The man in the iron mask
Limbs are creakier and friendships even more closely tested in this final yarn of Athos, Aramis, Porthos and D’Artagnan, with a distinctly autumnal tone to the narrative as each of the men finds his end. Aramis’ bold plot, and lofty ambitions are finally revealed. He intends to swap the King for his imprisoned twin brother, Philippe, putting his plan into action at Fouquet’s last extravagant fete at Vaux. All goes to plan until Aramis boasts to the ruined Superintendent about what he has done. Despite the fact that saving the true King will lead to his downfall, the honourable Fouquet reveals the plot, and Aramis must flee.
After recognising and restoring the true King to his throne, and detaining the impostor, D’Artagnan is sent by the King first to arrest Fouquet, who he only captures after a dramatic chase, and then to Belle-Isle in pursuit of Aramis and the innocent Porthos, who has been drawn into the plot by Aramis without realising its true import. D’Artagnan tries to save his friends at the expense of his own life and career, but Louis has anticipated him at every turn and he is powerless to act. Porthos expires on Belle-Isle, attempting to save himself and Aramis after the aborted plot, where his mighty physical strength finally fails him.
Saved at the last minute by his faithful Jesuits, Aramis manages to escape to Spain, after shedding the first tears of his life at the demise of his faithful friend. Unlucky Philippe is doomed to spend the rest of his days in even closer imprisonment than before, wearing an iron mask to conceal his true identity. Athos dies after learning of the death in battle of his heartbroken son, Raoul. Touching history again, the epilogue describes how our hero D’Artagnan eventually falls at the Battle of Maastricht.