Friday, 29 February 2008

Longwood: A Temporary Residence for General Bonaparte

The house is certainly small .. I trust the carpenters of the Northumberland, ... will in a little time be able to make such additions to the house as will render it, if not as good a one as might be wished, yet at least as commodious as necessary.

- Admiral Sir George Cockburn to Mr Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty, 22nd October 1815

As a temporary residence it is, perhaps, as good as could have been found for him.
- Sir Hudson Lowe to Lord Bathurst, April 17th 1816. (1)

The Emperor has been established in a place called Longwood, exposed to every wind, a barren spot, uninhabited, without water or verdure. [This passage from Count Montholon's letter is absolutely true. ... Longwood is only a hovel, surrounded with gum-trees (a dreadful tree which gives no shade), and very windy. In general, the English treat Bonaparte very shabbily. His house, his people, his dress, all are mean. He has only the necessities. That enormous expense which so excited Parliament is wholly for the maintenance of the troops and guard-ships, and of a numerous and more or less useless staff.-Balmain.]

- Count Balmain, The Russian Commissioner, 1816.

I have been here a week, and still have not been inside the place which was the main purpose of my visit. I seem as reluctant as Napoleon was to step inside.

In my case it is not the smell of paint, or the fear that I shall have to spend the rest of my life here - simply that it looks better than it would have done in Napoleon's day, and I get a little irritated hearing people say how luxurious it is for a prison!

A previous visitor, an English writer, once expressed displeasure to the current curator because Longwood did not look dilapidated enough. The Royal Family had made the opposite criticism in 1947!

What is a Frenchman to do but shrug his shoulders, raise his eyes to the heavens, and murmur under his breath, "Les Anglais!".

So now we will go in. Before we do, a thank you to the charming lady in the picture above who showed us round - twice!

First stop is the Billiard Room. There is a good photo of it on Michel's blog. The Billiard Room This room was added in 1815 by the carpenters from the Northumberland. Napoleon never played billiards. The table was used for maps and documents. Later it was moved to the back of the house for the servants to use.

Next comes the drawing room,which was where Napoleon received his guests; these were very numerous in 1816 and 1817, but after March 1818, when the Balcombes came to say goodbye, and as the restrictions on him were tightened, he lived the life of a recluse, and virtually nobody outside his entourage saw him.

In this room he died; the bed was pulled out at a right angle so that people could gather round both sides. 16 were present, including the children of Mme Bertrand.(2)

Then you enter the dining room, with its single window, its very small dining table, and the candles which used to make it unbearably hot. In later years, after the arrival of the two priests sent by Napoleon's mother, mass was said in this room every Sunday.

Now you take a right turn and enter Napoleon's private suite. Three small rooms: a study, a bedroom and a bathroom. He had two small beds, identical to that already seen. One was in his study, so that if he couldn't sleep in the night, and he often couldn't, he could perhaps try the other room.

About the first thing he did when he arrived was to get in the bath. He had not had a proper bath since he left France in July.

This was possibly Napoleon's favourite place; he sometimes ate and read in here.

The bath itself has had a life of its own - in 1840 it was taken back to France, but has now been restored to its original place.

Backstairs Longwood

This is a part of Longwood House that few visitors bother to explore. The word ramshackle springs to mind.

Around this courtyard, which would have been muddy in Napoleon's day, the work of Longwood would have taken place. At any one time there were in excess of 25 people living here. In addition there were about 20 others employed around the house and garden.

It was not a peaceful place.

At night the numbers would increase; the servants would bribe the English soldiers with wine to get them to allow young lady visitors to evade the curfew.

The sanitary arrangements do not bear thinking about.

This section housed all the French Party(except the Bertrands who lived in a cottage nearby) , plus O'Meara, and including the two children of the Count and Countess de Montholon, and the English Duty Officer.

1. The Government's orders were that Napoleon should be treated as a General, and should have a house equivalent to that of an English Gentleman's country residence. Lowe pointed out to Lord Bathurst that only Plantation House fitted that description. On 17th May 1816 Sir Hudson Lowe told Napoleon that the materials necessary to build him a new house had arrived. This house was not begun until 1818; Napoleon watched it built, but never lived there. The delay was not entirely the fault of Sir Hudson Lowe. Napoleon himself was unwilling to discuss it: to have done so would have signalled an acceptance of the permanence of his position on the island; this he never did until the day in April 1821 when he wrote his will.
2. The bed was moved into the drawing room on 27th April 1821, about a week before he died; it was Napoleon's idea - his bedroom was too small; his servants were preparing to carry him. "No," he said, "not until I am dead."

