St Helena: Napoleon Moves Into Longwood House
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD | Darrin Henry
More stressful than a divorce; that’s how moving house induces anxiety according to many, and that’s just for ordinary people. When you’re an international prisoner and one of the most famous men in history your change of residence is remembered and re-enacted 200 years later.
Bicentenary: Napoleon On St Helena
Napoleon Bonaparte’s final journey of note, while still alive, was his move from temporary residence at The Briars, St Helena to Longwood House on 10 December, 1815, which turned out to be his last residence.
Today in the district of Longwood, two hundred years later, 10 December 2015, the historic event is being quietly remembered with a small re-enactment ceremony.
St Helenian part-time actor, Merrill Joshua, our very own Saint Napoleon, has once again shined the buttons on his custom made replica costume and is solemnly marching along Longwood Avenue towards the House.
Bicentenary celebrations marking Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena began locally in October (2015) and the island will continue to observe key dates over the next six years, the period of the Frenchman’s exile. The big event so far was, of course, Napoleon stepping ashore, which attracted a small crowd who helped recreate the mood by lining the route from the landing steps, up and into Jamestown.
A Visit to Longwood House
Today there is no crowd of onlookers to witness this re-enactment, just representatives of the St Helena Tourism Office and various camera wielding togs from the media to document proceedings.
Through the gates of Longwood House we go with the brooding ‘Napoleon’. Agapanthus lilies line the garden pathway as he makes his way through the grounds, past the tricolore and then a pause in front of Longwood House itself before ascending the steps and going inside.
It’s been another successful bicentenary event. All of us present understand that 200 years ago the scene would have been quite different; a British military escort would have been present in large numbers as Napoleon was after all, a high profile prisoner. Most likely there would have been the French Emperor’s entourage, housekeepers and grounds men and no doubt a sizeable crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of Longwood’s newest resident.
But today was simply about remembering the day St Helena’s most famous resident moved to Longwood, exactly 200 years ago.