Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Images of St Helena

St Helena has had more than its share of problems in 2008 - escalating fuel prices which impact on everything purchased on the island; heavy rains and rock falls; problems with the ageing mail ship (RMS St. Helena) and now uncertainty as to whether the airport will be built.

For a short time though its inhabitants, like those of much of the rest of the globe, are putting aside the economic doom and gloom and celebrating the holiday season.

I liked the colour of this parade down the main street in Jamestown, and thought it worth sharing(and worth clicking on for a larger image).

It is comforting to note also that Jonathan - the island's most famous inhabitant other than Napoleon - who has attracted international attention this year and may or may not be the oldest animal in the world, continues to do what he has done through two World Wars, countless smaller conflicts, one Great Depression, numerous recessions, and the reigns of some half dozen British monarchs.

Long may his health and good fortune continue; and best wishes to all the other less well known residents of the island.

Best wishes and thanks also to the St. Helena Independent, the source of the images reproduced here, and an invaluable source of news and opinion on events on the island.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

St. Helena Residents During the Captivity

For some time I had been meaning to do an entry on the families who lived on St. Helena during the Captivity of Napoleon. Reading G.L. De St. M. Watson's interesting work on Piontkowski and St. Helena has finally spurred me to do this. (1) This book contains a list of over 30 people that Hudson Lowe suspected might have been involved in helping Napoleon to smuggle letters to Europe.

I hope that this entry may be of some help to those trying to trace the names of families who once lived on St. Helena. It does not pretend to provide a definitive record.

Gilbert Martineau, in his Napoleon's St. Helena breaks the white population of the island into two categories: "big" whites and "small" whites, probably an appropriate terminology to describe the hierarchical world that was the British Empire. Below these would be the trades people, the free blacks and the slaves. (2)

The first category consisted of the well established families who lived in the fine houses scattered around the island - the Doveton (Mount Pleasant) , Hodson (Maldivia House) and Brooke families (Prospect House).

Others who were admitted to Plantation House functions during the East India Company period included Robert Leech (High Knoll) and D. Leech, B.A. Wright, John De Fountain, David and John Kay, Thomas Greentree (Fairyland), George Blenkens, Robert and Henry Seale (Castle of Otranto), Anthony Beale, George Lambe, Charles Blake and Nathaniel Kennedy. These families tended to intermarry and held all the important positions on the island.

Other family names on the island at the time included Bennett, Brabazon, Carr, Shortiss, Kinnaird, Bagley, Knipe, Torbett, Mason, Legge, Robinson, Broadway, Firmin, Young, Carrol, O'Connor, Porteous, Smith, Haynes, Beale, Hunter, Den Taafe, Cole, Harrington and Fowler.

Sir Hudson Lowe's List of Suspects

Sir Hudson Lowe's list, referred to earlier, not only provides an insight into the paranoia and distrust of Sir Hudson Lowe, but also affords a glimpse of the commercial life of St Helena during the Captivity. (3)

Some on the list appear in the Judicial Records I have been working on, but the Records rarely give any indication of occupation. Few if any of the names are I think now current on St. Helena.

Most of the names on the list are reproduced below, with any additional information that I have to hand.

Samuel Solomon -the founder of the firm which still trades on St. Helena
Mr Bruce (clerk to Solomon)
Joseph Solomon

Mr Boorman - a plumber and paper hanger often employed at Longwood; he and his wife assisted Darling with the funeral arrangements.
Mr Paine - a painter and paper hanger, an employee of John Bullock (London) sent out to from the UK to work on New Longwood house
Mr Darling - another employee of John Bullock; served as undertaker at Napoleon's funeral; assisted also at the exhumation.

Mr Heywood
Mr Lowden
Mr Cole - postmaster
Members of the firm Balcombe, Cole & Co - Messrs. Fowler (Oaklands), Waring and Banks. The Balcombe family had by this time left the island.
Mr Scriven - warehouseman
Mr Wright - late captain St Helena Regiment - who was acquitted of murder in the duelling case in 1808 referred to in an earlier entry on this blog.

Mr Metcalfe - carpenter
Mr Bannister - victualler
Mr Simpson
Mr Eyre - lodging-keeper
Mr Mulhall
Mr Chamberlayn - carpenter
Mr Gordon - cooper
Mr Baker, contractor
Mr Carroll - merchant
Mr McRitchie - shopkeeper
Mr Torbett - shopkeeper; owned the land on which Napoleon was buried.
Mr Blunden - clerk
Mr Greenland - shopkeeper
Mr Green - shopkeeper
Mr Dring - auctioneer
Mr Julio - no fixed employment
Mr Tracy - butcher

Reverend Boys and Illegitimacy on St. Helena

One of the most colourful people on the island at this time was the Reverend Richard Boys, whose forthright opinions sometimes brought him into conflict with the powers on the island, most notably in his condemnation of Admiral Plampin's cohabitation with a lady not his wife.

On occasions when Boys was asked to record the births of children of slave women fathered by people of rank on the island, he insisted on writing the names and positions of the fathers in bold letters in the register. Apparently these names were virtually impossible to erase. Boys' efforts appear to have had some effect, as the decline in the number of illegitimate children registered suggests:
1813 :- 198; 1814 :- 101; 1815 :- 58 1816:- 46; 1817:- 53; 1818:- 39; 1819 :- 50; 1820 :- 17; 1821 :- 16; 1822 :- 6.
1, G.L. De St. M. WatsonA Polish Exile with Napoleon(London and New York) 1912. I can find little about this author, who happened to live in nearby Wigan long before it was discovered and made famous by George Orwell. It seems to me to be a curious place find a Napoleonic scholar! on the occasion of his publication of a volume on Napoleon's death mask, Watson was described by the New York Times (August 15th 1915) as a leading Napoleonic iconographer. Watson was apparently a friend of Arnold Chaplin, whose A St. Helena Who's Who (London 1919) is an invaluable source for information on St. Helena during the captivity.

2. Chaplin gives the breakdown of the population as follows: 3534 whites; 1156 slaves; 481 Chinese; 613 Free Blacks; 33 Lascars (Asian sailors). He gives the total military population as 2181. Arnold p. 15

3.The background to this incident is as follows: In 1819 Mr Ripley, the captain of the Regent was apparently approached on St. Helena and offered some money to take some correspondence from Longwood to Europe. He informed Col. Reade, who informed Sir Hudson Lowe. Lowe sent a letter to Lord Bathurst listing possible suspects about whom Ripley should be questioned. Quite what Lord Bathurst made of this one can only imagine.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Generals' Apartments at Longwood House and other matters

It is now over three months since my last posting. Travels to Portugal, Malaysia and Norway, the credit crunch and the loss of much of what little wealth I once had have rather diverted my attention!

Anyway, it is time to resume. One of the objectives I set myself when I started this blog was to provide an occasional English language reference to Michel Martineau's blog. I have not done this for some time, but would now like to draw attention to the interesting posts made in November - on the neglect of the Bertrand House, on plans for tourist accommodation close to Napoleon's tomb, on the dilapidated state of Teutonic Hall (Mason's Stock House) and, most recently, some photos showing the restoration of the apartments which once housed Generals Montholon and Gourgaud, and Dr O'Meara.

The Generals' apartments were most recently inhabited by the former Chief Secretary (Mr Hallam), and before that housed a succession of French Consuls, including the Martineaus.

