Longwood House on the island of St Helena, Napoleon’s final home, shown above , is in vital ned of repair and the French Government has launched an appeal to raise money to fund the restoration. The repairs and restoration of the house are estimated to cost approximately €1.5million, and the French Government is hoping that at least half of the funds needed will be funded by private sources and the public. If you go here you can find the link to the appeal and details of how to donate.
Jane Austen’s brother, Frank knew St Helena and visited it on duty in October 1807 while he was serving as captain on board HMS St Albans.
He wrote about it and his vivid impressions of the island are included in the book, Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J.H Hubback and Edith C. Hubback. I shall quote them here as they make for fascinating reading. Do remember that at the time Frank was writing the island had no connection with Napoleon at all:
“This island being in the hands of the English East India Company, and used by it merely as a rendezvous for its homeward-bound fleets, where during time of war they are usually met at stated periods by some King’s ship appointed to take them to England, has no trade but such as arises from the sale of those few articles of produce, consisting chiefly in poultry, fruit, and vegetables, which are beyond the consumption of its inhabitants, and a petty traffic carried on by a few shopkeepers, who purchase such articles of India and China goods, as individuals in the Company’s ships may have to dispose of, which they retail to the inhabitants and casual visitors at the island.
“The inhabitants are chiefly English, or of English descent, although there is a considerable number of negroes on the island, which with very few exceptions are the property of individuals or of the Company, slavery being tolerated here. It does not however appear that the slaves are or can be treated with that harshness and despotism which has been so justly attributed to the conduct of the land-holders or their managers in the West India Islands, the laws of the Colony not giving any other power to the master than a right to the labour of his slave. He must, to enforce that right, in case a slave prove refractory, apply to the civil power, he having no right to inflict chastisement at his own discretion. This is a wholesome regulation as far as it goes, but slavery however it may be modified is still slavery, and it is much to be regretted that any trace of it should be found to exist in countries dependent on England, or colonised by her subjects. Every person who is above the rank of a common soldier is in some shape or other a trader. A few acres of ground laid out in meadow, or garden ground, will seldom fail to yield as much produce in the year as would purchase the fee-simple of an equal quantity in England, and this from the extravagant price which the wants of the homeward bound India ships (whose captains and passengers rolling in wealth, and accustomed to profusion, must have supplies cost what they may) enable the islanders to affix to every article they raise. To such an extent had this cause operated, that a couple of acres of potatoes, or a garden of cabbages in a favourable season will provide a decent fortune for a daughter.”
All changed in 1815 when Napoleon was imprisoned on St Helena, living at Longwood House untill his death in 1821. He was first buried on the island but his remains were removed to the spectacular surroundings of Les Invalides in Paris in 1840.
After Napoleon’s death the ownership of Longwood House reverted to the East India Company , and then some years later reverted to the British Crown. Napoleon III of France acquired it from the British Government in 1854, and his purchase included the piece of land where Napoleon’s body had originally been buried.
I’m not sure what Jane Austen would make of this appeal, but I thought you might be interested to hear of the appeal to restore the house where England’s great enemy during Jane Austen’s lifetime lived and died..