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soner's love of fine linen greatly strengthened the presumption as to his mother, for Anne of Austria was known to abhor coarse drapery.
Amidst these various speculations, an opinion existed that the object of so much curiosity was the confidential agent of a duke of Mantua, and had incurred this strange and protracted imprisonment, by disappointing Louis the Fourteenth in a political intrigue. So modest a solution of that which Voltaire termed the most singular and astonishing of all historical mysteries was not likely to obtain general favour; it was early refuted, and would have been so again and again but that M. Delort has lately found out documents which prove it to be true. This gentleman produces, from the archives of France and those of the Foreign Office at Paris, a series of letters minutely developing the transactions of the French court with the Mantuan minister, and establishing, beyond any reasonable doubt, the identity of that personage with the Man in the Iron Mask. We proceed to take a short view of the correspondence thus collected, premising, however, that the principal facts discovered in its earlier part had been long before related with tolerable accuracy by the Italian annalist Muratori, of whose statements we shall, in some few instances, avail ourselves.
In 1677, when the grandeur of Louis the Fourteenth was at its highest pitch, and he was served in all departments by men of courage, genius, and industry, whose ambition lay in gratifying that of their master, the Abbé d'Estrades, ambassador of France to the Venetian State, formed the hope of acquiring for his sovereign, Casal, an important town and fortress in the territory of Ferdinand Charles, Duke of Mantua. This prince, who succeeded his father at a very early age, had arrived at manhood without attaining to power; his mother, a lady of the house of Austria, bore sway over his dominions, and they were wholly subjected, through her, to German influence. The duke himself was a debauched and uneducated young man, who dissipated his time and such money as he could command, in low company, de grading riot, and promiscuous amours.
D'Estrades selected, as his agent with the duke, Ercolo Antonio Matthioli, a native of Bologna, bachelor of laws in the university of that place, and a senator of Mantua. He had been secretary of state to the preceding duke, who graced him with the title of count: he enjoyed, also, the favour and confidence of Ferdinand, but without retaining his former station. As a displaced minister he still busied himself in observing the policy and relations of the Italian states; and appears to have cultivated an intercourse with the Spanish government at Milan, in some hope
of personal advantage; but the Spaniards, according to one of his own letters, knew not how to reward talents and industry. D'Estrades, having already found reason to believe this person` favourably disposed, addressed him through the medium of a subordinate intriguer, named Giuliani, lamenting the depressed and inglorious condition of Ferdinand, pointing out the ambitious designs of Spain and Austria on Casal and the Montferrat, as well as on the duchy of Guastalla, to which Ferdinand claimed a right of succession; and urging, that the only course to which that prince could resort for entire safety was to seek protection. from the king of France. The Mantuan confidant received these: overtures with eagerness, and procured Giuliani an interview with Ferdinand, who entered warmly into the projects of D'Estrades, and consented to negociate for the surrender of his fortress. Matthioli foresaw his own restoration to power in the establishment of his master's authority by French interference, and the duke was allowed to hope that Louis would send an army into Italy and place him at its head.
The Abbé d'Estrades submitted a narrative of his proceedings, to Louis, and dispatched with it a copy, in cipher, of a letter to the king from Matthioli. In this epistle (a composition equally officious and servile) the count represents Casal as the point d'appui which alone secured the Spaniards in their possession of the Milanese; observes that this territory ought to belong to the crown of France; and ( nescia mens hominum fati!') blesses his fortune for having procured him the honour of serving a monarch whom he reveres as a demi-god.
'Succederono dipoi varie commedie in esso affare,' says the Italian annalist. The duke, surrounded by persons in the Austrian interest, and closely watched by his mother and her spiritual director, Bulgarini, could not openly confer with D'Estrades, but promised to give him an audience in Venice at the ensuing carnival, when they could meet disguised and in masks without exciting curiosity. Louis wrote to the Abbé, expressing himself well satisfied that the Duke of Mantua had resolved to shake off the lethargy of pleasure, consult his own glory, and attach himself to French interests. He flattered the duke's hope of command, ing an army; desired the ambassador to keep up a belief that his master would send a strong force into Italy that year, and, at the same time, instructed him to maintain the negociation on such a footing that the king might advance or recede as he saw occa sion. Louis added a short letter of compliment to Matthioli. The ambassador found it no easy task to protract the business; 'elle va si vite,' he observes to the secretary Pomponne, que je suis réduit à être fâché de n'y trouver pas des difficultés.'