As I looked at these photos I couldn't help but doubt whether the apartments, like Longwood House itself, ever looked as luxurious during Napoleon's imprisonment. As the blog makes clear, there is no evidence of what decorations were in place during the captivity. Michel has made use of the drawings of George Bullock who was responsible for furnishing Longwood New House, to get an idea of how they might have been furnished. (1)
Michel Martineau's blog

The future of these apartments is not clear from the blog. I wonder if they too are to be opened to the public?

I never cease to be impressed with Michel's enterprise, energy and imagination. The excellent state of the French properties contrasts with much else on St. Helena - as many of his recent entries, including those on Bertrand's Cottage and Mason's Stock House indicate. The entry on Mason's Stock House documents the current decay, and also recalls the Napoleonic connections - with Lieutenant Wood and other British officers who regularly prayed there for the soul of Napoleon. (2)

1. Longwood New House, now demolished, stood close to Bertrand's Cottage. It was finished only a few days before Napoleon died; he always said he would not move there.

2. Lieutenant Wood was covered at some length in my blog on Napoleon's funeral, posted on March 7th 2008.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Road to St Helena Part III: Torbay and Plymouth

The story of Napoleon's arrival and reception in England is a remarkable one, but it is one about which most people in the UK are totally ignorant.

It is a difficult story to tell. No single view can do it justice. We need at least four cameras.

Camera One focuses on Napoleon's party. They are all devoted to the Emperor, and horrified by the decision to send him to St. Helena, but each has his/her own concerns. For some it is a concern that they will not be chosen to accompany the Emperor in exile. For Generals Lallemand and Savary there is the bigger concern that they might be handed over to the Bourbons, and to almost certain execution. For the volatile Mme Bertrand, it is the horror at her husband's determination to go to St. Helena; this was to drive her to attempted suicide. (1) For the children, apparently oblivious of the strains on their parents, the trip provided endless opportunity to play military games on the deck.

Camera Two focuses on the Government and its representatives. They are concerned at the signs of popular enthusiasm for the former Emperor, and are hopeful that once in a far off and isolated place he will soon be forgotten. If Napoleon was allowed to stay in England, the prime Minister wrote to the Foreign Secretary, it would raise legal questions,

which would be particularly embarrassing .. you know enough of the feelings of the people in this country not to doubt he would become the object of curiosity immediately, and possibly of compassion in the course of a few months .. St. Helena is the place in the world best calculated for the confinement of such a person. There is a fine Citadel there in which he might reside. The situation is perfectly healthy.

And of course, they are determined to humble the upstart Emperor, as the instructions prepared for Admiral Cockburn who was to accompany Napoleon to St. Helena indicate. Cockburn himself later reports to Melville

The General has descended from Emperor on board the Bellerophon to be prisoner on board the Northumberland with wonderful flexibility of mind and I am very much mistaken if I shall have any further difficulty in performing the task your lordship has confided to me.(2)

Camera Three focuses on Napoleon's supporters in England who are busily writing to the press, somehow managing to communicate with the party on the Bellerophon, and plotting to serve writs and sub poenas to bring Napoleon ashore. They are undoubtedly encouraged by the reception Napoleon receives from the people of Torbay and Plymouth. For William Cobbett, once one of Napoleon's strongest critics and now a vocal supporter, the size and reaction of the crowds is a victory over prejudice deep-rooted; prejudice the work of twenty years of calumnies .., it is a glorious triumph for Napoleon. (3)

Camera four focuses on the large crowd which takes to the boats both in Torbay and Plymouth to catch a glimpse of England's captive; their respect and apparent sympathy for the fallen Emperor causes concern amongst Tory supporters, who are frightened of revolt by England's unrepresented masses. Lady Fitzgerald writes to Sir Charles Hastings,

Believe me, the most unwise step our government ever took was showing John Bull that Bonaparte had neither horns nor hoofs (4)

No camera of course could capture what was going on in the head of the man at the centre of this whole extraordinary spectacle. His captors, like everyone else who came into contact with him, were fascinated:

Lord Keith:
D--n the fellow, if he had obtained an interview with his Royal Highness, in half an hour they would have been the best friends in England." (5)

Captain Maitland's servant, on being asked what the ship's company thought of Napoleon:
Why, Sir, I heard several of them conversing together about him this morning; when one of them observed,"Well they may abuse that man as much as they please; but if the people of England knew him as well as we do, they would not hurt a hair of his head;' in which the others agreed. (6)

Captain Maitland

He appeared to have great command of temper; for, though no man could have had greater trials than fell to his lot during the time he remained on board the Bellerophon, he never, in my presence, or as far as I know, allowed a fretful or captious expression to escape him: even the day he received the notification from Sir Henry Bunbury, that it was determined to send him to St. Helena, he chatted and conversed with the same cheerfulness as usual.. (7)

One morning he began to talk of his wife and child, and desired Marchand to bring two or three miniature pictures to show me: he spoke of them with much feeling and affection. 'I feel,' said he,'the conduct of the allied sovereigns to be more cruel and unjustifiable toward me in that respect than in any other. Why should they deprive me of the comforts of domestic society, and take from me what must be the dearest objects of affection to every man - my child, and the mother of that child?' On his expressing himself as above, I looked him steadily in the face, to observe whether he showed any emotion: the tears were standing in his eyes, and the whole of his countenance appeared evidently under the influence of a strong feeling of grief. (8)


Nightfall on 23rd July : From the Bellerophon Dartmoor is spotted in the distance; Napoleon is informed by Captain Maitland as he is preparing for bed; he puts on a great coat and comes on deck. where he stays for some time.

Day-break 24th July: Napoleon is informed by Count Bertrand that they are off Dartmouth; he comes on deck at 4.30 and remains until they anchor off Torbay. Among the instructions that come aboard is a letter from Lord Keith:
You may say to Napoleon that I am under the greatest personal obligations to him for his attention to my nephew, who was taken and brought before him at Belle Alliance, and who must have died, if he had not ordered a surgeon to dress him immediately, and sent him to a hut.

Napoleon and his party anxiously begin to inspect the newspapers, which seem to suggest that Napoleon will not be allowed to land, and that the likely destination is St. Helena. They hope that the newspapers are wrong.

Soon General Gourgaud arrives, he has not been allowed to land and personally deliver Napoleon's letter to the Prince Regent.

The Bellerophon is soon surrounded by boats. Napoleon comes on deck, and shows himself to the waiting crowds.

25th July: Even larger crowds. Napoleon spends over an hour on deck. He takes off his hat and bows to the women in the boats.

26th July: Captain Maitland is ordered to proceed to Plymouth. This is not a good sign. Napoleon makes no comment, but stays on deck most of the day. As they approach Plymouth he quizzes the Captain about the Breakwater that had been erected; it is he says a great national achievement. He fears that the similar work he has had done at Cherbourg and elsewhere will now be neglected.

Napoleon asks to see Lord Keith; but the latter is unwilling to see him until he has received instructions.

Captain Mailtand is instructed to prevent all communication with the shore, and to take measures to prevent Napoleon's escape.

