Built on Roman remains
Fort Royal was built between 1624 – 1627 on the site of a Roman rainwater tanks system and ancient bath. At that time, the fort was a fairly simple building and although it was heavily expanded around 1636, it was under Vauban that the fort was extended to the fort we see today with its star-shaped construction, which is very similar to Fort Carré in Antibes.
The sights of the fort
The fort contains a number of interesting things to look forward to: the 17th century chapel, the barracks buildings, the Bazaine terrace, the Méditerranoscope (a small marine biology aquarium), the Cannes Sea Museum, which also contains the ancient prison, and the ancient Roman cisterns.
The Man with the Iron Mask
The big draw in the prison section is, of course, the cell where the mysterious prisoner, the Man with the Iron Mask, was imprisoned for 11 years. This prisoner has throughout history been immortalized by writers and filmmakers, from Voltaire to Randall Wallace’s 1998 film “The Man in the Iron Mask”.
Today, more than 350 years since the arrest of the most mythical prisoner in world history, speculation about his identity is still widespread. However, recent research suggests that the man’s name was Eustache Dauger, an ordinary man born in 1637.
Same prison guard through 34 years
The reason for his arrest in 1669 must be found in his political involvement and he ended up in prison for 34 years – and particularly notable with the same prison guard throughout the years.
The prison guard was named Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars and, when he changed prisons, the prisoner followed. When Dauvergne became governor of the Lérins islands in 1687, he took his famous prisoner with him.
There are many suggestions as to why the prisoner should wear an iron mask. One tells that it was a trick from Dauvergne so he could impress the crowds with the importance of the prisoner he had with him.
It was after this time that rumors of the man with the iron mask began to circulate. One of the most persistent speculations was that it was King Louis XIV’s twin brother and that this was the reason why he had to hide behind a mask. Here illustrated by a poster in the prison corridor at Fort Royal.
By Tommy Sverre / 2021
Picture gallery of the prison cells: