Dumas constructs the plot around the notion that the Man in the Iron Mask is the twin brother of Louis XIV, Philippe, who had been concealed and imprisoned from birth by his father, Louis XIII, and his mother, Anne of Austria, "for the good of France". Only a very few people living at the start of the novel know of Philippe's existence; these include his mother, Anne, and her former confidante, the Duchesse de Chevreuse. Chevreuse has let the secret slip to Aramis, the Bishop of Vanne and a former lover of Chevreuse. Aramis plots a coup d’état to replace Louis with Philippe and recruits Porthos to assist, although Porthos is unaware of the true nature of the plot. Aramis believes that, if he puts Philippe on the throne in place of Louis, Philippe can assure Aramis's promotion to cardinal, and will eventually assist Aramis to become Pope. Aramis's further aim is to enhance Fouquet's position in France so that Fouquet will become prime minister under Philippe; Aramis plans to replace Fouquet as prime minister upon Fouquet's retirement. Through an elaborate subterfuge mounted by Aramis, Philippe replaces a prisoner due for release from the Bastille and escapes to Vaux. Meanwhile, Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finance, is throwing a lavish party for Louis at Vaux. Colbert, junior to Fouquet and hoping to supplant him, is jealous and turns the king against Fouquet; the king contemplates having Fouquet arrested, but defers his decision. While the king is still visiting Fouquet at Vaux, Aramis initiates the second half of his plan and kidnaps Louis with the unwitting assistance of Porthos, imprisoning Louis in the Bastille in Philippe's place. He then substitutes Philippe for the King. Aramis conspiratorially informs Fouquet of his acts. Aramis's treachery greatly angers Fouquet; Fouquet goes to the Bastille, rescues Louis, and brings him back to Vaux to confront Philippe. Realizing that his plot has unravelled, Aramis flees for Belle Isle to escape the king's impending wrath, taking Porthos with him. Louis returns to Vaux, exposes Philippe, and regains the throne with d'Artagnan's help, ending Philippe's brief reign. Louis banishes Philippe, ordering that "he will cover his face with an iron visor" which he "cannot raise without peril of his life." Athos and Raoul meet Aramis and Porthos who relate their predicament before receiving horses to aid their journey to Belle Isle. But they are followed by the Duc de Beaufort, on his way to Algiers for an expedition against the Barbary corsairs. Raoul, devastated by the king's love affair with Louise, volunteers to join the Duc in his expedition. Athos accompanies him to the port of Toulon, and on the way they encounter the Man in the Iron Mask just as d'Artagnan is bringing him to the prison at Sainte-Marguerite, who throws to them a silver dish on which he inscribed the words: "I am the brother of the king of France—a prisoner to-day—a madman to-morrow." Nothing comes of this, however, as Raoul is off to war in Africa, and Athos is retired from politics. The Duc goes on to win the battle, sinking forty-six Algerine vessels. At Toulon, father and son part their ways. Despite Fouquet's rescue, Louis orders d'Artagnan to arrest Fouquet. Louis then orders d'Artagnan to arrest Porthos and Aramis. D'Artagnan feigns compliance whilst secretly giving his friends time to escape. However, Colbert discerns d'Artagnan's sympathies and undermines him. d'Artagnan resigns on learning that prisoners are to be executed immediately once arrested. Attempting an escape from Belle Isle, Porthos is killed, while Aramis escapes to sea. Meanwhile, Athos returns to his estates and lapses into decline. On hearing that Raoul has died in action at Gigelli, Athos succumbs to grief and dies. Meanwhile, the detained d'Artagnan is freed by King Louis and reinstated. He learns of Porthos' death and Aramis' escape.Vom Verlag:
Dumas constructs the plot around the notion that the Man in the Iron Mask is the twin brother of Louis XIV, Philippe, who had been concealed and imprisoned from birth by his father, Louis XIII, and his mother, Anne of Austria, "for the good of France". Only a very few people living at the start of the novel know of Philippe's existence; these include his mother, Anne, and her former confidante, the Duchesse de Chevreuse.
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