Professor of history Paul Sonnino lays out his case for solving a 350-year-old mystery in his latest book, “The Search for the Man in the Iron Mask: A Historical Detective Story” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Using what he calls “radical empiricism,” Sonnino walks the reader through reams of correspondence, official records and his own ups and downs as he recounts his sleuthing.
“Serious historians have long ago discounted the legend popularized by Voltaire and Dumas that he was the twin brother of Louis XIV. They are pretty much in agreement that his name was Eustache Dauger, that he only occasionally wore the mask, and that when he did wear a mask, it was velvet, not iron,” Sonnino noted. “They are also quite sure that he was a valet. What they have not been able to figure out is whose valet he was, and for what possible reason he was held under tight security for over 30 years.”
According to Sonnino, Dauger was the valet of the treasurer of the late Cardinal Mazarin, who had been principal minister of France during Louis XIV’s childhood and youth, and who had accumulated a huge fortune, some of which he even passed on to the king himself.