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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User Reviews

Angus Wardle (4 months ago)
Quiet place but nothing much here.
Mandy Redman (8 months ago)
Such a beautiful island. We had a lovely walk all around. The colour of the sea was beautiful. Will have to return in summer to swim and see the underwater statues.
J Rieul (13 months ago)
Nice ! Short museum but at least you can have hiking, beaching and culture in the same place.By the way the "Iron mask" cell is just a small room, no fancy thing but nice view from the window
Swjatoslav Cicer (13 months ago)
Wonderful place, just wonderful )
Vitalie Crudu (14 months ago)
Listed as a historic monument, the Fort Royal on Sainte Marguerite Island owes its notoriety to its most famous prisoner, the Man in the Iron Mask, incarcerated there for eleven years when the fort housed a state prison. Built between 1624 and 1627 on the site of old Roman fortifications, the fort began as a simple fortified house. During Spanish occupation in 1635, the little fort was extended and reinforced. Winning back the island in 1637, the French named the citadel Fort Royal and added reinforcements: deeper ditches, higher outer defence walls, two half-moons joining the fort by raised footbridges (gone today) and, later, a low bastion in front of the entry gates.  The military architect Vauban gave the fort its pentagonal shape flanked by four bastions.
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