Napoleon tells Maitland that he is anxious to see Lord Keith, even as a private person, until the British Government has determined in what light I am to be considered. He also complains about two frigates being placed close to the Bellerophon - as if I were not perfectly secure on a British line-of-battle ship - and the firing of muskets to keep boats at a distance: it disturbs and distresses me, and I shall be obliged to you to prevent it, if it lies in your power. Captain Maitland immediately orders the captains of the frigates to stop firing.

27th July. Maitland receives letter from Admiralty, dated July 25th: Napoleon Bonaparte is to be considered and addressed as a General Officer.

Large numbers of boats again surround the Bellerophon . Napoleon expresses admiration of the beauty of the English ladies, including Captain Maitland's wife who comes close enough to converse, but is not allowed to board the ship.

28th July. Lord Keith comes on board and speaks with Napoleon. Lord Keith expresses ignorance of the Government's intentions.

29th July. It rains incessantly. No boats: the Frenchmen were deprived of their usual amusement of admiring the ladies, and being admired in return.

30th July. Maitland says that over 1000 boats are gathered round the Bellerophon - each with an average load of 8 people.

31st July. Sir Henry Bunbury accompanies Lord Keith on board. Before they arrive Maitland informs Napoleon of one of the British Government's worst kept secrets ever: that Napoleon is to be sent to St. Helena. Madame Betrand tries to get Lord Keith to prevent her husband from going with Napoleon.

Napoleon complains to Captain Maitland:
To be placed on an island within the tropics, at an immense distance from any land, cut off from all communication with the world, and everything that I hold dear in it! ... I would prefer being delivered up to the Bourbons. Among other insults, but that is a mere bagatelle, a very secondary consideration, - they style me General! they can have no right to call me General; they may as well call me Archbishop, for I was head of the church, as well as the army. If they do not acknowledge me as Emperor, they ought as First Consul; they have sent Ambassadors to me as such; and your King, in his letters, styled me brother. Had they confined me in the Tower of London, or one of the fortresses in England, (though not what I had hoped from the generosity of the English people,) I should not have so much cause of complaint; but to banish me to an island within the Tropics! They might as well have signed my death-warrant at once, as it is impossible a man of my habit of body can live long in such a climate.

Napoleon writes another letter to the Prince Regent.

Napoleon appears on deck - to the suprise of Captain Maitland who has assumed he is too angry and upset to show himself to the crowd.

Madame Bertrand attempts to throw herself over board: on being forcibly prevented by Montholon and others whom he summoned for help, she becomes hysterical and abuses the English nation and Government in French and English.

Maitland is informed by Lallemand, Montholon and Gourgaud that the Emperor will not go to St. Helena: he will sooner put himself to death.

1st August. Lord Keith tells Maitland to inform the three Generals that the laws of England will regard them as murderers if they take Napoleon's life.

2nd August. Napoleon does not appear on deck. He refuseds to nominate people to accompany him to St. Helena. Privately Napoleon complains to Maitland about the cruelty of sending him to St. Helena. He also asks many questions about the island. At dinner he says little and appears unwell.

3rd August. Napoleon remains in his cabin. He is said to be unwell.

4th August. Lord Keith is pursued all day by a lawyer attempting to serve a sub poena.

Bellerophon is ordered to put to sea to avoid a writ of habeas corpus being served. Napoleon demands to know why the ship is being made ready for sea. He is informed that they are going to meet the Northumberland, and that he will be moved to the Northumberland at sea. Napoleon asks to see Lord Keith, who declined to visit. Bertrand informs Maitland, "L'Empereur n'ira pas à St. Hélène." [The Emperor will not go to St. Helena]

The ship leaves at 9.00 p.m., avoiding a boat approaching carrying the a lawyer bearing the writ summoning Napoleon to appear as a witness at the Court of King's Bench.

A boat carrying two women keeps close to the Bellerophon; the women wave their handkerchiefs whenever Napoleon appears at the window.

Napoleon writes another letter to the Prince Regent.

He remains in his cabin, even for meals.

5th August. Napoelon's protest is delivered to Lord Keith by Maitland.

6th August. O'Meara, the Bellerophon's doctor, tells Maitland he has been approached about accompanying Napoleon to St. Helena. The Northumberland is sighted.

Bertrand and Montolon make lists of things required by the French officers and ladies for the trip to St. Helena.
Lord Keith and Sir George Cockburn come on board - the latter, who is to escort Napoleon to St. Helena, is introduced to Napoleon. The French officers' weapons are removed. Napoleon is allowed to keep his sword.

7th August. Napoleon asks Maitland to send a written document to Bertrand informing him that Napoleon is to be removed to the Northumberland - he wants it made clear that he is being forced to go, and that he has not been consulted. Napoleon informs Maitland that he has no complaint at the way he has been treated by him, but again complains about his treatment by the British Government. I have not now to learn, however, that it is not fair to judge of the character of a people by the conduct of their Government.

Napoleon agrees that Gourgaud could accompany him in place of Planat.

Madame Bertrand again tries to persuade her husband not to go to St. Helena. Captain Maitland advised her that if your husband quits his master at such a time as the present. he will forfeit the very high character he now bears in this country.

Madame Bertrand has an altercation with Captain Maitland on hearing that the Emperor is not to have the whole of the after-cabin on board the Northumberland. They had better treat him like a dog at once, and put him down in the hold, she said.

On leaving the ship the Madame Bertrand asks to shake the Captain's hand.

Sir George Cockburn comes on board with his secretary Mr Byng to inspect Napoleon's baggage. Count Bertrand refuses to be present.

At 11.00 Lord Keith comes on board to escort Napoleon to the Northumberland. Two hours later Napoleon lets it be known he is ready. as Napoleon crossed the quarter-deck to leave the ship, the guard presented arms, and three ruffles of the drum were beat, being the salute given to a General Officer. p. 203

Napoleon thanks the captain and officers, and bows to the ship's company.
After the boat had shoved off, and got the distance of about thirty yards from the ship, he stood up, pulled his hat off, and bowed first to the Officers, and then to the men; and immediately sat down, and entered into conversation with Lord Keith, with as much apparent composure as if he had been only going from one ship to the other to pay a visit.

Lallemand and Savary go on board the Northumberland to say goodbye to the Emperor. They are in tears as they part from him.

8th August. Northumberland sets sail for St. Helena.
(1) Madame Bertrand is not the favourite of recent French historians of the captivity - her conduct on the Bellerophon and on St. Helena, and some of her comments, certainly provided ammunition for Napoleon's detractors. She was volatile no doubt, but she had had a lot to put up with; the execution of her father during the revolution, the long absences of her husband during Napoleon's wars, the exile on Elba, and now St. Helena. Captain Maitland, although he had several bruising encounters with her, was probably a fair judge: "perhaps a little warm .. a kind mother and an affectionate wife; and if she easily took offence, she as easily forgot it;" F.L. Maitland, Narrative of the Surrender of Buonaparte (London 1826) p. 226. He had no doubts about her ultimate loyalty to Napoleon: "when not influenced by the horror she entertained of being banished to St. Helena, always spoke of him [Napoleon] not only with affection, but in the language of respect and enthusiasm." (Maitland p. 232)

(2) Roger Morriss, who writes from the Government/Admiralty view point, says that instructions to Cockburn "laid more than normal stress on the personal qualities necessary for the task", and that "Cockburn was concerned to win the psychological duel for intellectual supremacy." Roger Morriss, Napoleon and St Helena, 1815-1816 The apportionment of cabins on the Northumberland was designed to put Napoleon in his place - as Mme Bertrand had immediately realised. Maitland of course had not been briefed as to how to deal with Napoleon, and had treated him as a distinguished guest, for which he received some criticism.