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Gilbert Martineau O.B.E. and Anglo-French Entente

Gilbert Martineau, the current French Consul's adoptive father, lived on St. Helena from 1957 until his death in 1995. he was awarded the O.B.E in 1973.

Kauffmann was clearly fascinated by him, but ultimately painted a not very sympathetic portrait in The Dark Room at Longwood, describing him as the old misanthrope, and the Longwood bear. Kauffmann was not to know that Gilbert was then suffering from his final illness, and his personal knowledge of him was confined to a small number of meetings within the space of seven days.

Kauffmann indicates that Gilbert's anglophilia, his knowledge of English and English society were considered essential at the time of his appointment in 1956. After the neglect of Longwood and its near demolition, It was important to appoint a person who was acceptable to the British authorities ... Martineau was chosen through the intervention of President Vincent Auriol and the support of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.. (1) He also quotes Jacques Jourquin, for the first time perhaps since the terrible exile, the French and English lived together in harmony. This was of course the time of Suez, the last great Anglo-French imperial venture; arguably relations have never been as close since those days.

Apart from his work as curator - most notably capped by the acquisition of the Briars, which but for his action would surely have been lost for posterity - he was also a prolific author.
Michel has posted an extract from one of his books, on the Entente-Cordiale, on his blog. Below is my attempt at translation of it. I will borrow Michel's heading, which seems appropriate.

Saint Helena, Symbol of Anglo-French Entente

St. Helena is one of the last ten possessions remaining from the glorious days of the British Empire. To everyone, even Anglo-Saxons, St. Helena remains linked with the name of the emperor of the French. Paradoxically then, St. Helena represents a treaty of union between two great and ancient nations always bound together, albeit often as enemies.

In 1815, with Napoleon under lock and key on St. Helena, England and France found themselves together again, as after Picquigny, but in a Europe in turmoil, where absolute monarchies and liberal regimes were coexisting, conservatism and liberalism were in collision, and nationalist movements were on the march. The two nations, who acted as guiding consciences, had no choice but to embark on a rapprochement . . . " 

The episode of St. Helena is a caesura. Since the arrival of Napoleon on the rock in the Atlantic, France and Britain were never again to be in direct confrontation. Of course there have been some excitable moments, but never war. St. Helena, the natural monument appropriated by history, has become the symbol of French-English friendship -or, if one prefers to say, Anglo-French …

Gilbert Martineau, L'Entente Cordiale - Éditions France-Empire, 1984

Until recently it was impossible to find a list of Gilbert's publications, except through the rather hit or miss on-line Amazon catalogue. Happily this has now been rectified.

Michel has provided a list of publications and a synopsis of his life on his blog Gilbert Martineau/janvier 2008.

There is also an English entry on Wilkipedia Gilbert Martineau .

Gilbert died at La Rochelle, but his ashes were brought home and scattered in the Atlantic off St. Helena.
(1) Kauffmann p72; Gilbert had met the man who was to become Dule of Edinburgh before the war. Apparently after Gilbert's death in 1995, Michel received a letter of condolence from him.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Hutts Gate, Halley's Oservatory and Diana's Peak, St. Helena

Now for something different, and it is harder to think of a greater contrast from Sandy Bay than a walk to Diana's Peak.

First a short stop at Sea View. It is located above Sane Valley (The Valley of the Tomb).

It is where the Judge stays on his periodic visits.

Not the grandest of houses, but it must have some of the finest views on this island of fine views.

Then to Hutts Gate Store, which now looks in danger of falling down.

In the first few months of the captivity Grand Marshall Bertrand and his family lived in a house opposite here, but it has long since disappeared.

Our guide for the day is the lady who is the Financial Secretary to the St. Helena Government, who happens to bear the surname of England's most notorious highway robber. She tells me that I am the first person to notice that!

So we begin our climb to Diana's Peak.

On our way we pass the site of Halley's observatory. His journey to St. Helena made his reputation; on his return to London in 1678 he became one of the youngest ever members of the Royal Society, aged only 22 (1)

A view of Hutts Gate Store as we begin our climb.

In the distance we have a good view of Miss Mason's House (Teutonic Hall/Orange Grove), now apparently in a very poor state of repair.

