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Cell of the man in the Iron Mask, Fort royal

Cell of the man in the Iron Mask, Fort royal

Une contribution des Éditions Jonglez - 2010-07-02

The cell of the Man in the Iron Mask is the major attraction of the Musée de la Mer. This mysterious prisoner, whose mask was in fact of leather or velvet rather than iron, was locked up from 1687 to 1698 in a cell that can still be seen today.

It was Voltaire who popularized this character, putting forward the hypothesis that he was the brother of the Sun King (Louis XIV). Writers’ imaginations then knew no bounds: minister of the Duke of Mantua (Italy) punished for diplomatic indiscretions, priest of the king’s household imprisoned for having interfered in his love affairs, natural son of Anne of Austria and Mazarin, offspring of Louis XIII’s physician who had been hidden away so as not to reveal the king’s sterility … And to embroider the legend, a child fathered by the “Iron Mask” during his captivity could have been entrusted to a Corsican family who, convinced that he came from a “good part” (Bona Parte), gave him the family name of Buonaparte. So he would be no less than the great-grandfather of Napoleon …
 
Few visitors, on the other hand, know of the writings of Andrew Macdonagh, who in 1777 was imprisoned in this cell for twelve years. During the restoration of the paintings on the cell walls, a bundle of notes was found 2.20 m from the ground, signed Macdonagh. Irish by birth, he was promoted to captain in the French army then imprisoned following an extremely complicated inheritance affair of which he seemed in ignorance. Freed during the Revolution, he supported the cause of Irish independence. His writings were mainly pamphlets denouncing those who had dragged him to this dungeon to rot. Facsimiles of these notes are exhibited in a glass case in the corridor next to the cell.
 
Other prisoners, more or less notorious, turned up at Fort Royal. Thus there is a memorial to six Protestant pastors who died there in 1687. The Count of Monteil was locked up there for thirty-two years and refused to be set free in 1790 – he felt quite at home … Finally, the best known is the former Marshal Bazaine who, at the age of 60, managed to escape with the help of a knotted rope held by lieutenant-colonel Wilette (condemned to six months imprisonment for his complicity) and was picked up by a waiting canoe.
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION
 
Musée de la Mer
Île de Lérins
Embarkation: quai Leaubeuf
Museum hours: January to March and October to December, 10.30–13.15 and 14.15–16.45; closed Monday. From April to mid-June and mid-September to end September, 10.30–13.15 and 14.15–17.45; closed Monday. From mid-June to mid-September, 10.30–17.45; open every day
Admission: €3
Reduced tarif: €2
 
The Secret and Unknown Côte d’Azur – JONGLEZ PUBLISHING
The Côte d’Azur is much more than the clichés of beaches, private yachts and luxury hotels. For those who know how to get off the beaten track, the Côte d’Azur abounds with surprising little discoveries. There is still plenty of scope for amazement amongst locals or visitors who thought they knew this region well.
For further information: www.editionsjonglez.com 

The cell of the Man in the Iron Mask is the major attraction of the Musée de la Mer. This mysterious prisoner, whose mask was in fact of leather or velvet rather than iron, was locked up from 1687 to 1698 in a cell that can still be seen today.

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