Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Plantation House: Home of the Governor of St. Helena

It is time to get back to my tour of the island.

It is hard to imagine scenery that is more different from Half Tree Hollow than the lush pastures in the area around Plantation House which is a relatively short walk away.

The picture above is taken close to Oaklands. (It is worth clicking on it to enlarge it). Oaklands was one of a number of substantial houses on the island in which the wealthier residents lived by the end of the eighteenth century.

Plantation House itself, the home of the Governor, is described in some detail on the official web site. www.sainthelena.gov.sh/other/Plantation.html Official Web Site

The house has fine views overlooking a lawn and the sea. Here I have reproduced a less well known one, which must have been familiar to generations of residents of the house. Again worth enlarging.

Here is a view of the vegetable gardens, with the sea in the background. In earlier days these would have been cultivated much more intensively than now.

Jonathan must be the most famous resident on the island, and certainly the oldest. Apparently Queen Elizabeth II remembers meeting him in 1947.

He arrived in 1882 from the Seychelles, and was past the first flush of youth even then.

He still has an eye for the ladies.

And so to the ante-room to find the charcoal drawing of Napoleon made by James Sant(1820-1916). Apparently it was a study for an oil painting to illustrate Lord Roseberry's book Napoleon The Last Phase mentioned in an earlier blog. Roseberry later gave the picture to the Glasgow Art Gallery. The picture now has almost iconic status.

A print is also on display at Longwood House, To see this and accompanying information visit Michel's blog French Consul's Blog

You can also buy an amateur artist's copy of it for £1 at the museum in Jamestown (surely the cheapest thing on the island) , signed Gilbert, but who Gilbert is/was, is a matter of some controversy!

It is also on the T-shirts on sale at Longwood House.

Kauffmann was intrigued by this picture on his visit, and did further exploration on his return to Paris. It appears that Sant took his inspiration from Delaroche's Napoleon in 1814, which was painted in 1845. Neither painter had ever seen Napoleon.

I was intrigued by the choice of pictures on the wall facing Napoleon - in the centre a small portrait of Hudson Lowe, Napoleon's gaoler, flanked by pictures of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen mother to avoid confusion) - the only reigning monarch(s) ever to visit St. Helena (1947). Somewhat ironically, after their visit they complained to the French Government about the dilapidated state of Napoleon's House!

The contrast between Plantation House and Longwood House is marked. No wonder that Lady Lowe was reportedly shocked when she was shown round Longwood House after Napoleon's death. She had been known to complain to her hapless husband that he was neglecting her comforts and spending too much time on trying to improve those of our neighbour (Napoleon's nickname - the St. Helena practice of using nicknames is apparently not new).

Also one wonders how the story of the Captivity might have played out had Napoleon been housed at Plantation House, which was apparently considered. Certainly there is a map of St. Helena drawn by Lieutenant Read and published in October 1815 - before he had arrived - which marks Plantation House as "The Residence of BONAPARTE"!

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