(3) Stuart Semmel, Napoleon and the British (Yale 2004) p. 171 See also my entry of April 20th 2008 on Capel Lofft

(4) She reported that during his stay at Plymouth the popular tide in his favour ran alarmingly high, and one evening the mob, won by his smiles, cheered him with enthusiasm She herelf found him more imposing, more extraordinary than any creature I have ever seen. .. He seems quite inaccessible to human tenderness or human distress - still he is wonderful. Dorothy Wordsworth wrote that she was sick of the adulation, the folly, the idol Curiosity which was gathered together round the ship that help the dastardly spirit that has so long been the scourge of all whom he could injure. Semmel p. 172 .

(5) Maitland p 211
(6) Maitland p.224
(7) Maitland pp 211-212
(8) Maitland p. 215

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Two Saints in Manchester: Where are the Factories?

Now for something totally different.

We have recently had two visitors from St. Helena. Having done an account of our visit to St Helena, I thought it would be interesting to produce some kind of record of their return visit to Manchester.

For them this was a once in a lifetime visit, and we wanted to make it memorable.

They were clearly surprised by Manchester. Not a factory in sight. We eventually found one that produces breakfast cereals. We couldn't find any smoking chimneys though.

This is a view of Manchester taken a few feet from the site of the IRA bomb that devastated the city a little over a decade ago.
In the distance is Manchester's answer to the London Eye!

One thing Manchester has in common with St. Helena is that it is hard to work out how it earns its living.

Like St. Helena it produces very little.

Its main industry is probably education - there are some 70000 students at the three local Universities.

The City Centre: From Prince Albert to Karl Marx via Peterloo

My wife has become experienced at showing others round the sights of the city centre - including some Mancunians who have been surprised what their native city has to offer. Not bad for a Norwegian!

So the Saints got the usual tour. Starting with the Albert Memorial and the statues in front of the Town Hall, the nearby statue of Abraham Lincoln, and the Hidden Gem (St. Mary's) - the site of the first purpose built Catholic Church to be built in England since the Reformation, with Norman Adams' wonderful abstract paintings of the Stations of the Cross.

Then to the Radisson Edwardian hotel, built on the site of the Peterloo massacre and the former Free Trade Hall. All that remains of the latter is the facade of 1856.(1)

Our visitors clearly enjoyed the luxurious surroundings of the Radisson.

Today the hotel staff were very excited - not by the visit of two people from some remote island in the South Atlantic, but by the imminent arrival of the Juventus football team. Unfortunately we couldn't wait to welcome them.

Then we moved on to the remarkable John Rylands library with its resemblance to a cathedral, then to the eighteenth century St Ann's Chuch and so to the Royal Exchange - once the site of the Cotton Exchange, and now the home of the largest theatre in the round in the UK.

Then after the Cathedral a visit to what is to me the most fascinating place in Manchester

- the medieval buildings of Chethams, home now to a School, as well as to the famous chain library - the oldest public library in the English speaking world.

Our two Saints can be seen sitting in Karl Marx's favourite seat in the library. A first surely for residents of St. Helena!

Nearby is a list of the books that Marx read in 1845. The stained glass which would have been in the windows in Marx's time was unfortunately destroyed by a storm some time after his last visit.

Finally a visit to the river Irk, on whose banks thousands used to live in insanitary conditions in the early industrial period, and then to Angel Meadow, beneath which 40,000 of Manchester's poorest inhabitants were buried in unmarked graves in the early nineteenth century.

A Temple of Shopping and the Theatre of Dreams

The Trafford Centre is I am told the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe.

It is truly a modern temple. I have to admit that I have hardly ever been there, and I found it more enjoyable to view it through the eyes of a tourist rather than as a shopper.

It is about as far removed from shopping on St. Helena as you can get. Our guests seemed to enjoy the experience.

I wonder what Karl Marx would have made of it all: the world's first industrial city which produces little, and has erected this huge temple dedicated to consumption.

Seems appropriate to move on to the Theatre of Dreams (Old Trafford), only a short drive away - here young men kick a ball around for tens of thousands of pounds a week, watched regularly by some 75,000 paying customers, with millions more watching on TV screens around the globe - including some on St. Helena.

Here our two Saints, one a Liverpool supporter and the other having no interest in football, posed in front of a picture of Europe's currently most successful team. The photo was taken by a supporter of Ipswich Town, and watched by a Norwegian supporter of Man Utd! A funny old world indeed.

On leaving I spoke with a delightful young man from Singapore whom I found lying on the ground with a camera. He was determined he told me to take the perfect picture of Old Trafford before he returned home. He had watched the friendly against Juventus the night before. It had ended 0-0. He had come thousands of miles and had not even seen a goal. Maybe next time, he said!

Fine Dining at the Lowry Hotel

We decided to take our guests for a meal at one of our favourite restaurants.(2) We hadn't been for some time, and found that it has become a convert to the cult of classic British cooking, under the guidance of Mark Hix. My wife and I agreed that we preferred it when Marco Pierre White was the Advisory Chef. Still, we had an excellent time, and our Saints seemed thrilled with the whole experience.

The young waitress from Vancouver looked after us very well. I don't think she had ever heard of St. Helena. She gave our guests a copy of the Menu to take away as a souvenir.

Liverpool: The Docks, The Beatles and Anfield

We decided to take our guests to visit the home of the Beatles, which is less than an hour's drive away.

Liverpool is currently European City of Culture, and we were keen to visit the Klimt Exhibition currently showing at the Tate.

It is sometime since I last visited Liverpool. The area around the Docks has been beautifully restored, but much of the rest of the City still bears the scars of industrial and maritime decline. In the last few days a Right Wing Think Tank has suggested that attempts to revive places like Liverpool and Sunderland are bound to fail - and that the population should be relocated to the south east, particularly to the areas around Oxford and Cambridge! I wonder what the Think Tank would suggest for the residents of St. Helena!

And so to Anfield, which is scheduled to disappear in the next three years, and be replaced by a brand new stadium.

As he perused the shirts on sale, our Liverpool supporter told us that for him this was a dream come true.

"Hay Fever" at the Royal Exchange

A quick visit to Manchester's Transport Museum.

Close by is a reconstruction of the world's first train station (first class passengers)

- and a notice telling us that the Duke of Wellington was booed when he came to Manchester for the opening of the railway in 1830. He was not too pleased.

We also took in an exhibition "Manchester Underground" which showed how water, sewerage, gas and electricity services had developed in the city. It took a long while for Manchester to get anywhere near the hygiene standards which the Romans in Britain had reached almost two thousand years earlier!

And so to a performance of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" at the Royal Exchange Theatre. It seemed appropriate that our guests' first visit to a theatre should be to a theatre in the round - closer to that of Shakespeare's day than the modern proscenium arch. We got them seats in the front row, and advised them to be careful not to trip up the actors.

Bramall Hall

By now we were flagging a little, but we felt that they had to see one of the best examples of the black and white architecture typical of these parts of the United Kingdom. This house has been much altered over the years, but parts of it were built before the first human beings set foot on St. Helena.

