Film star Clint Eastwood has one, and so has the singer Bob Dylan; and now a writer on Napoleon says Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, custodian of the emperor’s homes on St Helena, deserves to receive France’s highest honour.
Andrew Roberts makes the tongue-in-cheek nomination in an article for Britain’s Spectator magazine, after visiting the island to research a biography.
“Napoleon’s house at Longwood in the Deadwood Plain is kept up superbly,” he writes, “despite the fact that, as the curator and French honorary consul Michel Dancoisne-Martineau points out, just as in Napoleon’s day it’s enveloped in cloud for 330 days of the year, with all the problems of damp that that implies.
“Monsieur Martineau deserves the Legion d’Honneur for the years of love and attention he has dedicated to Longwood, which now looks exactly the same as it did on 5 May 1821, the day of Napoleon’s death.”
The Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur was established by Napoleon Bonaparte himself on 19 May 1802, with five degrees, from Chevalier (Knight) to Grand Croix (Grand Cross).
The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (“Honour and Fatherland”).
Michel was toasted at a party in November 2012 to celebrate 25 years as custodian of the Napoleonic properties on St Helena.
The tourism department on the island may not be so taken with another line in Andrew Roberts’s article, referring to Longwood suffering “the same infestations of rats, cockroaches, midges, termites and mosquitoes that plagued the emperor.”
He writes: “The diving and hiking are said to be great, but I wasn’t sold on the plans to turn the island into one of the world’s greatest bamboo exporters. And before any of the 30,000 tourists turn up, they are going to have to extend the total of hotel bedrooms available (presently standing at an impressive 18).
He continues: “Saints have rather a schizoid attitude towards Napoleon; he is the only reason most people have heard of their island, yet it equates it in the public imagination with remoteness, exile and death.
“Many of the population are descended from slaves, and they complain that their ancestors weren’t consulted about him being sent there by the colonialist government in London.
“If they had been consulted though, I bet they’d have voted to take Napoleon, and enjoy their 15 minutes of world fame.
“They certainly wouldn’t otherwise have been able to sell little bars of soap in the shape of Napoleon’s head, such as the one that [the Times journalist] Michael Binyon kindly gave me (perhaps as a hint?).”
Click here to read the full article – with a cartoon of Napoleon lying on a map of St Helena
LINK: Legion d’Honneur