In Napoleon's time Miss Mason amused the inhabitants of Longwood by her habit of riding on a bullock. She was always effusive in her greetings to Napoleon. There were inevitable rumours of romantic attachments.

When the party returned to remove Napoleon's remains in 1840, she was at Hutts Gate to meet them.

Also there was Mrs Dickson, a widow with a large family who now kept a liquour store at Hutts Gate. She had been the nurse to young Arthur Betrand who had been born on St. Helena: the only Frenchman to come on the island without Hudson Lowe's permission, his mother had said. Arthur Bertrand now returned to St. Helena with his ageing father and tearfully greeted Mrs Dickson. His mother had died in 1836.

Amidst the lush vegetation we ran into a couple of men from Dr Johnson's home town, whom we had met a few times before. They always made us laugh, even on the top of the mountain.


(1) Halley sailed to St. Helena in November 1676, with a letter of introduction to the East India Company from Charles II.
The constant cloud cover made his task difficult, and prolonged his stay. Nevertheless he was able to catalogue 341 southern hemisphere stars, discovered a star cluster, and observed the complete transit of Mercury. On his return to England in 1678 he published a catalogue of southern hemisphere stars.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Sandy Bay St. Helena : The Emperor Napoleon's Last Outing

It is time to visit Sandy Bay, at the opposite end of the island from Jamestown.

The name itself might conjure up images of deck chairs, beaches, picnics and sand castles, but Kauffmann had prepared me for it:

Bones, pebbles, wreckage, mounds of seaweed lie on the black sand. ... All the gradations of black and grey are strewn in dull profusion.
(Kauffmann, Harvill Press 1999, p.219)

Somehow appropriate that this was the scene of the Emperor's last outing, although he viewed the sea only from the green, upper reaches of the bay.

On our way we buy some food for a picnic.

Small country shops seem a little easier to find on St. Helena than in the U.K.

The road from Hutts Gate goes through beautiful fertile countryside.

Soon though we are in a mountainous desert landscape.

We park the car at the end of the tarmac road, and ask some workmen which of the two tracks leads to Sandy Bay.

"This is Sandy Bay" they reply.

According to a press release from the Chief Secretary's office, dated 2003, Sandy Bay Beach is being transformed into a tourist attraction.

While the beach will not end up being covered with white sand and the sea is not safe for swimming, the area has many interesting features to offer. These include fortifications, interesting walks, geological aspects and spectacular scenery. Now, trees are to be planted at the back to create shade and to help beautify the area.

The promised irrigation pipelines are in place, but some of the trees look as if they have given up the struggle

One of St. Helena's fire engines is parked down by the shore. This must be one of the last places on earth where a fire could do any damage.

After I have dipped my toes in the Atlantic we sit down to have our picnic, not as sumptuous as the one the Emperor had on that visit. My wife jumps up with a scream. A mouse jumps out of her bag, as frightened as she is.

Evidently there is some life down here.

On our way back we spot what looks like a dormer bungalow, and turns out to be Mount Pleasant, in the early nineteenth century the home of Sir William Doveton. (1) In those days it must almost certainly have been a two storey building.

This was the place which Napoleon visited on October 4th 1820 with Montholon and Bertrand. Apparently it has the most beautiful view of the bay.

They sipped champagne on that lawn, and invited Sir William Doveton and his family to share the meal they had brought with them. Sir William reported it all to Sir Hudson Lowe, who had not met Napoleon since 1816: the food and drink they had consumed; Napoleon's jokes about Sir William's alcohol intake which did not go down too well; Napoleon's physical appearance - apparently he was as fat as a Chinese pig.

He struggled to ride back on his horse, and was glad to be offered a carriage at Hutts gate. So he returned to Longwood House, never again to leave it.

Whatever temporary diversion his gardening had given him was over. He had been seriously ill in July. His entourage which had already been seriously reduced by the departure of Gourgaud, O'Meara, Mme Montholon and Las Cases, was now threatened with further loss. Montholon and Bertrand were talking of leaving: Fanny Bertrand hated the island - "The devil shat this rock when he passed from one world to the next" she is supposed to have said.