Our visitors have never experienced is a proper winter - one in which the trees lose all their leaves. I have included a picture of Bramall Hall taken earlier this year to illustrate this.

Another thing that came as a surprise to them was the light summer evenings - on St. Helena the sun sets at roughly the same time all year, around 7.00 p.m.; in Manchester it can stay light until 10.00 p.m. in mid-summer.

So we put our guests in the stocks

and then took them round the house.

Inside we met a lady who not only had heard of St. Helena but told us she intended to visit it on a mail ship that apparently comes to the island. She also informed us that they were planning to build an airport on the island. Now where had we heard that before?

Once again, and all too soon, it was time to say goodbye. Something which Saints are very used to.

It was a pleasure to have them as guests and to show them around. We hope to see them again on their home territory in the not too distant future.

(1)There have been a number of buildings on this site since the Peterloo Massacre (1819). Many famous people performed and spoke in the Free Trade Halls which once stood here - including Dickens, Churchill and Bob Dylan (twice). Incidentally Napoleon read about Orator Hunt and Peterloo whilst at Longwood. He took no satisfaction from it. The fall of the English aristocracy, he said, would be a great disaster for Europe.

(2)The River Restaurant at the Lowry Hotel - The best restaurant in the best hotel in Manchester, The River is the place to eat on a Friday or Saturday night, offering modern classic cuisine in a smart environment. Move to the bar for a nightcap and you'll see everyone who's anyone in the city, for better or worse. - The Independent, 100 Best Restaurants in the U.K. Another visitor, Michael Winner, was not so impressed with it. But he is a very hard man to please.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Ode to Despair: The St. Helena Independent

A few weeks back the St. Helena Independent reproduced one of
my blogs.

It is time to repay the compliment with a review of its latest issue.

My impression incidentally is that the St Helena Herald is a less gloomy read than the Independent. It certainly seems to have more pictures of Saints who carry on smiling whatever storm clouds are hovering above - less a newspaper and more a parish magazine? Perhaps I need more time to reconsider that sweeping judgement - but hey this is a blog, and anyway today I am focusing on The Independent, not The Herald!

St Helena Independent

The St. Helena Independent has not made for cheerful reading of late - and the doom and gloom does not emanate solely from Mr Cairns Wicks.

The island is very vulnerable to increases in fuel costs, since virtually everything consumed has to be transported from the Cape.

Massive increases in electricity, petrol and diesel prices have also been announced. (1)

A succession of problems with the RMS have increased the feeling of vulnerability.

Irrespective of the planned airport, the island will need a new ship for freight - and given the long lead time, plans need to be started soon. Unfortunately as we all know, H.M.G. has got its own problems, and St. Helena is likely to be a long way down the pecking order for scarce resources - and, as Napoleon himself observed, things move slowly on St. Helena.

Ode to Despair

I thought that The Independent's Ode, suitably enclosed in a black border, was worth reproducing.

The section on expatriates caught my eye. I picked up a little of this resentment during my trip earlier this year.

I imagine that the salaries and expenses are standard for those working in other dependencies, and probably less generous than those for employees of private sector firms working in remote areas of the world. Nevertheless the disparity of treatment is bound to cause concern in the present circumstances.

I do wonder what percentage of the £1.5 million cost of hiring expatriates is spent on the island. I fear that much remains in bank accounts in the UK and elsewhere, although it will show on the records as money spent on St. Helena.

As I read this and a piece by Mr. Cairns-Wicks (see below) I couldn't help thinking that the French contribution to the island and to its economy is not appreciated. The French Government and the Honorary Consul currently generate local employment on building and maintenance work, and the French properties are the key to the tourist potential of the island. One wonders what state they would be in had they been in British Government hands.

From Mr. Cairns Wicks' latest article:

family life has been torn apart
by enforced separations as family mem-
bers go abroad to work for a decent
wage. We are now being faced with hor-
rendous price rises which encompass
every facet of St. Helenian life. The price
of every imported item is escalating due
in part to the shipping costs and subse-
quent duty and import charges, our hos-
pital service is seriously short of trained
staff and our education system is short
of teachers. Our infer structure is in a
mess, our roads, water supplies, reser-
voirs and drainage system are suspect.
Some engines at the power station will
require replacement in the near future;
furthermore it is by no means a fail safe
unit as if one engine fails, we could be
in trouble as many huge freezers con-
taining essential supplies will stop work-
ing. It is now most urgent that a number
of our forts, emplacements and time
honoured features receive aid to repair
and secure them against the ravages of

Comment would be superfluous.

I will close with a recent quotation from the Governor, who is in a position that I for one do not envy!

Finally let me return to the oil situation: you
will doubtless know the story of King Canute,
the English king who is remembered as sit-
ting on a beach getting wet as the tide came
in. He is often mistakenly imagined to have
thought he was powerful enough to resist
the tide. In fact the opposite is the truth –
he was showing his court that his power was
limited and there were certain matters he
simply could not control. From letters in the
local papers it is clear that some of you be-
lieve that your Council has the power to re-
sist the huge wave of oil price increase; I
believe we can no more do that than Canute
could command the waves. What we have
had to do is painful, but it means that we
remain on course for a more promising fu-



1. Petrol now costs a staggering £1.57 a litre. Electricity costs 15p per unit for the first 400 units, 25p for the next 401-1000 band, and 30p for consumption greater than 1000 units. Domestic consumers also pay a standing charge of £20 a quarter.

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Road to St Helena Part II - The Emperor's Party Embarks for England

Soon after Napoleon went on board the Bellerophon, the Superb arrived, carrying Rear-Admiral, Sir Henry Hotham.

The Admiral came to meet the Emperor, who proudly showed him his portable library, and invited Sir Henry and his party to dinner.

Dinner was cooked by Napoleon's Maitre d'Hotel and served on the Emperor's silver plate. Napoleon seated the Admiral on his right, Countess Bertrand on his left, and Captain Maitland opposite.

After dinner Napoleon sent Marchand to fetch two small cases, which were unpacked, assembled and proudly revealed to his guests as his famous camp bed.

Midshipman Home entered in his diary:
When Admiral Hotham and the officers of the Bellerophon uncovered in the presence of Napoleon, they treated him with the respect due to the man himself, to his innate greatness, which did not lie in the crown of France or the Iron crown of Italy, but the actual superiority of the man to the rest of his species.(1)

The next day (16th July) Napoleon returned the Admiral's visit. He was received on board the Superb with all the honours of a royal personage except for the firing of a salute. The Grand Marshall ascended first, and announced "The Emperor".

Maitland wrote afterwards, contrary to some reports in hostile newspapers trying to create a bad impression of Napoleon, "that, from the time of his coming on board my ship, to the period of his quitting her, his conduct was invariably that of a gentleman; and in no one instance do I recollect him to have made use of a rude expression, or to have been guilty of any kind of ill-breeding." (2)

Maitland noted that during the voyage he asked "many questions about the manners, customs, and laws of the English; often repeating the observation he had made on first coming on board, that he must gain all the information possible on those subjects, and conform himself to them, as he should probably end his life among that people." (3)

Napoleon's Entourage

Before Napoleon came on board the Bellerophon it had been agreed with Captain Maitland that one of his party, General Gourgaud, would leave separately on the Slaney bound, so he hoped, for a meeting with the Prince Regent. (4)

Gourgaud's instructions from Napoleon contained the following:
If there appears to be no objection to granting me passports to the United States, that is what I would prefer; but I do not wish to go to any colony. Failing America, I prefer England to any other country. I will take the name of Colonel Muiron.(5) If I must go to England, I wish to live in a country house, about ten or twelve leagues from London, and I hope to arrive there in the strictest possible incognito. I should need a big enough house to accommodate all my suite(6)

Transporting the party to which he alludes was not a simple matter.

