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More About the Mask

Roger Macdonald’s article Behind the Iron Mask published in our November 2005 issue raised a number of questions. Here he answers some of them, and reveals more extraordinary facts.

Why did you give away the secret that d’Artagnan became the Man in the Iron Mask instead of allowing people who bought your book to find out for themselves?

Originally I just intended to write a cliff-hanger for History Today about the real Musketeers but the editor persuaded me to reveal the secret of the Iron Mask in my article. I feel sure his instinct was correct: it would have been almost impossible to keep this discovery out of reviews and interviews about my book. However, there are more surprises in the book itself. For example, I reveal the identity of Eustache Danger, hitherto the last surviving credible candidate to be the Iron Mask, and a man of whom nothing previously was known, and I explain why he could not be the solution. I also explain how there were two secret prisoners, not one, and that the second was Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister, whose purported death in 1680 was faked, just as d’Artagnan’s had been. And, of course, what happens to d’Artagnan in the end.

You say Alexandre Dumas set his fictitious version of The Three Musketeers fifteen years earlier than their real fight with Cardinal Richelieu’s Guards, but wasn’t Charles d’Artagnan in fact born much earlier than you claim he was?

Historians often confuse the number and names of children produced by d’Artagnan’s parents; none more so perhaps than the most recent history of the Musketeers, which states ‘Bertrand and Françoise had six children: four boys and three girls [sic].’ D’Artagnan had an elder brother called Charles and it was he who appeared on the Musketeers’ roll in 1633. The real d’Artagnan, then aged ten, was actually Charles-Ogier: on the face of it, still an odd and confusing name for his parents to choose. However, it was common practice at the time to use a Christian name more than once among siblings, and d’Artagnan’s own children would both be baptized Louis.

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