King Henry created the finest mansion in America, rising four...

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King Henry created the finest mansion in America, rising four stories above a broad open terrace where fountains played, with canals and basins in the gardens, as at Versailles.

The terrace was reached by a double marble staircase, reminiscent of Fontainebleau.

With red-tiled roof and peach-brick walls, this rose-coloured palace was called "Sans-Souci" in imitation of Frederick the Great.

Tall ogival windows glittered in the sun, while the rooms within were paved with polished hardwood.

On the great gilded carriage of His Black Majesty could be seen the sun motif of the Sun-King.

In the grand hall, hung with French and Flemish tapestries, under the vigilance of the Royal Dahomey Guard, the King held audience every Thursday.

In the morning, the peasants came with their complaints, while the afternoon was reserved for the nobility.

Wearing their prescribed attire of white tunics, silk hose, red shoes and swords with gilded hilts, they sat on folding chairs before the monarch on his golden throne.

All this finery had to be ordered from abroad, as well as the decor of the palace, which kept the elite busy on their plantations to pay for their costumes and their mansions.

Henry had excellent relations with the British, with whom he traded the produce of the plantations for gold, establishing the kingdom's currency and paying for imports.

Noting the exhausting labour of the peasants, a British admiral, Sir Home Popham, warned Henry that he was going too far, too fast. Alexandre Petion, whose lax rule in the south made him popular, had an army ready to intervene should Henry falter.

To this warning, the King replied: "If we could lay our hands on things we have made, monuments, towers, palaces, we might find our self-respect.

While I live, I shall try to build that pride we need and in terms that white men as well as black can understand.

I shall teach pride if I break every back in my kingdom!"Yet Henry had other plans for his people besides endless toil. Most of his 170,000 subjects were illiterate, as was the King himself.

Importing teachers from Britain and making use of educated mulattos, he created free primary schools and lycees, which soon had over 2,000 students.

A ruler of such energy and competence might have governed for many years, but in August 1820 a stroke left him paralysed.

He struggled to carry on but, unable to walk, he could no longer control events.

As the ancient mystique of African voodoo, which Henry had tried to banish, now swept the kingdom, his subjects abandoned the crippled monarch, while Petion's army invaded Port-au-Prince, as the admiral had foretold.

Realizing that his reign was over, King Henry put a bullet through his heart.


Long abandoned, King Henry'S works presented a formidable job of restoration.

When he died, his palace was pillaged, while the Citadel, already shattered by the explosion of the powder magazine in 1818, was also vandalized and the interior set ablaze.

In 1842, further substantial damage was done by an earthquake.

Because access to the Citadel was so difficult, however, the 18th-century armament of 163 guns, considered a unique collection, was preserved.

The roofs and north facade of the palace had gone, while on the south facade the walls were cracked and windowless.

Frequent flooding has undermined the foundations.

The programme of restoration of Henry's monuments, sponsored by UNESCO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was undertaken in 1980. It was directed by the noted Haitian architect Albert Mangones, with UNESCO's technical adviser Giselle Hyvert, and employed Haitian staff and workers.

Since no original plans exist, it was necessary to do extensive research.

Workshops in architectural design, masonry, woodwork, ironwork and tiles were organized.

One workshop at Milot produced more than 150,000 tiles and bricks, while another at the Citadel turned out hinges, hooks, locks and paint.

To stop flooding, drainage was essential for both Citadel and palace.

Retaining walls were erected to shore up the battlements and to close fissures caused by the explosion.

Cannon were positioned on their repaired gun carriages and the vaults of the casements restored.

This armament, with 30,000 cannonballs and shells, should be a major tourist attraction when the Citadel-Museum is opened.

Special rooms in the museum will be devoted to Henry Christophe and to the Liberator, Toussaint L'Ouverture.

When work stopped in 1991, the basic tasks were completed, and Henry's grandeur preserved for posterity.

FRANCIS LEARY is an American writer, based in Paris, who has written extensively on historical subjects for European and American publications, especially on the period from the fifteenth century to the First World War.
Click here pages 1-4 for info

Claude, April 18 2008, 9:30 PM

Topic: CITADELLE: Laferrière. H. CHISTOPHE Mégalomanie

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So who are we supposed to believe? If Maria-Luisa, Henry Christophe's wife was in fact Italian and white she could not... read more >
Lionne, 18-Apr-08 8:12 pm
This might help you. Beware what those French write. Her name was Marie-Louise not Luisa. She was born in Haiti, from... read more >
Claude, 18-Apr-08 9:13 pm
King Henry created the finest mansion in America, rising four stories above a broad open terrace where fountains... read more >
Claude, 18-Apr-08 9:30 pm
Pour Natasha: Article par :Aime Cesaire (Il est mort je crois 17 Avril 2008) La tragedie du roi Christophe, Le premier... read more >
Lalionne, 18-Apr-08 9:43 pm
Il y a quatre chose que nous ne pouvont recourrer: La Pierre apres le lancement Le mot apres l’avoir dit ou l'avoir... read more >
Tasha, 18-Apr-08 10:18 pm
Natasha, On rejette l'hyptothese de 'Christophe megalomane' et on refute l'information que Marie-Louise fut une... read more >
Rubens F. Titus, 21-Apr-08 9:49 pm
Bonne replique! Henry Christophe est l'un de ou le plus progressiste leader de notre histoire. L'appepeler un... read more >
Vieux Tonton, 27-Apr-08 3:35 am
je partage to sentiment, il ya des haitiens qui sont pragmatics et conscient de leur situation, tu en fais partie... read more >
Jojo, 27-Apr-08 12:16 pm


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