Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A Gift to the Emperor Napoleon by a British Admirer

Bust of Charles James Fox presented to Napoleon at the Elysee Palace on May 1st 1815

I have previously blogged about the Honorable Anne Seymour Damer, like so many Whigs a great admirer of Napoleon. As Napoleon hurriedly prepared for the oncoming battle against the formidable coalition raised against him, Mrs Damer, then in her 66th year, hastened over to France to present the above sculpture of Charles James Fox.

I am surprised that Napoleon found time to see her. I am also intrigued as to how and through whom the meeting was arranged.

I have now learned more about this remarkable lady from a recently discovered Facebook page and a website.

Mrs Damer had met Napoleon and members of his family in 1803 after the Treaty of Amiens, which allowed many English people to visit France after 14 years of revolution and war. At that meeting she had presented terracotta statues of Nelson whom Napoleon admired, and Charles James Fox, a Whig hero whom Napoleon often claimed in 1814-15 could have avoided war between Britain and France.

Apparently at the 1803 meeting Mrs Damer promised Napoleon a marble bust of Fox, and this was completed later and sent to France in 1812, but no opportunity for a formal presentation occurred until May 1815. In return Napoleon presented her with a diamond encrusted snuff box that now resides in the British Museum. Inside the box a gold plaque bears the following inscription:

'THIS BOX WAS GIVEN BY / The Emperor Napoleon of France / TO THE / HONORABLE ANNE SEYMOUR DAMER . / as a "souvenir" / (the word he used) / In consequence of her having presented him with / A Bust of Mr. Fox. executed in Marble by herself. / The Bust had been promised at the Peace of Amiens / was finished 1812. & sent to France where it remained / but was not presented till May 1st 1815 when by command of / His Imperial Majesty / ANNE SEYMOUR DAMER / had an audience for that purpose. / AT THE PALAIS ELYSÉE WHERE THE EMPEROR THEN RESIDED.'

Richard Webb has published a biography of this remarkable lady: Mrs D: The Life of Anne Damer (1748-1828) Hardcover – Sep 2013.

The bust of Fox was located in a cupboard at Malmaison. I am very grateful to the author for giving me permission to publish this rare photo of it.


Hels said...

I realise your post was examining sculpture but I love it when blogs make historical connections for me.

I was talking about the Napoleonic era in lectures during the week and focused on French music and the Halevy family. Fromental Halevy's father Elie celebrated the successes of Napoleon and the Peace of Amiens with poetry and music. How cool is that!

John Tyrrell said...

Irrespective of the Napoleonic connections I think Mrs Damer is well worth further study. I intend to buy the biography. Now she would be an excellent subject for you to write on!!!

She met Fox, Nelson and Napoleon, and probably quite a few other famous people - not a bad roll call.

best wishes