Not all could be fitted on the Bellerophon. Some had to be transported on the Myrmiron.

In addition there was the question of Napoleon's horses and carriage, which had been left at Rochefort and which he wished to accompany him to England. It was agreed to issue a passport for a ship to carry six carriages and forty five horses to England - although Captain Maitland later commented that he did not think this had ever been acted on. (7)

List of persons composing the suite of Napoleon Buonaparte enclosed in the above Letter and the manner in which they were distributed during the passage to England BELLEROPHON Generaux Le Lieutenant General Conite Bertrand Gd MarSchal Le Lieutenant General Due de Rovigo Le Lieutenant General Baron Lallemand Aide de Camp de SM Le Marechal de Camp Cerate de Montholon Aide de Camp de SM Le Comte de Las Cases Conseiller d Etat

"Dames Madame la Comtesse fiertrand Madame la Comtesse de Montholon Enfans 3 Enfans de Madame la Comtesse Bertrand 1 Enfant de Madame la Comtesse de Montholon Officiers M de Planât Lieutenant Colonel M Maingaut Chirurgien de SMM Las Cases Page

Service de la Chambre MM Marchand 1 Valet de Chambre Gilli Valet de Chambre St Dennis Valet de Chambre Novarra Idem Denis Garçon de Garderobe Livrée Archambaud 1 Valet de pied Gaudron Valet de pied Gentilini Id

Service de la Bonche MM Fontain 1 Maitre d Hotel Pie ron Chefd Office La Fosse Cuisinier Le Page Idem 2 Femmes de Chambre de Madame la Comtesse Bertrand 1 Femme de Chambre de Madame la Comtesse de Mon tholon Suite des personnes qui accompagnent SM 1 Valet de Chambre du Due de Rovigo 1 do du Comte Bertrand 1 do du Comte de Montholon 1 Valet de pied du Comte Bertrand Total 7

LA CORVETTE Officiers Le Lieutenant Colonel Le Lieutenant Colonel Le Capitaine Le Capitaine Le Capitaine Le Lieutenant Le Sous Lieutenant Resigni Schultz Autrie Mesener Prontdowski Rivière S Catherine

Suite de S M Capriani Santini Chauvin Rousseau Archambaud Joseph Le Charron Lisiaux Ortini Fumeau Maître d Hôtel Huissier Id Lampiste Valet de pied Id Id Garde d Office Valet de pied Idem


1. George Home, Memoirs of an Aristocrat
2. F.L. Maitland, Narrative of the Surrender of Buonaparte ... (London 1826) pp 62-3.
3. Maitland p. 108
4. In the event Gourgaud, like the rest of the party, was not permitted to step foot in England when he arrived.
5. Napoleon's aide de camp who had been killed at Arcole.
6. Quoted in Gilbert Martineau, Napoleon Surrenders (London 1971) p. 121
7. Maitland p. 94. As the ship was underweigh three or four sheep, some vegetables and other refreshments arrived as a present from the French Commodore. Maitland p. 97.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Wintertons to Visit St. Helena

Having just read the St. Helena Independent I note that a parliamentary delegation is due in St. Helena in August - assuming no further mishaps to the RMS St Helena.

Among the delegation will be Mrs Ann Winterton, Tory MP for Congleton in Cheshire. She will be accompanied by her husband, Sir Nicholas Winterton, Tory MP for nearby Macclesfield in Cheshire.

Apparently the Governor is pleased that the Wintertons are due to visit St. Helena in August - because of their "crusading zeal".

I usually keep my political opinions to myself, but I have to admit that the Wintertons are not my cup of tea- even before the latest scandal erupted.

Mrs Winterton earned notoriety a few years back after a racist joke following the death of a number of Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay. Mrs Winterton Chinese "Joke" This followed an earlier joke about Pakistanis being ten a penny. Mrs Winterton Background

The couple have recently been discovered to have been claiming expenses as MP's. to rent a London flat that they own - or rather that a family trust owns. The property was put into a trust to avoid inheritance tax.

Winterton Expenses

Wintertons' Burglar Alarm

They have been doing nothing wrong apparently, but some of Sir Nicholas's constituents are not too happy: Macclesfield Views on The Winterton Expenses - but he will still get re-elected -as would one of St Helena's donkeys if it were nominated in his place.

Clearly Mrs Winterton will, as part of the parliamentary delegation, have all her expenses paid. I assume Sir Nicholas will be paying his own way.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Road to St Helena, Part 1: Rochefort, the Isle of Aix and the Bellerophon

I would judge that most visitors to St. Helena have little knowledge of the strange circumstances of Napoleon's surrender and transportation to St. Helena. This and the next post attempts to fill in some of the gaps.

I have followed closely the account given by Gilbert Martineau.

There is a new study by David Markham, The Road to St Helena: Napoleon After Waterloo, which unfortunately I have not yet read. I have however pinched part of his title; it seems very appropriate for this blog, whose focus is on St. Helena and the Captivity.

Napoleon on the Bellerophon

Napoleon at Rochefort: Costly Indecision

After his second abdication, Napoleon and his party of over 60 set off from Paris, bound for Rochefort and, they hoped, for the United States. The British Government had been alerted to this, and instructed its ships to intercept him.

This was unknown to Napoleon, who was hoping that the French Government would secure permission from the occupying powers for him to leave for the United States. In fact, his two most disloyal associates, Fouché and Talleyrand, were collaborating with the occupying powers in trying to ensure Napoleon's capture.

Napoleon's party arrived in Rochefort on July 3rd 1815, and stayed until 8th July. Ostensibly they were waiting for some wagons that had been sent by mistake to La Rochelle. Whilst there, a delegation of local citizens and soldiers met him and asked him not to leave France. He replied that if he stayed "he would merely be adding the horrors of Civil War to a foreign invasion". (1)

On 8th July Napoleon tried to embark on a small boat for the Isle of Aix, watched by a crowd at the small hamlet of Fouras. He waved Goodbye, my friends. They shouted Long Live the Emperor. The winds proved too strong for the oarsmen, so Napoleon boarded the Saale , one of the French ships being blockaded by the Royal Navy. The captain had already had the poop windows decorated with the fleur-de-lis in preparation for the restoration of the Bourbons!

The next morning Napoleon went ashore on Aix, where he was well received by the local people. In the evening he returned to the Saale and decided to approach the captain of the British ship the Bellerophon, which was blockading the Basque Roads, to see if he would allow him to leave for the United States.

Savary and Las Cases were sent to negotiate with Captain Maitland. They returned bearing the news that the Bellerophon had orders to prevent Napoleon's escape. After two further days considering his options, Napoleon decided to disembark on the Isle of Aix. The next few days were to be his last period on dry land until he set foot on St. Helena in October.