Some difficulty, however, did occur in fixing the present' which Ferdinand was to receive for admitting a French force into Casal; Matthioli insisted on a hundred thousand pistoles, but the abbé combated manfully, and brought down the pistoles to crowns.
The duke arrived at Venice, but some time elapsed before a private interview could be hazarded. In the meanwhile, D'Estrades was requested to see Ferdinand take his exercises at the riding-school; and he makes a particular report to his own government on the prince's qualifications as a cavalier. The conference was at length obtained; the parties met at midnight, in a public place, and Ferdinand announced his intention to hasten the depending treaty by dispatching Matthioli to Paris. He had the more reason for this impatience, as, relying on immediate support from France, he had precipitately taken possession of Guastalla, thus crossing the designs and arousing the jealousy of his Austrian and Spanish neighbours. The ingenuity of D'Estrades was forthwith at work to contrive delays, though he dared not openly oppose the journey. But his labour was spared. The Spaniards became so formidably urgent with the duke to declare against France, withdraw the garrison of Guastalla, and receive German troops into Casal, that Matthioli, not trusting to the unsupported resolution of his master, deemed it prudent to continue near him. Sickness and other causes protracted the delay; but, at length, in October, 1678, the count departed for Paris accompanied by Giuliani, a very useful personage, but not qualified to add much lustre to the mission in the eyes of Louis the Fourteenth, as he was merely un petit gazetier,' keeping a shop at Venice, where he published the news of the day in written sheets, (for printed journals were not in use,) and eked out his revenue by labouring as a common scribe.
D'Estrades met them at the house of M. de Pomponne; a treaty was drawn up and a letter dispatched from the king to the Duke of Mantua. Matthioli was dismissed with a liberal reward, and promises of advancement for his sons and brother. The peace of Nimeguen had been concluded this year, and Louis, being now on friendly terms with the house of Austria, had leisure to undermine the interests of that power in Italy. Catinat, already renowned by more honourable exploits, was sent into Piedmont about the end of December, with an order to St. Mars, the French commandant of Pignerol, to conduct him by night and unperceived into the donjon. D'Asfeld (a name celebrated in the Spanish war of the Succession) repaired to Venice as an ordinary traveller. His commission was to obtain a meeting with the Duke of Mantua, and procure his ratification of the treaty; this accomplished, Catinat was to issue from his hiding-place, and take, possession
possession of Casal with a French force which now drew towards the Italian frontier for that service. Ferdinand still appeared impatient for the proposed alliance, and the agents of France looked anxiously for Matthioli, believing that on his return the affair would at once be concluded.
But January passed away and Matthioli did not arrive. had shaken off the 'gazetier' at Turin, and his own journey through the Italian states was surprizingly retarded. The duke, who was to meet D'Asfeld at Casal, began to find reasons for deferring the interview; he was unprepared with money; he waited for the heir presumptive of Mantua, who was to attend him on his journey; he had engaged with some Venetian gentlemen to give a carrousel,' and suspicions would arise if he disappointed them. In the meanwhile, Italy was resounding with rumours; the march of the French troops, which could not be concealed, excited alarms for Casal, for Genoa, for Savoy, for Geneva, and a report arose that Vauban was in Pignerol. Intelligence of a more authentic character soon followed. Ferdinand was pressed with expostulation by the agents of Spain and Austria, but Matthioli still assured the French of his master's fidelity, and it was finally arranged that the long deferred ratification should take place at a village named Incréa, near Casal, on the 9th of March. D'Asfeld accordingly left Venice, but was arrested in the Milanese; and Matthioli, who had set out a day or two later, returned, after a short absence, and informed Pinchesne, (the chargé-d'affaires acting in the place of D'Estrades,) that the duke had been compelled to execute a treaty which disabled him from keeping his engagement with France.
