Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Torbay in Napoleon's Time

View of Torquay Harbour, 1821 (1)

Napoleon was impressed with the beauty of the English countryside, in which he still hoped he might live.

At the time of this painting by William Daniell, Torquay was a small town of less than 2000 people. It must have been overwhelmed by the visitors who flocked there when they heard that Bonaparte was on board a ship in the bay.

Thanks to Paul Brunyee, one of the speakers at the recent Friends of St Helena meeting, who gave me this idea. Paul produced a slide taken in 2010 from the spot at which the Bellerophon moored off Torquay in 1815. (2) An interesting idea I thought - or at least one that appeals to Napoleonic anoraks among whose number I guess I am now enlisted!

I also discovered fom Paul's talk that Dumbarton Castle was among the places in which the British Government had considered imprisoning Napoleon.

Almost as forbidding as St Helena.

Paul also confirmed that the British Government, which never recognised Napoleon as Emperor of Elba, had previously been uneasy about his closeness to Italy and France. Napoleon of course knew this. In the newspapers sent over to Elba by Lady Holland were reports that he was going to be sent to St Helena.

A successful and interesting meeting I thought. It was very pleasant to meet Peter Hicks of the Napoleonic Foundation and Ian Mathieson of the Friends of St Helena. I also enjoyed lengthier discussions with Dr Martin Howard, the author of Napoleon's Poisoned Chalice and of course, Albert Benhamou, the author of L'Autre St Hélène , who is no stranger to these pages.

Albert and I were interested to learn, again from Paul Brunyee's talk, that the restored HMS Trincomalee, on which poor Dr Stokoe sailed, is in Hartlepool. As true anoraks, both of us intend to pay it a visit.
1. William Daniell, A Voyage Round the Coast of Great Britain (Folio Society 2008)
2. "Napoleon and His Time on St Helena 1815-1821", Victory Club, London, 16th October 2010

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