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.