Historian Wilkinson plumbs the depths of one of the most enduring mysteries of Louis XIV's reign: the story of Eustache Dauger, who spent more than 30 years in the prison system of Louis XIV's France and became famous as the inspiration behind Alexandre Dumas's novel.
It is a telling narrative of the excesses and pettiness of an unchecked aristocracy and its privilege. The inclusion of archival photographs, letters, and maps help to offer a better understanding of the era ... Dense with detail, this comprehensive work requires some knowledge or interest in this specific period of French history.
There were, Ms. Wilkerson says, two notable prisoners in Pignerol at the time of the mystery man’s incarceration ... Ms. Wilkinson devotes long chapters to both of them. Their stories are certainly interesting but add little to the quest for the masked man’s identity, except this: He seems to have served briefly as Fouquet’s valet, which suggests that he wasn’t of noble birth ... for all Ms. Wilkinson’s wonderful portraiture and sleuthing, one is persuaded only that the mysterious prisoner was indeed 'only a valet.' But how and why he transgressed, and drew the terrible sentence on himself, remains a mystery.
Wilkinson microscopically picks apart all the theories that have sprung up about the man in the iron mask and all the arguments and counterarguments that scholars have wrestled with over the centuries. Wilkinson’s cast of characters swirls torrents of intrigue, but adepts in historical sleuthing will appreciate the dizzying twists and turns of all the minutiae.