The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

The Monument to Count de Beaujolais

Malta Independent Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Prince Louis Charles d’Orleans, Count de Beaujolais, youngest son of Duke Louis Philippe d’Orleans (1747-1793) known as “Philippe Egalite”, arrived in Malta aboard a British frigate on 16 May 1808. He was accompanied by his eldest brother Louis Philippe (1747-1850), who was to rule as King of France from 1830 to 1848, and his sister Adelaide (1777-1847). On Tuesday, 29 May 1808, the Count de Beaujolais died1 aged 29. His heart was encased in a box and buried in the Church of Our Lady of Liesse at the Valletta Marina.

The body of the Prince was enclosed within three coffins, the last, covered in black velvet bearing silver refinements, including a coronet, the French Royal Coat of Arms and an inscription identifying the deceased.2 He was accorded a state funeral but remained unburied until April 18183, when he was finally laid to rest in the Chapel of France in the Church of St John at Valletta.4 The Count de Beaujolais was the last person to be buried in the former Conventual Church of the Order of St John.

To mark the Beaujolais grave, a pseudo Grecian sepulchral stele, made in Paris in 1819 and signed5 by Augustin-Felix Fortin (1763-1832), was placed on a wall of the chapel. For many years, this neo-classical manifestation of white Carrara marble remained the sole memorial to the unhappy prince. The tablet, framed by a carved wreath, is segmental headed and contains a relief representing the armorial bearings of the house of Orleans and a female figure mourning over an urn containing the ashes of the deceased. A contemporary watercolour by Charles de Brockdorff (1775-1850) shows the plaque as it originally stood all by itself in the church.

Francois Ferdinand d’Orleans, Prince de Joinville (1818-1900), was the third son of King Louis Philippe. He led an active and adventurous life and was very much involved in military and public affairs. It was, however, as a naval officer that he distinguished himself. The Prince de Joinville joined the French Navy at the age of 13 in 1831. In 1836 he was promoted Lieutenant and in 1839 Captain, as a reward for his bravery during operations against Mexico. In 1840 he brought the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte from St Helena to France. In 1843 he became a Rear Admiral and in 1844 he commanded a French task force against Morocco6, as a result of which he attained the rank of Vice Admiral. The Prince de Joinville retired from public life in 1875 and died in Paris in 1900, a highly respected personality.7

On the morning of Monday, 5 July 1831, the French 50-gun frigate Artemise, under the command of Captain Latreite, called at Malta on an official visit.8 Serving as a cadet on board the Artemise was the Prince de Joinville. As soon as the frigate made harbour, the Prince was waited upon by Monsieur Dominique Miege, the resident French Consul in Malta. Lieutenant Governor Sir Frederick Ponsonby (1783-1837) and the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Station Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Hotham (1777-1833), went aboard to pay their respects. In the afternoon, the prince landed at the Valletta Marina and was greeted by gunfire salutes and a guard of honour. He then proceeded to Beverley’s Hotel to meet the principal civil authorities of the Island. Later, he paid a courtesy visit to the Governor at the Palace and returned Sir Henry’s morning visit at the Admiral’s residence.

The Prince de Joinville was lavishly feted. He was entertained at San Anton Palace and visited HMS St Vincent, Hotham’s flagship, as well as other British naval units. He was also taken around Malta’s fortifications and extensive naval facilities. But the highlight of his stay came with the visit to the Church of St John in Valletta. Archdeacon the Rev. Salvatore Lanzon and the Dean of the Cathedral Chapter Can. Giuseppe Bellanti (1787-1861) met him and showed him around the church. In the Chapel of France, the young Prince stopped and, with evident emotion, stood in contemplation before the tomb of his uncle, the Count de Beaujolais.9

Joinville may have spoken on his uncle’s memorial with his father. In 1836, Miege, possibly under instructions, commissioned the painter Michele Bellanti (1807-1883) to make a drawing of the Beaujolais plaque for the King of France. In appreciation, King Louis Philippe sent the Consul and the artist a letter of thanks and a signet ring10. In 1839, King Louis Philippe commanded from the Swiss sculptor Jacque Pradier (1790-1852) an effigy in the round of the Count de Beaujolais for the Palace of Versailles11. In 1842, Pradier completed a replica ordered by the King for the tomb of his brother in Malta. Louis Philippe paid 20,000 francs for this second sculpture.12

On 19 September 1843, the steam-frigate Veloce reached Malta carrying the new monument. By 7 October it was unpacked13 and unveiled the following 5 December with a solemn Requiem Mass.14

Carved out of white marble, the monument is in a clear romantic idiom that counters Pardier’s usual, if somewhat unconventional, classic manner. The prince is shown in full length, in the dress uniform of a French Admiral, wearing his regalia. He lies helpless on the ground, with his head thrown backwards on one hand as the other, with a map, hangs limply by his side. The pose thus casts a doleful and dreamy expression quite unlike any other figure inside the Church of St John. The monument bears Pardier’s signature and the date 1842.

Perhaps it is safe to assume that at some stage, the young Prince de Joinville gave an account to his father of his stay in Malta and presumably they spoke of the Count de Beaujolais and his Maltese grave. This may have prompted the King to ask Consul Miege for a drawing of his brother’s tomb. Louis Philippe may then have decided that his brother deserved a more appropriate memorial and thus commissioned Jacque Pradier to produce the suave and beautifully carved Beaujolais Monument that still graces the Chapel of France.

Antonio Espinosa Rodriguez is currently Consultant at Heritage Malta

This article first appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of Treasures of Malta, which is published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. Treasures of Malta is a magazine about art and culture that is published three times a year, and is available from all leading bookshops.

Footnotes

1 NLM ms LIBR 399f.2

2 NLM ms LIBR 797 unpaginated

3 Gazzetta del Governo di Malta, 15/4/1818

4 Michael Galea “A French Prince dies in Malta: The Tomb of Louis Charles d’Orleans in St John’s” in Malta, More Historical Sketches, Malta 1971, pp.32-38

5 Mr Vincent Zammit brought the signature to my attention.

6 Jean Paul Ausseur “Mogador, 15 Aout 1844” in NEPTUNIA No. 110 (Printemps, 1973), pp. 57-68

7 For a biography of the Prince de Joinville see: Encyclopedia Brittanica (1972) vol. 13 p. 66

8 Malta Government Gazette 6/7/1831

9 Malta Government Gazette 6/7/1831

10Malta Government Gazette 13/7/1831

11Malta Government Gazette 12/10/1836 p.342

12Mark Stocker “Delicious marble dreams: the Sculpture of James pradier” in APOLLO June, 1986 pp.54401,402 fig.13

13The Malta Mail 7/1-0/1843

14The Malta Mail 20/09/1843

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