BOYS, Richard, The Reverend (1785-1867). Chaplain to the Honourable East India Company on St. Helena, 1811 to 1830.
The Rev. Richard Boys was previously mentioned in my entry of December 9th 2008
Napoleon's Chair Discovered in Maidstone, 2009
A chair that belonged to Rev. Boys has now been discovered - or rather rediscovered - in Maidstone Museum. In a video embedded in a recent BBC article it is claimed that Napoleon used to sit, or rather fidget, in this chair when he visited Rev. Boys.
I have very serious doubts about the veracity of this claim - but would welcome any evidence to the contrary.
Napoleon visited very few houses on St. Helena, and as far as I am aware the house of Rev. Boys, appropriately known at the time as Kent Cottage, was not among them. (1) Had he done so, the Governor would have been informed, and there would surely be documentary evidence about the visits.
Rev Boys was a thorn in the flesh of the authorities on St Helena both before Napoleon arrived and after he had died. Any report that he was meeting Napoleon would I am fairly certain have met with some reaction. The Governor would I suspect have been glad of any excuse to get Rev. Boys off the island!
Arnold Chapin made this comment about Boys and Napoleon:
So far as the captivity was concerned, Mr Boys was brought into contact with Napoleon on one occasion only .He buried Cipriani, and for this service was given by Napoleon on April 18th, 1818, a snuff-box for himself and £25 for the poor. The snuff-box was returned, however, on account of having been given in a manner contrary to the regulations. (2)
I do think that the chair was probably Napoleon's, or to be more precise, that the chair came from Longwood. Whether Napoleon used to sit in it and was responsible for the markings on it is another matter!
Napoleon's Chair Discovered in Maidstone, 1911
After Napoleon's death the contents of Longwood were sold off to all and sundry, and it is conceivable that the Rev Boys obtained this item at that time. This at least was the view of an article which appeared in the New York Times in 1911 when the chair was last discovered!
At that time the chair on display in Maidstone museum bore the foillowing inscription:
This chair was used by Napoleon Bonaparte during his captivity in St. Helena. After his decease it was purchased by the Rev. R. Boys, then Chaplain to Sir Hudson Lowe, Governor of St. Helena, and subsequently Vicar of Loose, near Maidstone. At his decease it was purchased and presented to this museum by Alexander Randall, Esq. (3)
That sounds to me a more plausible explanation! I would be happy to be corrected.
1. This house has also at times been known as Smith’s Gate House and Stone Top Cottage. – It is more famous as the prison of the Boer General, Pieter Arnoldus Cronjé.
2. Arnold Chapin, A St. Helena Who's Who (London 1919). An earlier edition used the word "Longwood" instead of "Napoleon", which casts a little doubt as to whether Boys ever met Napoleon in person.
3. The article is entitled Marryat's Sketch of Napoleon on His Bier, but it refers to the chair in Maidstone Museum as well as the sketch.