Monday, 26 July 2010

Orange Grove/Miss Mason's/Teutonic Hall

I have for some time been fascinated by this once fine house.

Apparently Hudson Lowe toyed with the idea of renting what was then known as Orange Grove for Napoleon for £100 a month.

How many houses did that tortured man consider I wonder? I refer of course to Hudson Lowe not Napoleon.

In Napoleon's time it was the home of the wealthy Miss Polly Mason, about whom I have discovered little, except that she apparently used to ride an ox, and always bowed effusively whenever she saw Napoleon.

There were the inevitable rumours about a romantic liaison - but St Helena has never been short of rumours - or romantic liaisons for that matter!

My understanding was that Miss Mason was still alive and greeted the French party when they returned in 1840 for the exhumation of Napoleon's body, but I may be wrong.

Anyway at some point the house was sold to Georg Wilhem Janisch, originally of Hamburg, and it was renamed Teutonic Hall.

The Janisch Family and Teutonic Hall

Janisch came out to St Helena as a clerk to Denzil Ibbetson. He was underemployed with Ibbetson, so Lowe took him on as personal secretary. They seemed to have a high mutual regard for each other, and Janisch later gave the name Hudson to his son.

Janisch fell in love with Ann Mira Seale, the daughter of Major William Seale. He decided to stay on when Lowe left in 1821. He married Ann Mira in 1823 and a son was duly born in 1824/1825.

The son, Hudson Ralph Janisch, became Governor of St Helena in 1874, in which office he remained until his death in March 1884 at the age of 59. He remains the only person born on the island to have served as Governor.

After Hudson's death his widow Eleanor, herself a daughter of the well established Pritchard family, moved to the Cape, which seems to have attracted a number of old St Helena families as the island went into economic decline.

The Janisch family were instrumental in helping to establish the Baptist faith on the island. Apparently the first ever Baptist sermon was delivered in July 1845 in the parlour of Georg William Janisch's widow. Was that Teutonic Hall I wonder, or their house in Jamestown?

Teutonic Hall is a listed building, but is now little more than a shell.

Its current perilous state was described in Michel's blog in November 2008.

Contrary to Michel's blog, I am pretty certain that Mason's Stock house was a different building, although presumably part of the estate.

The completion of the airport will doubtless lead to a big demand for property on the most pleasant parts of the island. One can imagine that St Helena will be seen by the wealthy as an safe and attractive domicile, secure from the uncertainties of the African continent.

I am sure I am not the first to realise that the value of this site, situated in a beautiful lush valley, will greatly appreciate in the future. Let us hope that something is done for the house that currently stands there before it is too late.

As the comment by Michel makes clear, there is a major error in this post. Orange Grove and Teutonic Hall were not the same building. Teutonic Hall was previously known as Mason's Stock House; so presumably Miss Mason did indeed still live in Orange Grove, which is closer to Hutts Gate. As far as I recall it was at Hutts Gate that she greeted members of the French party in 1840. It is also likely that the house Hudson Lowe considered, among others, renting from Miss Mason for Napoleon, was Orange Grove rather than the house now known as Teutonic Hall.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

So St Helena will get its Airport - thanks to the "Brokeback Coalition"

So at long last, despite all the cuts that the new Coalition Government has announced, St Helena will get its airport.

The Government thinks that it can reduce costs by shortening the runway - using an engineered material arresting system (EMAS).

The aim is that St Helena will develop a self sustaining economy. Among the conditions which the Government has attached is that
the St Helena Government undertake to implement the reforms needed to open the island's economy to inward investment and increased tourism
Not sure what that means, but fear that the devil will be in the detail.

Clearly it has pleased many on the island.

The Governor and the Honorary French Consul seem to be delighted!

There will of course be some who are not so pleased - there has always been a vocal minority who opposed an airport, and wanted a replacement for the R.M.S. St Helena. It will be interesting to see how the issue of freight will be resolved when the R.M.S. is decommisioned.

Personally, although I can see the advantages of an airport, particularly as regards access to medical treatment, I am a little apprehensive.

The high profile involvement of the billionaire Conservative party donor Lord Ashcroft - embittered coiner of the homophobic term "brokeback" to describe the relationship between the leaders of the UK Coalition Government - leaves me with a few nagging doubts about the future of St Helena.

I couldn't help noticing the following in the Governor's statement about the decision:
There will be many attractive jobs - being an air traffic controller is very lucrative. It is an international job with a salary of over £100,000. The training has been said to take 5 years – so school leavers should be thinking about that kind of thing right now.

At the risk of pouring cold water on people's hopes for the future, I should point out that there may be some senior highly skilled and experienced air traffic controllers at Heathrow and a few other major airports in the UK earning such large salaries, but we are talking here about a small airstrip on a small island which in the future will have to pay its way without handouts from the British Government. A dose of realism is I think called for.