Gourgaud advised him that it was preferable to surrender to the English nation, among whom he would find admirers, rather than escape on the chasse-marée. The boat would probably be taken, and then the position would be very different, for in that case the Emperor would be thrown into the Tower of London. (2)

On 13th July his brother Joseph Bonaparte arrived. Napoleon refused to accompany him in his plan of escape to the United States, partly because it would have meant abandoning his large party to the Bourbon Government, and partly perhaps because it was not in his nature to travel incognito and risk capture as a fugitive. So finally, around midnight on July 13th, he indicated that he wished Lallemand and Las Cases to go to the Bellerophon in the morning.

Napoleon then drafted his famous letter to the Prince Regent, dated July 13th:

Your Royal Highness

Exposed to the factions which distract my country and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have ended my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to throw myself on the hospitality of the British people; I put myself under the protection of their laws, which I claim from Your Royal Highness as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies.

The Decision to Surrender

There has been much discussion as to why Napoleon ultimately took the decision to surrender. By the time he took it, he arguably had few options, although it should be noted that his brother Joseph did manage to reach America.

Britain had a reputation for welcoming exiles from France, as had been shown in the case of the Huguenots and the French aristocrats fleeing the Revolution. Las Cases had himself had been exiled in London during the Revolution, and Napoleon's own brother Lucien had been permitted to stay in England from 1810-1814 at a time when he had become estranged from the Emperor. He too ironically had been captured whilst trying to escape to the United States.

Napoleon himself had expressed a wish to live in England after his first abdication in 1814. (3) Since then he had had the opportunity to meet a lot of English people: the Whigs who had visited him on Elba, and the sailors who had transported him there, and with whom he, the "Corsican Ogre" of British propaganda, had developed a surprisingly good relationship.

On Board the Bellerophon

At 3 O"Clock in the morning of 15th July the former Emperor left the Isle of Aix to board the Bellerophon. He declined the company of a representative of the Executive Commission:
We must think of France; I am going on board of my own free will. If you came with me, they would be sure to say that you handed me over to the English. I do not want to leave France under the weight of such an accusation.

The captain of the brig that took him to the Bellerophon told him he was making a mistake: they could have evaded the blockade. It is too late. They expect me. I am going. (4)

On climbing up to the deck of the Bellerophon Napoleon raised his hat and said I am come to throw myself on the Protection of your Prince and Laws.

He was warmly welcomed aboard, and shown to a fine cabin.

The French party were very pleased with the way in which the Emperor and they were received, and as Martineau wrily comments, the Grand Marshall... could not distinguish between hospitality and captivity, and took the Emperor's capture by the English for a diplomatic success. (5)

At breakfast the Emperor said, I must now learn to conform myself to English customs, as I shall probably pass the rest of my life in England. (6)



1. Gilbert Martineau, Napoleon Surrenders(John Murray 1971) p. 80.
2. Martineau p. 112-113.
3. A few days after his abdication, he walked in the garden of the Palace for two hours with Marshal Macdonald, and spoke of the new constitution, of what he considered its advantages and defects. He said that during the last twelve years, he had been furnished with a daily bulletin of the actions of Louis XVIII, allowed that he was an honest man, and that the opportunities which his residence in England had given him of becoming acquainted with her institutions, would be extremely useful to him; adding, that possibly he should not remain long in Elba, but visit England, and study the great and liberal establishments of that country.
General Sir Edward Paget and Lord Louvain, who were at Paris, both informed me that Lord Castlereagh, at the time also in Paris, told them that, in pursuance of this idea, Bonaparte had written to him for permission to retire to England, "it being the only country of great and liberal ideas."
British, Colonial, and Foreign Weekly Gazette
New York, Saturday, February 4, 1826
web link

4. Martineau pp 127-128
5. Martineau p. 133
6. Martineau p. 133

Monday, 2 June 2008

Jamestown as you've never seen it before - courtesy the Observer

I mentioned in my previous post that the Observer seems to have printed a mirror image of Jamestown -and here's the evidence.
All the familiar bits are there, but in the wrong places.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

A Voyage to World's End

Have just read an article today in the Observer by Jenny Diski, who recently visited St. Helena. It opens with a quote from the Honorary French Consul: "Please don't go away and write that St. Helena is an island paradise."

The article is generally downbeat - "It's British colonialism past its sell-by date" - and suggests that HMG really has no long term plan for the Island, other than the building of the airport - which sounds about right to me.

The only inaccuracy I could spot was the statement that Longwood was "given to the French" - in fact it and the Valley of the Tomb were purchased. The Briars was given - by Dame Mabel Brookes a century after the others were acquired.

The author seems to have witnessed Jonathan having "astonishingly noisy sex". "Who knew tortoises could be so interesting?" was the reported comment of the Governor's wife. Indeed. Jonathan seems to make an indelible impression on everyone. Even her Majesty still remembers him.

link to Observer Article


The very large photo of Jamestown shown on the Observer (not on the web site) looks to me like a mirror image -a view of the sea down James's Valley shows Jacob's Ladder on the right hand side of the valley. The Observer's sister newspaper is often referred to as the Grauniad because of its poor proof reading, but this is the first case I have ever heard of of a totally inaccurate photo. How on earth did they manage that?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

On Death Row in St. Helena for Stealing the Governor's Beer

Back to the Judicial Records. My last update was on the case of dueling, in which the jury took seven minutes to acquit the three men accused of murder.

One of the most recent cases I have transcribed involved a rather feckless soldier John Bowles, who was caught in the cellar of Plantation House late one Saturday evening in September 1809 with three bottles of beer in his hand, and three "in his breast".

He was charged with stealing six bottles of beer, and the Court heard the case in October 1809. Since it was his house that had been robbed, the Governor, Alex Beatson, stepped down as president of the court for this case. The jury took 45 minutes to declare Bowles guilty, but recommended mercy.

The president duly sentenced him to death.

Apparently an appeal was launched, because in January 1810 Bowles was brought before the Court again, and it was recorded that his appeal had been referred to the Directors of the Honourable Company, who had referred it to the King.

Sometime later (between February and May - the actual date was omitted) he was informed that his appeal had been successful.

In my work so far I have also come across a couple of cases of child abuse/rape. In both cases the children were said to have contracted some form of venereal disease; both were under 9 years of age.

One case was dismissed because of the lack of acceptable evidence. In the other case the defendant Patrick Jones was convicted, and was duly hanged on 9th February 1810.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Celebrations to Mark 150 Years of French Properties

Interesting post on Michel's blog on the celebrations of the 150 years of the French Properties. Good press coverage, and no need for me to translate anything. One of the papers picked up on the fact that a direct descendant of Napoleon, Count Walewski, laid a wreath at the tomb - along with the Governor and the Honorary French Consul and the Head Boy and Head Girl from the Prince Andrew School. A Latin Mass was held in the room Napoleon died in at 5.45 on May 5th.

I picked up the following interesting and I think encouraging passage from the Independent

In his speech, Governor Gurr expressed
his admiration for Emperor Napoleon,
who died on the Island over 187 years
ago. He also took the opportunity to
thank Michel Martineau, the French
Consul, by saying that “we, the inhabit-
ants of this Island, owe you a debt for
the fact that you have re-created the
most significant part of our heritage with
a taste and professionalism that will be
of enormous benefit as we develop our
tourism. I give you my hearty thanks.”
A toast was held to our Queen and to
the memory of Emperor Napoleon.

