Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Gilbert Martineau O.B.E. and Anglo-French Entente

Gilbert Martineau, the current French Consul's adoptive father, lived on St. Helena from 1957 until his death in 1995. he was awarded the O.B.E in 1973.

Kauffmann was clearly fascinated by him, but ultimately painted a not very sympathetic portrait in The Dark Room at Longwood, describing him as the old misanthrope, and the Longwood bear. Kauffmann was not to know that Gilbert was then suffering from his final illness, and his personal knowledge of him was confined to a small number of meetings within the space of seven days.

Kauffmann indicates that Gilbert's anglophilia, his knowledge of English and English society were considered essential at the time of his appointment in 1956. After the neglect of Longwood and its near demolition, It was important to appoint a person who was acceptable to the British authorities ... Martineau was chosen through the intervention of President Vincent Auriol and the support of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.. (1) He also quotes Jacques Jourquin, for the first time perhaps since the terrible exile, the French and English lived together in harmony. This was of course the time of Suez, the last great Anglo-French imperial venture; arguably relations have never been as close since those days.

Apart from his work as curator - most notably capped by the acquisition of the Briars, which but for his action would surely have been lost for posterity - he was also a prolific author.
Michel has posted an extract from one of his books, on the Entente-Cordiale, on his blog. Below is my attempt at translation of it. I will borrow Michel's heading, which seems appropriate.

Saint Helena, Symbol of Anglo-French Entente

St. Helena is one of the last ten possessions remaining from the glorious days of the British Empire. To everyone, even Anglo-Saxons, St. Helena remains linked with the name of the emperor of the French. Paradoxically then, St. Helena represents a treaty of union between two great and ancient nations always bound together, albeit often as enemies.

In 1815, with Napoleon under lock and key on St. Helena, England and France found themselves together again, as after Picquigny, but in a Europe in turmoil, where absolute monarchies and liberal regimes were coexisting, conservatism and liberalism were in collision, and nationalist movements were on the march. The two nations, who acted as guiding consciences, had no choice but to embark on a rapprochement . . . " 

The episode of St. Helena is a caesura. Since the arrival of Napoleon on the rock in the Atlantic, France and Britain were never again to be in direct confrontation. Of course there have been some excitable moments, but never war. St. Helena, the natural monument appropriated by history, has become the symbol of French-English friendship -or, if one prefers to say, Anglo-French …

Gilbert Martineau, L'Entente Cordiale - Éditions France-Empire, 1984

Until recently it was impossible to find a list of Gilbert's publications, except through the rather hit or miss on-line Amazon catalogue. Happily this has now been rectified.

Michel has provided a list of publications and a synopsis of his life on his blog Gilbert Martineau/janvier 2008.

There is also an English entry on Wilkipedia Gilbert Martineau .

Gilbert died at La Rochelle, but his ashes were brought home and scattered in the Atlantic off St. Helena.
(1) Kauffmann p72; Gilbert had met the man who was to become Dule of Edinburgh before the war. Apparently after Gilbert's death in 1995, Michel received a letter of condolence from him.

1 comment:

Michel Dancoisne-Martineau said...

Thanks John for this posting... I checked and found the certificate for his OBE and it is dated 23rd July 1974...