I hope I am wrong. St Helena is a very special place, and the Saints are lovely people who deserve a break. I would be dishonest though if I did not express my fear that the ordinary people of St Helena will not benefit from this development.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Napoleon and the Swedish Royal Family: Interesting post on "My Napoleon Obsession"

Carmi on "My Napoleon Obsession" writes a delightful blog. All her posts are brief and visually attractive.

The latest Stunning Cameo Tiara, is about the tiara recently worn by the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria at her wedding.

This tiara has been in the Swedish Royal family since the early nineteenth century.

It was apparently originally given by Napoleon to the Empress Joséphine, and passed into the hands of her grandaughter, Josephine of Leuchtenberg (Joséphine Maximilienne Eugénie Napoléone,1807– 1876). (1)

In 1823 Joséphine and her jewelry came to Sweden when she married Joseph François Oscar Bernadotte (1799-1859), who also happened to be Napoleon's godson. In 1844, on the death of his father Jean Bernadotte, Joseph became Oscar I of Sweden and Norway.

Jean Bernadotte (Charles XIV of Sweden and from 1818 Carl III Johan of Norway ), had of course been one of Napoleon's marshalls.

Bernadotte's wife and Joseph's mother was none other than Desirée Clary, Napoleon's first love to whom he had at one point been engaged.

Desirée's sister married Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

What a complicated set of relationships!

When Joséphine arrived in Sweden in 1823 the name Napoléone was removed, but the Swedes kept the jewels! If ever they wished to sell them I think they would fetch a tidy sum.

It always amazes me how the European Royal Families all seem connected either to Queen Victoria and/or the Empress Josephine.

Anyway thanks to Carmi for another interesting post.
1. Her father was Eugène de Beauharnais, The Empress's son by her first marriage. Her mother was Princess Augusta of Bavaria. Through her mother Joséphine was also a descendant of Gustav I of Sweden, Charles IX of Sweden and of Christian II of Denmark.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Another Organized Trip to St Helena on the R.M.S.

Following news of the success of the guided tour of the Napoleonic cultural sites in October this year comes news of another organised tour.

This one, under the auspices of the Napoleonic Society, will take place from 30th May until 19th June 2011.

The guide will be Michel Martineau, known on the island as "The Frenchman". Michel has devoted twenty years or so to the restoration and safeguarding of the French properties, to improving collaboration with the British authorities and, if the truth be told, to doing what he can to improve the life of the people of St Helena. He will be an admirable guide.

Further information is available on the web site of the French Society of Napoleonic History and supplementary information is available on Michel's blog of 30th June.

Visitors will stay on board the R.M.S. St Helena each night.

Apart from the usual tours of Longwood House, the Briars, the Valley of the Tomb and Plantation House, visitors will also be taken to places such as Longwood Plateau, Fisher's Valley (Valley of the Nymph), Orange Grove, Maldivia and Sandy Bay, all of which were part of the fascinating history of the captivity of Napoleon.

The group will also dine at Longwood House, get the chance to meet all the local dignitaries at a cocktail party there, and will even be invited to dine with the Frenchman in his impressive house - situated away from the incessant rain and wind of Longwood where Michel spent more years than Napoleon!

I am sure the trip will be a great success, and will be oversubscribed.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Napoleon Memorabilia Auctioned - and a new myth created

The auction of the Ibbetson collection in New Zealand has now taken place, with interest from all around the world.

The lock of hair sold for £8600, to an anonymous collector in London. The diary went for £4400.

The item which raised the most was this lithograph of Napoleon on his death bed, which sold for over £9000.

The best news though is that the sketch of Longwood House has been bought by someone from Paris, who is returning it to St Helena, presumably to Longwood House.

I have seen no reports as to what happened to the St Helena theatre play bills - they have no Napoleonic connections and are therefore not very newsworthy. I would be interested to hear what they made and where they have gone.

The Deluded Emperor: The Making of a Myth

Probably the most important result of this auction has been the creation of a new major myth about Napoleon. It is no longer possible to blame this simply on chauvinism in British tabloids, as I did in my earlier post on the subject.

The BBC in its report said that Napoleon still spoke of invading Britain despite his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo .

ABC News, Australia reported that Ibbetson's diary, which sold for $7,800, described conversations with Napoleon, who still harboured ambitions of invading Britain despite his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

CBS has ventured even further into the absurd:
Ibbetson's diary, which detailed conversations with Napoleon, who, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, still planned to take over the world from his little island domain .

Seriously. Anybody who has read any of the millions of words of evidence about Napoleon on St Helena would not entertain this idea for a nanosecond.

This myth will probably endure for many many years - and there appears to be nothing which distinguished scholars, admirers of Napoleon, or those who simply seek the truth can do about it.

I find it very depressing. How long before it appears on Wikipedia as a fact?