150 Years of French Properties

Great to see a glamorous lady who has appeared on one of my blogs photographed at the reception at the Briars Pavilion.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Iron Duke, St Helena, Napoleon & Count Walewski

Before we start, some anniversaries: May 4th 1810 - birth of Alexandre Walewski (see below); May 5th 1821 - death of Napoleon I.

The truth is often stranger than fiction.

Wellington had visited St. Helena on his way back from India in 1805, and by a strange coincidence had also stayed at the Briars. (see plate above)

Apparently he also stayed at the Porteous house in Jamestown in which Napoleon had lodged uncomfortably on the first night.

The House (below) has long been demolished.

Not only did Napoleon and Wellington stay in the same places. They even apparently shared at least two mistresses, although not at the same time and not on St. Helena! (1)

The Iron Duke

Although a national hero after Waterloo, Wellington was far from universally popular:
The exaggerated loathing of the Whigs for the man who threatened and finally defeated their idol, Napoleon was to be a constant feature throughout Wellington's career.(2)

As a member of the post war Tory Government Wellington became very unpopular with those who were campaigning for reform. As Prime Minister (1828-1830) he opposed any extension of the right to vote, arguing that the existing system of representation was as near perfection as possible.(3)

The sobriquet Iron Duke does not derive from his personality, his military exploits or his constitution, but from the fact that the windows of his house had to be covered with iron shutters to stop the mob breaking them during the campaign for parliamentary reform.

On the anniversary of Waterloo in 1832 a pro-Reform mob stoned him, shouting Bonaparte for ever.(4)

The Strange Career of Count Walewski

Count Alexandre Walewski(1810-1868), Napoleon's natural son, born to Marie Walewski, a young Polish Countess.

Alexandre Walewski became the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom during the rule of Napoleon III. His first wife was a member of the English aristocracy, Lady Caroline Montagu, the daughter of the 6th Earl of Sandwich. Walewski socialised with Wellington, who attended some of his dinners at the French Embassy.

Walewski was ordered by Napoleon III to attend Wellington's funeral (18th November 1852), much against his will. He not unnaturally did not like having to walk behind a catafalque bearing the word WATERLOO. He was later thanked by the British Prime Minister (The Earl of Derby) for attending.


1. One of the mistresses was the actress Mademoiselle George (Marguerite-Joséphine Wiemer). Andrew Roberts, Napoleon and Wellington is an interesting comparison of the two men by a modern Conservative historian.

2. Roberts p. 6

3. This, at a time when less than 20% of the adult male population could vote, and when large cities like Manchester had no separate representation whilst the 7 voters of Old Sarum had a seat in Parliament! In 1830 Wellington was succeeded as Prime Minister by Earl Grey, and in 1832 the Great Reform Bill made the first relatively limited change to parliamentary representation.

4. Wellington was booed and hissed and apparently bricks were thrown at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway in 1830. This was a reaction to his views on the Peterloo Massacre and his opposition to Reform.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Samuel Whitbread - Brewer, Whig Politician, Reformer and Lover of Peace

Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815). Head of the famous brewing family, Whig leader in the House of Commons, a leading advocate of domestic reform and of peace with France and America.
the promoter of every liberal scheme for improving the condition of mankind, the zealous advocate of the oppressed, and the undaunted opposer of every species of corruption and ill-administration. - Sir Samuel Romilly.

The wittiest man who ever sat here said
That half our nation's debt had been incurred
In efforts to suppress the Bourbon power,
The other half in efforts to restore it, (laughter)
And I must deprecate a further plunge
For ends so futile!
- Samuel Whitbread, as represented in Thomas Hardy, The Dynasts, Act Fifth.

Whitbread and Napoleon
Whitbread was not an uncritical observer of Napoleon, and was particularly opposed to his policy in Spain.

Like a number of Whigs however, he was opposed to the way in which Government supporters demonised Napoleon as the "Corsican Ogre", and he continually urged a path of negotiation rather than war.

I would here take leave to observe upon the idle and childish way in which many persons are pleased to indulge when speaking of that person .. Whitbread in 1807

In 1808 he said that Ministers reluctant to negotiate with Napoleon should be forced to do so with a proper consideration for his extraordinary talents: You made it necessary for him to fight these battles. You combined the world against him ..

When Napoleon returned from France to Elba, Whitbread led the opposition to war in the House of Commons. His brother in law, Earl Grey, was a leading anti-war spokesman in the House of Lords.(1)

On the return of the emperor from his exile in the island of Elba, the member for Bedford strongly and emphatically censured the declaration of the allies, more especially that part of it which seemed to recommend the detestable principle of assassination. He also loudly insisted both on the impolicy and injustice of a new war, on the ground that the executive power of the enemy was vested in the hands of any one particular person. But above all things he protested against the forcible restoration of the Bourbons by a foreign force, and the assumed right of dictating a government to France. (2)

One of the best speeches in Parliament was made by the radical, Sir Francis Burdett:

Who ever knew a sole and single man
Invade a nation thirty million strong,

.. No man can doubt that this Napoleon stands
As Emperor of France by Frenchmen's wills.
Let the French settle, then, their own affairs;
I say we shall have nought to apprehend!--
Thomas Hardy, The Dynasts, Act Fifth.

After Waterloo Whitbread joined in a vote of national gratitude to the Duke Of Wellington, for the memorable victory at Waterloo, but he also made clear that events had not altered his sentiments in respect to the pretended justice of the original contest. (3)

A Victim of Waterloo?

A number of British supporters of Napoleon were devastated by Waterloo. Whitbread went further - on July 6th 1815, just a few days after Waterloo, he cut his throat with a razor. There is some doubt whether Waterloo was the cause of his suicide; he had been working too hard for years in the family brewing business; in Parliament he spoke more often than anyone else; he had been heavily involved in the costly restoration of the Drury Lane Theatre. In 1815 he began to show signs of paranoia and depression. Whatever the causes of his ill health, Waterloo could not have helped.

Certainly some contemporaries made the connection: nothing was left but to follow Whitbread's example - was Byron's comment as reported by Hobhouse.

Napoleon took a keen interest in English politics, and he asked Members of Parliament who visited him on board ship in Plymouth about the death of Mr. Whitbread.


Suicide was surprisingly common among members of Parliament at this time. No fewer than 19 committed suicide between 1790 and 1820, and 20 more became insane.

Lord Castlereagh, architect of the continental policy which many Whigs had vigorously opposed and which had led to the final defeat and exile of Napoleon, suffered the same fate as Whitbread. Castlereagh became depressed apparently because of the unpopularity of the repressive measures that the Government introduced after Peterloo, and on 12th August 1822 he cut his throat with a penknife.(4)


1. Earl Grey was later Whig Prime Minister, responsible for the first Reform Bill; the famous tea is named after him.

2. Annual Biography and Obituary for the Year 1817.

3. Annual Biography and Obituary for the Year 1817.

4. On 16th August 1818 a huge meeting in favour of parliamentary reform took place in St Peter's Fields, Manchester. 15 people were killed, and 400-700 were injured as a result of a cavalry charge by the local militia. It was soon given the name the Peterloo Massacre, an ironic reference to Waterloo. In November 1819, Castlereagh introduced the Six Acts, designed to prevent further demonstrations. He and other members of the Government were booed whenever they appeared in public.