The Man in the Iron Mask

Question: When Aramis is reading at the beginning, saying that bit about the storming of the Bastille and of records being found of the prisoner who was only known as "the man in the iron mask", was that actually true - about the prisoner number and/or the iron-masked man part?

Chosen answer: It is partially true. Author Alexander Dumas based his character on records that were recovered about an unknown prisoner whose identity was kept secret by a black cloth that constantly covered his head. The facts gradually changed as a myth grew up around this account, and the cloth mask was eventually said to be iron. This person, who is believed to have been of high rank, was incarcerated in several prisons, including the Bastille. Dumas adapted the legend for his novel and made the unknown man the twin brother of King Louis XIV. However, the man's true identity has never been discovered. The movie has also distorted historical facts about the Bastille. It was originally built as a fortress during The Hundred Years War, and only later was it used as a prison. (It only held about 50 people.) When it was stormed by French peasants in 1789, there were only seven inmates, and it is believed the rioters were actually looking for ammunition rather than attempting to free prisoners.

raywest Premium member

Question: I don't know anything about identical twins, so this is why I'm asking this question: how likely is it that Louis and Phillipe would have the exact same speech pattern?

Chosen answer: There would be both genetic similarities and individual differences, and their vocabularies would have developed differently by education and experience. However, Phillipe was heavily tutored before the switch took place, and as "king" he would be able to distance himself (physically, mentally, and emotionally) as much as needed from members of his court until he perfected his role, along with the continued help from those in on the deception. Also, the audience and readers of the novel are expected to employ a certain "suspension of disbelief" in order to allow the story to be told.

raywest Premium member

Question: When Christine commits suicide, there's a note that said something like "For my sister." My question is, why would the note say that? I know that Christine had a sister with some kind of condition but before that, Christine found out that Louis was responsible for Raoul's death and was very upset by it, so shouldn't the note have said something like, "For my Raoul" or "For Raoul"? Why was it for her sister? I'm confused by that part. Can someone please explain?

Chosen answer: I believe the "for my sister" note referred to the jewelry she left behind, meaning to give it to her sister.

Greg Dwyer

Question: How could Louis be the son of a king and Phillipe be the son of D'Artagnan if they're identical twins?

Chosen answer: Both Louis and Philippe are actually D'Artagnan's children. This is why D'Artagnan continues to defend Louis for much of the early part of the film, despite the King's callousness, because he feels that he must defend his son, even against his oldest friends. It's only when he discovers Philippe and realises that he has another son, a humble and decent man, that he's finally able to feel pride as a father and can stand against Louis and his excesses.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: Not just this, but every cinema and television adaptation of the legend of The Man In The Iron Mask that I have seen, without exception, has always left me asking the same question. A man is locked up in a lonely prison where his face is hidden by an iron mask. The Three Musketeers or some similar swashbuckling heroes rescue him. He may have worn the iron mask for weeks, months, or even years. So why is it, that, when the iron mask is removed he always emerges clean shaven?

Rob Halliday

Answer: The mask would be periodically removed by the prisoner's attendants to shave his beard and cut his hair. Leaving it on permanently and letting his beard and hair grow endlessly would create physical and medical problems, possibly even suffocating him eventually. The goal was to keep him imprisoned for a long period of time, not to execute him.

raywest Premium member

But isn't he wearing the mask so that nobody will know who he is? If the prison staff keep removing the mask to shave him and cut his hair then they will all know exactly what he looks like, and they will be able to identiry him. In many versions of the story he has to wear the mask so that nobody will recognise him as the king's twin brother. If the prison guards remove the mask won't they see how he resembles the king? Alternatively, if the prison guards already know that he is the king's twin brother, then why bother to mask his face?

Rob Halliday

Anyone who was guarding and/or attending to the prisoner would be loyal to the king, acting as his agents, and sworn to keep his secrets. Not doing so would be treason. They would likely have minimal knowledge of who this person was, nor would it matter to them. They may or may not notice any resemblance to the king. In the prisoner's disheveled and weakened conditioned, it would not be obvious that he is an identical twin. Also, few people in pre-mass media times, knew what royals looked like, probably only catching occasional glimpses of them from far away, if ever at all.

raywest Premium member

Join the mailing list

Separate from membership, this is to get updates about mistakes in recent releases. Addresses are not passed on to any third party, and are used solely for direct communication from this site. You can unsubscribe at any time.