Thursday, 5 May 2011

190 Years Later, the Death of Napoleon is Commemorated on St Helena

Napoleon's Tomb, with two wreaths laid today by the Honorary French Consul, Michel Dancoisne Martineau, and the Governor of St Helena, Andrew Gurr

This is the first time that the death of Napoleon has been publicly commemorated on the island. In the past there have been occasional private ceremonies for French visitors, but never before has there been a formal ceremony in which the island authorities and ordinary Saints have been invited to participate. I would guess that the last formal ceremony commemorating Napoleon took place in 1840 when his body was exhumed, solemnly transported to Jamestown, and with much fanfare taken on board the Belle Poule for his final journey back to France.

Organised in conjunction with the St Helena Tourist Office, this is a long overdue recognition of the importance of the captivity of Napoleon to St Helena's past and to its future, as well as a mark of respect to a great man whom the British Government treated rather shabbily in his last days.

Congratulations again to Michel who has worked tirelessly for 25 years to bridge the divide between the French properties and the lives of the island's inhabitants. Hopefully this will become a regular event.

How wonderful too that modern technology allows us to see photographs of the ceremony on the same day. How different from the world of 1821 when the only images were those of amateur artists, and when news of Napoleon's death took several weeks to arrive in Europe.

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