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The Argentine granddaughter of Napoleon

In the years of Rosism, a natural son of the first French Emperor arrived to mediate in the Anglo-French blockade. María Isabel Batista Elisa was born and died in Buenos Aires, granddaughter of the man who changed the world in the nineteenth century.

“ Madame, now, a link unites you to the outlawed. It is the fraternity of tears, Madame”,  appeared in El Comercio del Plata in Montevideo, on August 3, 1847, from the verba of a inflamed José Mármol, author of “Amalia” and furious enemy of Juan Manuel de Rosas who does not lose opportunity to denote himself tear exiled, & You will no longer be able to forget the Argentine land since a tender sigh has ceased in Buenos Aires. Your tears and your groans of pain have been lost in the wild silver breezes (sic) But to your tears the tears of thousands of Argentine mothers join.  But you have been able to cry with thin eyes on a tomb, while they cannot cry their children in any grave, nor bring them flowers” ends Marble, and we estimate the strange face of Countess Walewski if she read the note What did the death of your baby have to do with the campaign against the Restorer of the Laws?   Anyway that day he was departing from Uruguay back to France, in  the company of husband, Consul Alexandre Colonna, Count Walewski, and natural son of Napoleon Bonaparte.   Who later became the minister of Napoleon III, and who had married Maria Anna de Ricci, from an Italian lineage dating back to Machiavelli, recognizes that  Rosas  showed himself a “consummate statesman” and  accelerates his return to Europe, not so much because of the death of his firstborn, but because of the “shocking failure” of the Anglo-French mission which sought a rigged agreement after the Second War of Independence, the littoral campaign, and the  Return Battle of Obligado in 1845.   

But let us put aside the vericuets of the Argentine negotiations with the two largest world power, which intended to break the previous Hood-Arana agreement, and let us return to this French family tragedy in the Rio de la Plata. On March 14, 1847, they had embarked in Toulon in the company of Alfred Brossard, thanks to whom we would recover the events, and Joseph Le Predour, the ship captain who would take over the French fleet, those ships that would continue harassment to the coast, had embarked on Toulon Buenos Aires in solitude with the withdrawal of the English fleet, led in their departure by the “Fireband” and “Fulton” - even with the aftermath of the guns of the patriots on the Paraná River.  Crossed a rugged trip with stopovers in Cadiz, Senegal and Bahia, Madame Maria Anna traveled the last month of pregnancy, and with sorrows enters the port of Montevideo, which at that time was defended by English, French, Brazilian, Sardinian (Kingdom of Sardinia, Italy) and Spanish ships. oles,  a total of forty ships with five modern English and four French steamers. This maritime security, a platform for looting on the Argentine coast, was not the same as that of land in the Uruguayan capital, which daily suffered the bombing from the nearby hill by the Rosist ally   For this reason they decide aboard the war steamer “Cassini” not to delay the transfer to Buenos Aires although it was not precisely a port with amenities for travelers, and less for a young woman about to give birth. 

 Buenos Aires, a city cul-de-sac to the sea 

“We disembark, suffering another disgust and decay in our golden dreams. Only those who have found themselves in the same case will be able to assess the bad effect it causes to arrive from Europe,” says the Spaniard Hortelano before starting with complaints about the port of Buenos Aires, “ jump from the boat to a wheelbarrow, in the middle of the beach, swimming horses, with men who look like wild boars instead of people, shouting, kicking and sailing by car until they reach land, having to travel a distance of three or four blocks, ignoring the traveler if there is a lot or little depth, believing, and not without foundation, that there will end their existence, after having crossed the oct and eacute; anus” , adding to the protests laden with irony of the English Consul Parish, “there can be nothing more unpleasant than the current jetty... that passengers are leased on large wheelbarrows at 40 or 50 rods of mainland... joined by a leather rope... sometimes I turned the wheelbarrow and pushed it as could... for the first time in my life I saw the cart in front of a horse”  The French delegation was no exception and passengers and luggage were shaken and soaked from head to toe to the Alameda  (present-day Perón and Leandro N. Alem), while black men in red pants fought over the baggage to be requisitioned at the nearby Old Customs. Port captain Pedro Ximeno showed up politely with a gigantic feather hat, and secured the house for the family on Calle Piedad 117 (today Bartolomé Mitre), that Rosas had taken care of preparing the house with furniture, mirrors and crimson damask hangings.

