration of the man, which were pursued by hundreds of people to find the truth to his life. A steady stream of literature poured over the mystery of the hidden face, though no two works ever agreed on the nitty-gritties. But why was his identity kept a mystery, and how was it maintained?
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“The Man in the Iron Mask”. Anonymous print from 1789.