(1) Sir William Doveton(1753-1843); magistrate and judge, the only St. Helenan resident ever to be knighted(in 1818). According to Las Cases Napoleon had visited here once before, January 3rd 1816: "As we were on the point of sitting down to dinner[at Plantation House], we were, to our great surprise, informed that the Emperor, in company with the Admiral, had just passed very near the gate of Plantation House; and one of the guests (Mr. Doveton of Sandy Bay) observed, that Napoleon had, in the morning honoured him with a visit, and spent three quarters of an hour at his house." (Memorial of St.Helena Vol I, Part II, p. 95)

Friday, 22 February 2008

Longwood St Helena: First Impressions

When I am no longer here, the English travellers will sketch this garden, made by Napoleon. Nobody will wish to leave without seeing it. - Napoleon

I have nothing new or interesting to communicate to the Imperial Ministry. Bonaparte's affairs are always the same. He leads a tranquil life, seems to enjoy good health, and is extremely busy with his garden. He is having big trees placed, and flowers planted, which he waters himself, in full view of every one. This morning the orderly officer wrote to Plantation House as follows:

I saw General Bonaparte this morning. He was amusing himself in one of his private flower gardens. His morning dress at present consists of a white gown, and straw hat with a very wide brim. In the afternoon he appears out in a cocked hat, green coat, and white breeches and stockings. He walks a good part of the afternoon in Longwood garden, accompanied by either Counts Montholon or Bertrand, and often pays a visit to the Bertrands in the evenings. Yesterday afternoon he walked around in the new garden and buildings.
- Count Balmain, Russian Commissioner, January 20, 1820

So to Longwood.

A sharp, almost un-negotiable right turn when you leave the Briars, through some more pastoral countryside around Hutts Gate, and on, through Longwood Gate, to the unshaded, windswept plain which was the site of Napoleon's home from December 1815 until his death on May 5th 1821.

A community has now developed around Longwood House. There is a shop and filling station, and a children's play park. To the rear of Longwood House is St. Helena's only golf course.

We arrive early. Today we are going to look at the outside of the house and the gardens only.

Let us look now at some old pictures. This print shows Longwood when it was used as a farm building after Napoleon's death, before it was transferred to the French Government.
The barn in the foreground was not there in Napoleon's time, and it is there no more.

What I had not fully appreciated is that Longwood is not really one house. The plan in Kauffmann's book had confused me. There are in fact two linked houses around a small courtyard.

Napoleon and his servants lived in the single storey house to the left and behind the barn. The two storey building to the right housed the Montholons and, for a time, O'Meara.(1) Until recently it was the home of successive French curators. At the time of our visit the First Secretary to the St. Helena Government was living there.

The mid-nineteenth century print, done after the restoration of the house in the reign of Napoleon III makes this clearer, although the second house looks as if it is single storey.

In the years after the above print was made, the termites took their toll. At the time the British Royal family visited in 1947 the French Government was considering demolishing it and replacing it with a memorial.

Happily it was decided to save it. It was carefully rebuilt using materials that would resist the termites. Of the original fabric, the stone steps alone remain.

Although I tend to imagine Longwood in sepia; which somehow better fits the mood of the place, I expected to see it looking like the pictures below. This must have been something like its appearance when the present curator arrived on the island some twenty years ago, and began the process of recreating the gardens.

Carefully sticking to the historical records, Michel has both restored and transformed the setting. I knew about this, but was still unprepared for its beauty.

I asked my wife for her reactions. "Very peaceful" was her comment. It is tempting to believe that in the short period in 1819-1820 when Napoleon was creating these gardens, and before his final illness started to take its toll, that he found a peace that had probably eluded him for most of his life.

All is perfectly tranquil and in good order at St. Helena. Bonaparte takes considerable exercise in his garden. His complexion is fresh and healthy, his air pleasant; in other words, quite another man. Count Montholon and Mme. Bertrand assure me that he is still having some trouble with his chronic disease, hepatitis, and often takes mercury, but that, thanks to the assiduous care of M. Antommarchi, it is no longer dangerous. - Count Balmain, April 18, 1820

Before we left we met a young man who has been tending these gardens for a decade. He told us that he loves his job.

The sun was shining when we were there. He said it had been raining earlier. He was philosophical about the constant changes in the weather for which Longwood is well known: it makes the plants grow better, he said.

He showed us the gum tree to the left, bent by the prevailing wind, one of the few remains from Napoleon's time.

