Saturday, 21 March 2015

After the 100 Days: Longwood

The title of this post points in a couple of directions simultaneously.  Firstly, I realised that my previous post, concerning a brief AAR from a Napoleonic encounter, was actually my hundredth post, which by any reckoning is a milestone from when I started this blog almost exactly four years ago.  Secondly, I happened to be on the remote island of St Helena at the time I started the blog, and therefore there is a connection to Napoleon and his final 100 Days, this being the bicentenary of Waterloo and all that.
There is a lot of very interesting military (and other) history relating to the island, discussed here and here and possibly here, but as the photos have been burning a hole in my hard drive for four years I thought I'd post a few here of our visit to the final residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, at Longwood.
View from Diana's Peak looking NE towards Longwood, Flagstaff Hill and The Barn
The first thing is context and setting.  St Helena is approximately 10 miles by 12 miles across and is located in the South Atlantic, some 1,370 miles SSW of Luanda on the Angolan coast.  There is no airport (one is being built currently on Prosperous Bay Plain, not far from Longwood), so when we went there in 2011 your choice was three days from Ascension or six days from Cape Town (only 1,950 miles as the albatross flies), by boat.  We did both legs of the RMS St Helena's voyages.  Anyway, the above photo shows where Longwood is, hidden in the dark green ridge in the centre of the photo.  Flagstaff is the pointy green hill and The Barn is the one that looks like a barn.
Longwood House
Longwood itself is very small and is certainly not a palace.  In fact it was a farm before Napoleon was placed there - he never liked it and I can understand why.  It seemed damp and claustrophobic even when we were here.  For some reason I didn't take any pictures in his main living area - I think it was because it was so small, dark and depressing and there were too many other visitors there.
Napoleon's deathmask
The main features I noted were the deep copper bath he apparently spent a lot of time in and his bed, the one he died in.  The dining room seemed to have a bit more life to it but it was not particularly big.
Napoleon's dining table and chairs
The walls had few pictures of note - mainly portraits of Napoleon and some of his Marshals, including this one of Murat, looking a bit pleased with himself.  Perhaps because he wasn't trapped on St Helena.
Napoleon was clearly pretty miserable there and it is perhaps surprising that he lasted as long as seven years before he died in 1822.  I did scrutinise the wallpaper closely for signs of arsenic but they told me that, although it was the same pattern, none of the original stuff remained...
Flagstaff with flagstaff
Once the airport is built I am sure that Longwood will become far more of a tourist attraction than it is at present.  The Saints sort of try to make something of it when the cruise ships come in (they don't try that hard), although sometimes you have to be pretty observant to spot things, like this mannequin of Napoleon on the balcony of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown.
Napoleon at the Consulate.  The bar is downstairs.  We referred to it as the Disconsolate.
He's actually looking across the road at the house that Sir Arthur Wellesley once stayed in on his way to India before he was famous, now called Wellington House.
Wellington House.  Since repainted, but still blue.
This picture of Wellington House was taken from our apartment which was across the road, and which happened to be on the site of the first house that Napoleon stayed in when he arrived on the island.  Anyway, enough of this, back to wargaming.

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