Friday, 24 February 2012

Napoleon, Science and the Egyptian Campaign

Hels's blog is entitled "ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly", so although I follow it I have not included a permanent link here.

Her latest blog, posted tomorrow (she is in Australia!), is well worth reading by anyone interested in Napoleon's remarkable career.

It references work published some time ago by the International Napoleonic Society about L' Institut d’Égypte which Napoleon set up to carry out research during his military campaign. It is a fascinating blog about a scientific project that is not well known, planned let us remind ourselves when Napoleon was still less than 30 years old.

It reminded me again of the inadequacy of the labels that his detractors in particular have used to describe Napoleon. He was a very complex man, which is perhaps partly the source of his fascination for contemporaries and generations since, but for all that he was a product of the times in which he lived: enlightened despotism, revolution, and above all a child of the Enlightenment.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Endemics of St Helena

Trochetiopsis ebenus

Michel has recently put two interesting posts on M. Dancoisne-Martineau - artiste peintre.

One contains beautiful paintings of the endemics of St Helena.

The other contains his artistic imagining of an extinct ebony Dombeya Melanoxylon described in some detail in his memoirs by Dr Antommarchi, who attended Napoleon in his final months on St Helena.

Dombeya Melanoxylon

The plant also caught the eye of former Governor Alexander Beatson, who said it was a native of the barren rocks near the sea on the south side of the island, not far from Sandy Bay.
"I saw it in two gardens only, where it had in many years grown to the height of only 2-3 feet, with many longer branches spreading flat on the ground, well decorated with abundance of foliage and large beautiful flowers."(1)

Apparently dried fragments of Dombeya Melanoxylon, brought back to England by Captain Cook, are preserved in the collections at Kew.
1. Major-General Alexander Beatson.Tracts Relative To The Island Of St. Helena Written During A Residence Of Five Years 1816 p 307

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Archambault Brothers: A Postscript

I have recently been contacted by Wade Krawczyk from Australia who has in his possession a pair of silk stockings which were evidently sold by Napoleon Archambault who attested that they once belonged to the Emperor Napoleon and were brought from St Helena by Joseph Archambault when he left in 1816.

The stockings have a crown woven into them

and were accompanied by a descriptive card, presumably printed for an auction or an exhibition.

The accompanying letter, written in Philadelphia in February 1894, signed by Napoleon and Achille Archambault and countersigned by a lawyer, also claims that the stockings had at some point been shown to distinguished personages including Joseph Bonaparte and General Bertrand.

The letter is legible if you click on it, but here is a trancription of the body of it:

Napoleon B. and Achille Lucian Archambault swore out an affidavit on Feb. 3, 1894 before Notary Public Harry J. Franz in which they attested: This is to certify that our father Joseph Archambault accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to St. Helena, and was subsequently sent away with three others to the Cape of Good Hope. When he left he was presented by the Emperor with several souvenirs, among then a pair of fine, long white silk stockings with a crown wrought in the side. They are in a state of excellent preservation. The stockings have never been out of our possession, since they were given to our father in the year 1815, and have consequently been in our family nearly eighty years. They have been frequently shown to distinguished persons, among them Joseph Bonaparte and General Bertrand. We consider these stockings a valuable addition to any collection of Napoleon relics. Napoleon B. Archambault 3032 Girard Avenue Achille Lucian Archambault 426 So. 40th St."

My thanks to Wade for sharing these.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Madame Colin: A Tribute

Alix Colin, née Olivier, (1891-1942)

On Michel's blog I have recently read the moving story of Madame Colin, wife of one of the former curators of the French Properties on St Helena. I feel it is well worth retelling in English.

Born in Haut Provence in May 1891, Alix Olivier married Georges Colin, a retired soldier, in December 1915. In early 1917 the couple and their 4 month old daughter set out for St Helena from the United Kingdom on the Alivinck Castle. A few days later, on March 17th, between the Scilly Isles and Brittany, their ship was torpedoed. Nine days adrift in a life boat until landing on the north west coast of Spain, they suffered the loss of their baby daughter, Madame Colin's contraction of gangrene, and the consequent partial amputation of her legs.

The couple spent the next two years in Ferrol, where Alix had artificial limbs fitted and also gave birth to a son, Charles. The family finally left Spain for St Helena in October 1919, and on the island, in 1921, Alix gave birth to a daughter, France, attended by Dr Arnold. A second son, Pierre, was born whilst they were on leave in Toulon in 1928.

During the second World War the family had to spend time away from the island in the Cape for treatment for Madame Colin's breast cancer, but they returned to St Helena and she died, at Longwood in November 1942, in her 52nd year, in fact at almost the same age as Napoleon.