Saturday, 29 August 2009

Bertrand's Cottage - a postscript

No sooner had I done the last entry regarding Michel's blog than a new entry appeared, and then another. I have a number of topics I wish to develop, but they can wait. In the meantime I feel I must draw attention to these posts since they tie in so much with my own interests.

I have always found Mme Bertrand perhaps the most interesting of Napoleon's entourage, and was concerned on my visit at the neglect of the cottage. It is very pleasing to find that its importance in the story of the Captivity and therefore in St. Helena's history, is now being recognised.

Anyway Michel's posting of 28th August reproduces an important document by Bertrand's faithful servant Etienne Bouges, which provides a unique perspective on life in this cottage during the captivity: Napoleon rarely visited; Bertrand went to Longwood House every day; Madame Bertrand cried a lot. Don't rely on my summary, read it for yourself, there is an English translation with it!

The very
latest gives an account of Michel's speech (in English) at the ceremony marking the lease of the cottage to the National Trust.

I have reproduced the last paragraph, which I think exemplifies the philosophy which Michel brings to his work.

This house is a resume in its own right. In this house, the present, the future are not opposed to the past, they are made from the same faith and vision. We are here because we all share this faith in St. Helena, in its past without shame. St. Helena with its prisoners, its slaves, its misery and also its glory … is St. Helena we respect. … we love and to which we are faithful. This house is no judge. This House is - a patient – a silent – witness. May she look upon us kindly tomorrow for what we do today. Together .

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