- Lioman Lima – @liomanlima
- BBC News World
The betrayal had been consummated.
The king was in his study, alone, sitting in his gold-inlaid chair.
For the last time, he got up and saw the thick clouds descend with the afternoon on the slopes of the Bishop’s Cap.
The few assistants who were still faithful to him had brought him there, to the imposing peak of his kingdom: the Citadel of Laferrière, the fortress he had built for himself on top of a mountain and which is still the largest ever built in the West.
Down on the other side of Cap Haitien, where the rabble of the Kingdom of Haiti lived, the rebellion spread to the beat of drums and incantations.
The military garrisons, the settlers and even their very generals they had long conspired against him, “the first crowned monarch of the New World”, already weak and sickly, lame since a stroke he had a few months ago.
That day, October 8, 1820, he had asked to be bathed and groomed in his bicorne hat and his most luxurious military uniform, laced with degrees and the sacred symbols of his royalty.
When the servants left the study, he walked morosely back to his desk, opened the drawer without hesitation, and took the pearly pistol, loaded with a silver bullet, in his hands.
The roar of gunpowder sent the pigeons flying from the roof and shook in a dull echo the arches and cisterns of the stone of the impregnable fortress, built to store water and food for the resistance of a regiment of up to 5,000 men for a year.
When the servants rushed into the study a small stream of white smoke was still billowing from the barrel of the warm pistol.
Henry I, the “destroyer of tyranny”, the “regenerator and benefactor of the Haitian nation”, “the creator of its moral, public and warlike institutions”, the ex-slave who fought against France and ended up crowning himself king, lay on the ground , wrapped in a dark pool of blood.
The end of the kingdom
The suicide of Henri Christophe, which is now 201 years old, led to one of the greatest revolts – and political reconfigurations – that gave rise to what is now Haiti.
The country, at that time, was divided into two: a republic in the south, ruled by Alexandre Pétion, and a monarchy in the north, ruled by Christophe.
But a few days after his death, the republic would drown the second attempt to create royalty on the American continent (Jean-Jacques Dessalines had tried before, also in Haiti) and would take the last strongholds of “imperial power.”
Christophe’s unique reign had begun almost a decade earlier, in 1811: he made himself monarch and declared eight days of festivities and dancing for his coronation in his honor.
The king of Haiti, however, was not Haitian by birth. It is believed that he was born on October 6, 1767 on a Caribbean island that some say was San Cristóbal and others that Granada.
The young slave arrived in the colony of Saint-Domingue, where he bought his freedom and, in 1791, joined the insurrection against French power.
But the soldier believed to have fought a battle in the United States’ war of independence and was one of the generals of the Toussaint-Louverture during the Haitian Revolution, ended up owning his own slaves and building one of the most lavish, despotic kingdoms. and unusual of the few that were in the American continent.
The reign of Henry I
He called himself Henry I, had six castles, eight palaces and the Laferrière Citadel built, which is still one of the most imposing buildings of the 19th century in the hemisphere (it took 15 years, 20,000 workers and 2,000 lives to build it and it is said that In its construction, cement was mixed with quicklime, molasses, and cows’ blood) to make the union between the blocks stronger.
He created his own coin with his effigy crowned with an olive tree in the Caesar style, he called the capital of his kingdom Cape Enrique, he was followed by his own nobility for which he appointed four princes, eight dukes, 14 knights, 22 counts, 37 barons and He named himself Sovereign Grand Master (and founder) of the Royal and Military Order of San Enrique.
He also promoted an unusual system of education, one of the most comprehensive that existed during the first half of the 19th century in Latin America, and established a legal code, with his name, that governed almost all aspects of the life of the kingdom.
But he also promoted a system of forced labor – almost slave – and imposed living conditions, norms and regulations on the peasants that in a few years made him an extremely unpopular leader.
The king was left alone and isolated in his palace and a stroke in August 1820 left him hemiplegic and relic, a shadow of himself, even though he was only 53 years old.
The kingdom of this world
There were no rites or masses in the Kingdom of Haiti for the death of its king.
Christophe’s body was stealthily lowered by servants into the bowels of the Citadelle that same October 8, while Cap Haitien burned in revolts.
They cut off his finger, which the queen kept as a relic –and it is believed that he took with him into exile in Italy– and they hastened to give him an unusual burial in the realm of this world.
They buried his body in the mortar they had prepared in a hole at the base of the fortress so that no one could ever desecrate his corpse.
The king of Haiti sank slowly and, little by little, turned to stone. He became one with his Citadel, the megalomaniac dream of his empire, the dark mass that despite the times and earthquakes, still watches over Cap Haitien from the mountain of the Bishop’s Cap.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.