The Île Sainte-Marguerite island is most famous for its fortress prison (the Fort Royal), in which the so-called Man in the Iron Mask was held in the 17th century.

The island is first known to have been inhabited during Roman times, when it was known by the name Lero. In 1612, ownership of the island passed from the monks of Saint-Honorat to Claude de Lorraine, Duke of Chevreuse. Shortly after, construction of a fort on the island (to become the Fort Royal) began. In 1635, the island was captured by the Spanish and recaptured by the French two years later.

Towards the end of the 17th century, the Fort Royal became home to a barracks and state prison. During the 18th century, the present-day village of Sainte-Marguerite developed, thriving on the spending power of the soldiers stationed on the island.

The Fort Royal was home to a number of famous prisoners until its closure in the 20th century. As well as the Man in the Iron Mask, a mysterious prisoner whose identity remains unknown, Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri (an Algerian rebel leader), Marquis Jouffroy d’Abbans (inventor of the steamboat) and Marshal Bazaine (the only successful escapee from the island) have all spent time there.

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Founded: 17th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Chaimae Bouanane (15 months ago)
The island is overall pretty but swimming experience isn't thaaaat good (not a sand beach + lots of seaweed) . Would have preferred to stay swimming in Cannes instead.
Jeroen Riedstra (17 months ago)
A beautiful island with quiet nature so close to Cannes. Definitely worth the short boat trip.
Phil Jewell (2 years ago)
Interesting place to visit. The man in the iron mask cell and associated museum was really worth a visit.
Andy Nolan (2 years ago)
Interesting to explore. No direction given and a simple map. Beautiful place. History of the man in the iron mask and a museum around the Roman ruin the fortress stands on and the navel trading vessel wrecks.
pragya pant (2 years ago)
A great place for hiking and trekking. You reach to this island through Ferry ride which frequent every hour. Last time for return from the island on our ferry tickets was 1830 hours. There is this fort on the top with breathtaking views which used to be a prison jail. There is a museum inside the fort which boasts to have the famous Iron mask of the unidentified French prisoner. Unfortunately, the prison and the iron mask were not open for viewing during our visit as they were setting up for grand opening of the exhibition. We could only see roman cistern system and old Roman ship excavation items and all other exhibitions were closed. We didn't find it value for money 4€ per person. I would recommend carry light as it is up hill climb. Do carry water. There are few food kiosks on the way up to the fort.
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