Wednesday, 21 May 2008

On Death Row in St. Helena for Stealing the Governor's Beer

Back to the Judicial Records. My last update was on the case of dueling, in which the jury took seven minutes to acquit the three men accused of murder.

One of the most recent cases I have transcribed involved a rather feckless soldier John Bowles, who was caught in the cellar of Plantation House late one Saturday evening in September 1809 with three bottles of beer in his hand, and three "in his breast".

He was charged with stealing six bottles of beer, and the Court heard the case in October 1809. Since it was his house that had been robbed, the Governor, Alex Beatson, stepped down as president of the court for this case. The jury took 45 minutes to declare Bowles guilty, but recommended mercy.

The president duly sentenced him to death.

Apparently an appeal was launched, because in January 1810 Bowles was brought before the Court again, and it was recorded that his appeal had been referred to the Directors of the Honourable Company, who had referred it to the King.

Sometime later (between February and May - the actual date was omitted) he was informed that his appeal had been successful.

In my work so far I have also come across a couple of cases of child abuse/rape. In both cases the children were said to have contracted some form of venereal disease; both were under 9 years of age.

One case was dismissed because of the lack of acceptable evidence. In the other case the defendant Patrick Jones was convicted, and was duly hanged on 9th February 1810.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Celebrations to Mark 150 Years of French Properties

Interesting post on Michel's blog on the celebrations of the 150 years of the French Properties. Good press coverage, and no need for me to translate anything. One of the papers picked up on the fact that a direct descendant of Napoleon, Count Walewski, laid a wreath at the tomb - along with the Governor and the Honorary French Consul and the Head Boy and Head Girl from the Prince Andrew School. A Latin Mass was held in the room Napoleon died in at 5.45 on May 5th.

I picked up the following interesting and I think encouraging passage from the Independent

In his speech, Governor Gurr expressed
his admiration for Emperor Napoleon,
who died on the Island over 187 years
ago. He also took the opportunity to
thank Michel Martineau, the French
Consul, by saying that “we, the inhabit-
ants of this Island, owe you a debt for
the fact that you have re-created the
most significant part of our heritage with
a taste and professionalism that will be
of enormous benefit as we develop our
tourism. I give you my hearty thanks.”
A toast was held to our Queen and to
the memory of Emperor Napoleon.

150 Years of French Properties

Great to see a glamorous lady who has appeared on one of my blogs photographed at the reception at the Briars Pavilion.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Iron Duke, St Helena, Napoleon & Count Walewski

Before we start, some anniversaries: May 4th 1810 - birth of Alexandre Walewski (see below); May 5th 1821 - death of Napoleon I.

The truth is often stranger than fiction.

Wellington had visited St. Helena on his way back from India in 1805, and by a strange coincidence had also stayed at the Briars. (see plate above)

Apparently he also stayed at the Porteous house in Jamestown in which Napoleon had lodged uncomfortably on the first night.

The House (below) has long been demolished.

Not only did Napoleon and Wellington stay in the same places. They even apparently shared at least two mistresses, although not at the same time and not on St. Helena! (1)

The Iron Duke

Although a national hero after Waterloo, Wellington was far from universally popular:
The exaggerated loathing of the Whigs for the man who threatened and finally defeated their idol, Napoleon was to be a constant feature throughout Wellington's career.(2)

As a member of the post war Tory Government Wellington became very unpopular with those who were campaigning for reform. As Prime Minister (1828-1830) he opposed any extension of the right to vote, arguing that the existing system of representation was as near perfection as possible.(3)

The sobriquet Iron Duke does not derive from his personality, his military exploits or his constitution, but from the fact that the windows of his house had to be covered with iron shutters to stop the mob breaking them during the campaign for parliamentary reform.

On the anniversary of Waterloo in 1832 a pro-Reform mob stoned him, shouting Bonaparte for ever.(4)

The Strange Career of Count Walewski

Count Alexandre Walewski(1810-1868), Napoleon's natural son, born to Marie Walewski, a young Polish Countess.

Alexandre Walewski became the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom during the rule of Napoleon III. His first wife was a member of the English aristocracy, Lady Caroline Montagu, the daughter of the 6th Earl of Sandwich. Walewski socialised with Wellington, who attended some of his dinners at the French Embassy.

Walewski was ordered by Napoleon III to attend Wellington's funeral (18th November 1852), much against his will. He not unnaturally did not like having to walk behind a catafalque bearing the word WATERLOO. He was later thanked by the British Prime Minister (The Earl of Derby) for attending.


1. One of the mistresses was the actress Mademoiselle George (Marguerite-Joséphine Wiemer). Andrew Roberts, Napoleon and Wellington is an interesting comparison of the two men by a modern Conservative historian.

2. Roberts p. 6

3. This, at a time when less than 20% of the adult male population could vote, and when large cities like Manchester had no separate representation whilst the 7 voters of Old Sarum had a seat in Parliament! In 1830 Wellington was succeeded as Prime Minister by Earl Grey, and in 1832 the Great Reform Bill made the first relatively limited change to parliamentary representation.

4. Wellington was booed and hissed and apparently bricks were thrown at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway in 1830. This was a reaction to his views on the Peterloo Massacre and his opposition to Reform.