Sunday, 24 April 2016

What the Governor Did Next: From St. Helena to Paris and Ajaccio

Governor Mark Capes leaving St. Helena

I don't think the Governorship of St. Helena has ever been an easy job, and Governor Capes has probably had a rougher ride than most. He has now made way for a new governor, Lisa Phillips, the first woman to hold the post.

The Governor and his wife waving goodbye to St Helena

His leaving coincides not only with the completion of the airport, but with the opening of a major exhibition in Paris, to commemorate Napoleon's final years in captivity on St. Helena.

Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène

This exhibition, which it is hoped will promote tourism to the island, has for sometime been planned, in association with the Fondation Napoléon, by the indefatigable Honorary French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau.

As long ago as 2013 much of the furniture at Longwood, including the famous billiard table and bath, were packed and shipped off to France for restoration in preparation for the exhibition.

Governor Capes at La Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio

On leaving St. Helena the Governor and his wife made their way to Napoleon's birthplace, Ajaccio in Corsica, to promote the forthcoming Exhibition and the island of St. Helena.

Governor and Mrs Capes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the right a beaming Michel Dancoisne-Martineau

From Corsica they travelled to Paris for the opening of the Exhibition, and attended an official reception at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Governor at Napoleon's Tomb

The most symbolic event in this tour was the visit to Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides, where the Governor was photographed inside the crypt.

A wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower from the roof of Les Invalides

No previous St. Helena Governor has made an official visit there, and I know of no official British Government representative that has done so since Queen Victoria visited in 1855 and bade the Prince of Wales kneel down before the Great Napoleon - an event that has tended to be overlooked in the mainstream historical narrative!

The Governor in lighter mood: Sir Hudson Lowe and those of his ilk would not be amused

Michel Martineau is to be congratulated on the success of this project, which he sees as a triumph for l'Entente cordiale, a cause very dear to the heart of his predecessor and adoptive father Gilbert Martineau, who in more enlightened times was even awarded an O.B.E.!

Mention should also be made of the contribution of the Fondation Napoléon, without whose support neither the restoration of the Generals Quarters at Longwood nor the current exhibition would have been possible.

The Exhibition, which I can highly recommend, runs until July. It has received much critical acclaim in France and beyond. I will say more about it in a later post.


I have been informed by Mrs Capes, see messages, that they actually went to Corsica after Paris. I have left the blog as originally posted to do otherwise would involve quite a rewrite, but I always try to maintain accuracy. There is enough misinformation and disinformation on the internet without me adding to it.


Tamara said...

We went to Paris first, followed by the visit to Corsica.

John Tyrrell said...

My apologies! I will make a note in the blog. Had I been on the roof of Les Invalides I think I would have stood behind you!
best wishes


Tamara said...

No problem at all. It was truly a memorable week. And being on the roof of Les Invalides was extra special. Best regards

Rafiffoo said...

Dear Mr Tyrrell,
Thankyou for deeming three of my photos of Tamara and Mr Capes's trip to Paris worthy of sharing. Please, however, would you credit my name and that of the Fondation Napoléon?
It is also customary to ask for permission before publishing coyprighted material.
Thankyou, Rebecca Young