640px-Man_in_the_Iron_Masque_cropThe Man in the Iron Mask (c 1640 – November 19, 1703) is the name given to an unidentified prisoner who was arrested in 1669 or 1670 and subsequently held in a number of French prisons, including the Bastille and the Fortress of Pignerol (modern Pinerolo, Italy). He was held in the custody of the same jailer, Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, for a period of 34 years. He died under the name “Marchioly”, during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1643–1715). Since no one ever saw his face because it was hidden by a mask of black velvet cloth, the true identity of the prisoner remains a mystery; it has been extensively debated by historians, and various theories have been expounded in numerous books and films.


Whilst there have been several books and poems written about the Man in the Iron Mask, the most famous account is contained within The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, a novel by Alexandre Dumas. The book is the third and last of The d’Artagnan Romances, following The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. It appeared first in serial form between 1847 and 1850. In the English translations, the 268 chapters of this large volume are usually subdivided into three, but sometimes four or even five individual books. In three-volume English editions the volumes are entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask.


There have been many adaptation of Dumas’ account of The Man in the Iron Mask.  These include:

  • The Iron Mask (1929), an American silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks
  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), an American black-and-white film starring Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett, Warren William and Alan Hale (as Porthos)
  • Lady in the Iron Mask (1952), an American colour film starring Louis Hayward, Patricia Medina and Alan Hale, Jr. (as Porthos)
  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1977), a British TV movie with Richard Chamberlain, Patrick McGoohan, Louis Jourdan, Jenny Agutter, Ian Holm, Ralph Richardson and Vivien Merchant
  • The Fifth Musketeer aka Behind the Iron Mask (1979), an Austrian/West German film with Ursula Andress, Beau Bridges, Cornel Wilde, Lloyd Bridges, José Ferrer, Olivia de Havilland, Rex Harrison and Alan Hale Jr. (as Porthos); remake of the 1939 film
  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), a British/American film with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gérard Depardieu and Gabriel Byrne

The Iron Mask (1929)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939)

Lady in the Iron Mask (1952)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1977)

The Fifth Musketeer aka Behind the Iron Mask (1979)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The_Man_in_the_Iron_Mask-1998The Man in the Iron Mask is an American action drama film which uses characters from Alexandre Dumas’ D’Artagnan Romances and is very loosely adapted from some plot elements of The Vicomte de Bragelonne.

The film centres on the ageing four musketeers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan, during the reign of King Louis XIV and attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, using a plot more closely related to the flamboyant 1929 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, The Iron Mask, and the 1939 version directed by James Whale, than to the original Dumas book. Like this version, the two aforementioned adaptations were also released through United Artists.

“For the honor of a king. And the destiny of a country. All for one.”

Released March 20, 1998 (UK); March 13, 1998 (US)

Notable Cast

  • Leonardo DiCaprio as King Louis XIV/Philippe
  • Gabriel Byrne as D’Artagnan
  • Jeremy Irons as Aramis
  • John Malkovich as Athos
  • Gérard Depardieu as Porthos
  • Anne Parillaud as Queen Mother Anne
  • Hugh Laurie as Pierre, Advisor to King Louis XIV