(1) O'Meara (1786-1836) was an Irish doctor in the British Navy whom Napoleon met on the Bellerophon after he surrendered. When Napoleon's own doctor refused to go to St. Helena he agreed to accompany him. Unlike the French entourage he was given freedom of movement; in return he was expected to report back to Hudson Lowe on the goings on at Longwood. He finally fell out with Hudson Lowe and was expelled from the island in 1818. He later published an account of Napoleon's captivity which dealt a blow to Lowe's reputation from which he never recovered. In his will he asked for the following to be inscribed on his gravestone:
I take this opportunity of declaring that with the exception of some unintentional and trifling errors in the Voice from St. Helena, the book is a faithful narrative of the treatment inflicted upon that great man Napoleon by Sir Hudson Lowe and his subordinates, and that I have even suppressed some facts which although true might have been considered to be exaggerated and not credited.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Briars: Napoleon's 1st Home on St. Helena

Now to the Briars, the home of the Balcombe family, where Napoleon spent the first two least unhappy months of his exile, and where the Duke of Wellingon had stayed some years before.

From Maldivia we took the road that twists up the mountain. At the junction at the top there is the most difficult of right turns into the road to the Briars. Sensible people take the left fork from the centre of Jamestown, up Napoleon Street, which takes a less twisty approach to the same junction and avoids the sharp right turn. The best approach is to abandon your car in upper Jamestown and walk on the old pathway marked as the Barnes Road.

The story of how Napoleon came to stay at the Briars is well known. He spotted an oasis of green on his way back from inspecting Longwood, rode down to investigate, and indicated to Admiral Cockburn who accompanied him, that he would rather stay there than go back to Jamestown, where he was naturally the object of curiosity. The Balcombe family offered him their house; he accepted the one roomed Pavilion. There he stayed, until Longwood was ready.

The story of his stay is delightfully told in Betsy Balcombe's book, mentioned previously.

Some idea of how the Briars must have looked is given in the print below - although it dates from a half century later. (Views of St. Helena, Published by T.E. Fowler, St Helena, 1863).

The Balcombes' house can be spotted on the top left hand of the picture, and the smaller Pavilion just to its right. (Again you will need to click on the picture)

The surrounding hills have not been built on, and the heart shaped waterfall is still recognisable, although it was without water at the time of our visit. Much of the land surrounding the Briars, including the heart shaped waterfall, has been purchased and given to the National Trust by Michel, thereby securing the whole location for future generations.

The Balcombes' house has gone, demolished after the second world war. In the grounds as you approach is a later cottage, being renovated by the curator of the French properties (not personally!), pictures of which can be seen on his blog.

I have to confess that my first impression was not very favourable. I am not sure why. Perhaps it was the approach to the Briars - what Kauffmann described some 15 years ago as having the appearance of "an abandoned worksite". Cable and Wireless still own a large chunk of what was once the Balcombes' estate, and they have different priorities.

Perhaps it is simply that I preferred the more English pastoral scenery around Plantation House, Oaklands and Farm Lodge which I had seen previously. My reaction was not shared by my wife, who loves the mountain landscapes of her native Norway, and also immediately liked the Briars.

So this is it. Napoleon's first home since his brief and poignant stay at Malmaison at the end of June, where he had said his farewells to his brother Joseph, his stoic mother and his tearful step-daughter Hortense, bound he then hoped, for the United States.

"I do not know what is in store for me. I am still in good health and I have fifteen years ahead of me. I sleep and wake up when I want to; I can ride four hours on end and work ten hours a day. My food does not cost much. I could live very well on a lois a day. We shall see." So he reportedly told Jacques Lafitte before he left.

Kauffmann describes his entrance into the pavilion at the Briars as "quite a banal moment ... it has no dramatic significance at all"

The pavilion itself has been faithfully restored since 1959 when it was offered to the French Government by Dame Mabel Brooks, and so became the third of the French Properties on the island.

Mabel Brookes was a descendant of William Balcombe, and an admirer of Napoleon. She was the wife of Sir Norman Brookes, the first Australian to win Wimbledon. She herself had a distinguished public career and was awarded the CBE in 1933 and in 1955 became a Dame of the British Empire. In 1960 she was appointed a Chevalier (Knight) in the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration which had been instituted by the Emperor Napoleon. She appropriately received this honour at Malmaison.

In the early years of the twentieth century the Pavilion housed a director of the Eastern Telegraph Company which owned the whole estate. Before then the estate had been owned for half a century by George Moss, employee and business associate of Saul Solomon, and French vice-consul from 1847 until 1889. Among his other jobs he was for a time (from 1857) Consul for his Majesty the King of Sardinia!

This is a similar view to the one that the Emperor would have had every morning - except that I would not be there, and there was a marquee on the lawn in which he dined and slept. (1)

The sea off Jamestown can just be seen in the background.