During these transactions, Catinat (under the name of De Richemont) had been patiently waiting the season of activity in his narrow winter-quarters. On the arrest of D'Asfeld, he was ordered to Incréa in that officer's stead; the expedition was of course fruitless, and he returned to Pignerol, where he was allowed to solace the hours of his confinement with the conversation of two distinguished state-prisoners, Fouquet, and the Count (afterterwards Duke) de Lauzun. D'Estrades, still clinging to the hope of accomplishing his long-cherished project, had written a letter to Matthioli from Turin, containing an awkward mixture of reproof, praise, menacé, allurement, implied suspicion and affected confidence the epistle, in short, of a slighted gouvernante; but it was too late for remonstrance; the treachery became every day more palpable, and a communication from the Duchess-dowager of Savoy at length brought the mortifying certainty that Louis the Fourteenth had been duped by the obscure agent of a small Italian prince.
So audacious a crime could only be expiated by the ruin of the offender, D'Estrades was commissioned to ensnare him, and Louvois wrote thus to the governor of Pignerol:
'A M. de St. Mars.
St. Germain en Laye ce 27 Avril, 1679. Le Roy envoye présentement ordre à M. l'Abbé d'Estrades, d'essayer de faire arrester un homme de la conduite duquel Sa Majesté n'a pas sujet d'estre satisfaite; de quoi elle m'a commandé de vous donner advis, afin que vous ne fassiez point de difficulté de le recevoir lorsqu'il vous sera envoyé, et que vous le gardiez de manière que non-seulement il n'ayt commerce avec personne, mais encore qu'il ayt lieu de se repentir de la mauvaise conduite qu'il a tenue, et que l'on ne puisse point pénétrer que vous ayez un nouveau prisonnier. DE LOUVOIS.'
The indifference with which these arrangements were made for seizing and imprisoning, on political grounds, the subject of a foreign power, was consistent both with the character of Louvois and with the spirit of the government. The violence exercised on Matthioli is not without parallel in the history of these times, and the minister who threatened Heinsius with the Bastille, for an expostulation on behalf of the Prince of Orange, was not likely to be withheld by fear or respect from executing such an outrage on the minion of a Duke of Mantua.
Soon after the abandonment of the treaty, we find Matthioli once more at Turin, where he met the Abbé d'Estrades, and had the effrontery to press him for the repayment of expenses incurred during the late negotiation. The Abbé craftily observed, that Catinat had been furnished with money for the exigencies of the service, and proposed that they should wait upon that officer. Matthioli, strangely unconscious of the dangers which environ those that trifle with demigods,' consented; and on the 2d of May, D'Estrades and he departed from Turin early in the morning. Such was the Italian's eagerness, that, when their progress was stopped by a broken bridge, he himself assisted in repairing it. On approaching the end of their journey, D'Estrades left his carriage and servants, and proceeded on foot with Matthioli to a place within the French territory, where Catinat expected them
The story of François de la Bretonnière, the Leyden printer, who, for publishing a satire on Louis XIV., was clandestinely seized in Holland, and confined many years in a cage of wood at St. Michel, in Normandy, where he died, is a more melancholy though less famous anecdote than that of the Iron Mask.-See History of the Bastille. London. 1790. The Armenian patriarch, named in the Register of the Bastille, Avedik, was forcibly carried away from Constantinople during the reign of Louis, by the contrivance of the Jesuits, and died a prisoner in Paris. It is he whom some persons identified with Marchiali. While on the subject of these arrests, we may add the remarkable fact, that a lettre de cachet (obtained for private purposes) was secretly executed in London on a M. Bertin de Fratteaux, so lately as in 1752, and the prisoner conveyed to the Bastille, where he passed the remainder of his life.