Thursday, 17 November 2011

St Helena Connection: Interview with Michel Martineau

The latest edition of The St Helena Connection, the news magazine of the Society of Friends of St Helena has just been sent to members. It is always interesting, as is The Wirebird , the Society's Magazine, back copies of which are available online to members of the society.

The current edition of The Connection features an interview by Irene Delage with Michel Dancoisne Martineau, since 1987 Honorary French Consul and curator of the French properties on St Helena. The article is reproduced from the website of the Fondation Napoleon.

The interview focuses on the background to Michel's book, Chroniques de Sainte-Hélène Atlantique Sud In the interview he discusses one of the important themes of the book, the often overlooked tension between Crown and East India Company, which formerly "had the power of life and death over everyone on the island", and "was severely undermined the moment Napoleon arrived on St Helena."

The most surprising examples of this rivalry can be found in discussions relating to farming and religious matters. Hudson Lowe, the governor of the island, was the first victim of this conflict, caught between the interests of the British crown (which he served) and those of the East India Company (whose representatives held a monopoly over civil administration and religious posts). The issues surrounding supplying the island, the imposed curfew, restricions on the population's movements, and the added drain on resources did little to simplify matters.

So overlaying the conflicts between Plantation House and Longwood House, and between Army and Navy, not to mention the strange position of the representatives of the Governments of France, Austria and Russia, there was an uneasy relationship between the governor and the small number of leading families and the company appointees, notably Rev. Boys, who had governed the island in the East India Company era. Their world had been overturned, and things for them were never to be quite the same again.

No comments: