Bicentenary of Napoleon’s arrival at Elba – restaged using Peter Radclyffe boat

Napoleon arrives at Elba 2014

Yesterday the folks of Elba marked the day two centuries ago when Napoleon landed on the island to live in exile – and used boatbuilder and designer Peter Radclyffe’s newly built 6m gozzo La Grace for the purpose.

She’s a little high on her lines as she’s waiting for an engine and other things to be installed.

The local newspaper has stories and great photos here and here, and put up the YouTube video above. The pomp and style seems entirely in keeping, and I love the hats…

Peter’s Facebook page has photos of the boat, including these:

La Grace Gozzo La Grace 3  Gozzo La Grace 4

The Dream of Napoleon

Longwood House, St Helena. This is where Napoleon was imprisoned
by the British from 1815 until his death in 1821. Photo taken by Isaac
Newton and published by the Wikipedia

Thinking about South Georgia also led me to to muse on St Helena and also, perhaps inevitably, to Napoleon’s exile there.

And then I recalled the striking ballad about it, The Dream of Napoleon, shown below, with thanks to the Mudcat Cafe and the Digital Tradition.

I mean to learn this song some time so, if you’re sufficiently curious, please come back in a while, when you may find there’s an MP3 to download and listen to. It’s an interesting example of the broadside balladeer’s work, and once again underlines the point that not all of the English-speaking world saw Napoleon as a thoroughgoing baddie, or felt that the people of France were their enemies.

For more on St Helena, see the Wikipedia, and this tourism site.

The Dream of Napoleon

One night sad and languid I went to my bed
And had scarcely reclined on my pillow
Then a vision surprising came into my head
And methought I was crossing the billow;
I thought as my vessel sped over the deep
I beheld that rude rock that grows craggy and steep
Where the billows now seem to weep
O’er the grave of the once famed Napoleon

Methought as my vessel drew near to the land
I beheld clad in green his bold figure
With the trumpet of fame he had clasped in his hand
On his brow there shone valor and rigor
He says noble stranger you have ventured to me
From that land of your fathers who boast they are free
If so then a tale I will tell unto thee
‘Tis concerning that once famed Napoleon

You remember the day so immortal he cried
When we crossed o’er the Alps famed in story
With the legions of France whose sons were my pride
As I marched them to honor and glory
On the fields of Marien lo I tyranny hurled
Where the banners of France were to me first unfurled
As a standard of liberty all over the world
And a signal of fame cried Napoleon

Like a hero I’ve borne both the heat and the cold
I have marched to the trumpet and cymbal
But by dark deeds of treachery I now have been sold
Though monarchs before me have trembled
Ye princes and rulers their station demean
And like scorpions ye spit forth venom and spleen
But liberty all over the world shall be seen
As I woke from my dream cried Napoleon

Lyrics thanks to Mudcat Cafe’s DigiTrad pages.

Here’s a rather rough recording of my version – I hope you like it.

From Songs the Whalemen Sang, by Gale Huntington.

I gather one can buy a copy here.


Ship decorations at the Paris Musée de la Marine

Charlemagne, from the Real de France

The head of Charlemagne, from the ship Réal de France, built in 1694. He
makes a noble, striking figure at something like 5 feet tall, and it’s difficult
to believe he’s over 300 years old

La Reale de France stern La Réale de France fighting figures La Réale de France naval officer

La Réale de France stern, fighting figures, and a naval officer

Amphitrite figurehead from the Amphitrie, 1810 Figurehead of Brennus, from a cuirassée of the same name 1899

Figureheads. Amphitrite, goddess of the sea, from the French ship Amphitrie built
in 1810 – she should have been a mermaid!. Gaul leader Brennus from 1899

Figurehead of Napoleon from the Iéna, 1846 Figurehead of Napoleon from the Iéna, 1846

Figurehead of Napoleon from the Iéna, 1846

More photos from the Musée de la Marine in Paris.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding fighting ships of the past is astonishing to behold. They’re ornaments as well as instruments of war – and what ornaments! What these shots don’t really show is the scale of these carvings – Napoleon, for example was massive – the distance from his waist to the top of his head must have been six feet or so.

It’s striking to us Brits that the disgraced autocratic ruler Napoleon should be so honoured decades after his death. Someday I must learn something about the mysteries of history of France!