It should be noted that the two wings of the Pavilion were added after he left, when the Pavilion became the residence of the British Admirals who were stationed on the island during his captivity. Napoleon himself never returned to the Briars. The whole building now is I believe the official residence of the Curator of the French Properties, although the current one does not live there.

We returned to the Briars a number of times, and I came to appreciate its calmness and its beauty. Under the guidance of Michel I discovered the pathway that Napoleon had called the "Philosophers Walk" - a place where he could walk and contemplate, unseen by any curious visitors. We also saw what I call the Briars' allotments.

Here I am told there is no shortage of water, and you can grow three crops of potatoes a year, but there are few takers. In England there would be a very long waiting list.

Fellow visitors to the island often speculated as to why so little is grown on the island now - particularly as we searched the shops in vain for onions!

In Betsy Balcombe's day all manner of tropical fruits were grown at the Briars, and she claimed that her family made £500 a year profit from the sales, not an inconsiderable sum in those days.

So what began with the story of Napoleon's brief sojourn at the Briars ends with gardening. Perhaps not inappropriate since he too for a short time found the therapeutic effects of gardening at his next and final home.


1. "There was a small lawn in front, railed round, and in this railing the marquee was pitched, connected with the house by a covered way. The marquee was divided into two compartments, the inner one forming Napoleon's bedroom ... Between the two divisions of the tent was a crown, which his devoted servants had carved out of the turf floor.." Betsy Balcombe's Memoirs of Napoleon on St Helena p. 50.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Plantation House: Home of the Governor of St. Helena

It is time to get back to my tour of the island.

It is hard to imagine scenery that is more different from Half Tree Hollow than the lush pastures in the area around Plantation House which is a relatively short walk away.

The picture above is taken close to Oaklands. (It is worth clicking on it to enlarge it). Oaklands was one of a number of substantial houses on the island in which the wealthier residents lived by the end of the eighteenth century.

Plantation House itself, the home of the Governor, is described in some detail on the official web site. Official Web Site

The house has fine views overlooking a lawn and the sea. Here I have reproduced a less well known one, which must have been familiar to generations of residents of the house. Again worth enlarging.

Here is a view of the vegetable gardens, with the sea in the background. In earlier days these would have been cultivated much more intensively than now.

Jonathan must be the most famous resident on the island, and certainly the oldest. Apparently Queen Elizabeth II remembers meeting him in 1947.

He arrived in 1882 from the Seychelles, and was past the first flush of youth even then.

He still has an eye for the ladies.

And so to the ante-room to find the charcoal drawing of Napoleon made by James Sant(1820-1916). Apparently it was a study for an oil painting to illustrate Lord Roseberry's book Napoleon The Last Phase mentioned in an earlier blog. Roseberry later gave the picture to the Glasgow Art Gallery. The picture now has almost iconic status.

A print is also on display at Longwood House, To see this and accompanying information visit Michel's blog French Consul's Blog

You can also buy an amateur artist's copy of it for £1 at the museum in Jamestown (surely the cheapest thing on the island) , signed Gilbert, but who Gilbert is/was, is a matter of some controversy!

It is also on the T-shirts on sale at Longwood House.

Kauffmann was intrigued by this picture on his visit, and did further exploration on his return to Paris. It appears that Sant took his inspiration from Delaroche's Napoleon in 1814, which was painted in 1845. Neither painter had ever seen Napoleon.

I was intrigued by the choice of pictures on the wall facing Napoleon - in the centre a small portrait of Hudson Lowe, Napoleon's gaoler, flanked by pictures of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen mother to avoid confusion) - the only reigning monarch(s) ever to visit St. Helena (1947). Somewhat ironically, after their visit they complained to the French Government about the dilapidated state of Napoleon's House!

The contrast between Plantation House and Longwood House is marked. No wonder that Lady Lowe was reportedly shocked when she was shown round Longwood House after Napoleon's death. She had been known to complain to her hapless husband that he was neglecting her comforts and spending too much time on trying to improve those of our neighbour (Napoleon's nickname - the St. Helena practice of using nicknames is apparently not new).

Also one wonders how the story of the Captivity might have played out had Napoleon been housed at Plantation House, which was apparently considered. Certainly there is a map of St. Helena drawn by Lieutenant Read and published in October 1815 - before he had arrived - which marks Plantation House as "The Residence of BONAPARTE"!