Another protocol measure was the reception with guns from El Fuerte (in the immediate vicinity of the present Casa Rosada), seat of the viceroys and governors, a sinister rectangle from which several cannons came out, and three red carriages waiting in the Captaincy del Puerto (current Corrientes and Leandro N. Alem) Before a crowd that welcomed the illustrious visitors, in a city that did not exceed 55,000 souls, the stables were rolled to the residence, with the countess visibly nervous and painful.  There came the cream and cream of the porteña aristocracy, headed by  Manuelita Rosas , and strut the Escalada, the Alvear, the Sarratea, the Anchorena, the Pineda and the foreign diplomats, including the Italian Baron d'Hermillón, who tried to calm the young first time mother in his tongue. Both boatus and respect for foreign delegates was common currency in the times of the Rosist regime and opposing attitudes could be severely punished.  This could be confirmed by General José María de la Oyuela, defender of the city in the British invasions, lieutenant of Belgrano and captain of the Grenaderos, who in the same year had the misfortune of crossing through Florida, at the height of the current Rivadavia, with the rich c... Oacute; nsul of Portugal, Souza Leite. Unfortunately because no one wanted to get off the narrow sidewalks to the neighborhood that were the alleys of the city and, crossed me twice, because the general's brother had been banished to Luján due to comments on “negotiated” from the head of the European kingdom. He went handsome Oyuela, the consul had to turn against the wall, and on top the Portuguese received a chicotazo in the head of Oyuela's political nephew Federico Lofforte to the cry “Let a General of the Argentine Nation pass” Souza Leite complained to Rosas and the hero of Independence Oyuela ended up banishing in Lobos.    Rosas always defended foreign interests and business, and gave them legal certainty, unless they intervened with national sovereignty. Few Argentine governments have this merit.  

A city that kept much of the colonial style in houses with wrought-iron windows, and where the Old and New Recovas barely soared, which divided the Plaza Mayor (present-day Plaza de Mayo), the simple churches like Santo Domingo and the lonely San José de Flores, and the few mansions, some, the Old Virreina in the Peru street with the Medranos coat of arms, and Basavilbaso, on the corner of Belgrano and Balcarce.  Damoiselle Isabelle arrived in this small town on May 12 at three in the morning, with the assistance of Rosas doctor, Englishman James Leper . She was registered with the Sardinian delegation and the baptism occurred a month later in the church of Merced. On June 13, 1847, with my permission, the Franciscan religious Friar Pierre Durand, solemnly baptized a girl, born on May 12, under the name of Isabel Batista Elisa, daughter of Don Alejandro Ornano José Colonna Walewski, extraordinary envoy King of the French, and Dona Maria Ana Coundesa Walewski de Riccio (sic) The godfather was Fr Fortunato José L. Predour, chief of the French naval forces in the Rio de la Plata, and Dona Gracia Viscountess of Chabannes”

 However, the child's health was precarious and the unquiet mother practically did not go out to the street, where a strange calm was breathed, with the fear of the brutality of the Cob that escaped from Rosas's controls.   Everything was dyed with blood red to the impression of the French who took it from bad omen “The outside guy of the city was original and curious for more than one reason.  Everything in it breathed a reddish tint , that beginning on the floors of the streets was going to end up in the atmosphere itself... the temperate feds painted the frieze and the front of colorado... the same the lining of the furniture... the men... of pure compadres, they covered half face with pañolas. silk or cotton uelos, always colored. And many came to paint it red with paprika or beet water, to express passion for the holy federal cause”, graphed Eduardo Gutiérrez, author of Juan Moreira, in “A tragedy of 12 years”

Nor did Count Walewski go out too much, although the reason was the anger and tyrrrria that his English colleague  Lord Howden produced him. This prince of Wales, and related to Catherine of Russia, will be one more quickly of the Claque of Manuelite. He even becomes another candidate of the Federal Princess, “adored owner of my heart”  . She takes him to dressings and picnics, which are crowned with toasts “to the illustrious head of the Confederation” led by the Lord. England is in Rosas's pocket and Lord Howden ends up producing friction among foreigners stating that although he does not have the power of his government, he considers Argentine demands to guarantee the “non-intervention” of European powers in Uruguay “fair”, and sovereign power of navigation over rivers. It was Howden who ordered the withdrawal of the English fleet because, fundamentally, the “blockade has become a means of procuring money, either to the government of Montevideo or certain foreigners... the East in Montevideo do not act for their freedom.” 

 Part of Napoleon's family rests in Recoleta 

Many gifts came to the house of Piedad 117, several from Manuelita, who was delighted, like her father, to have a granddaughter of Napoleon in the villager Buenos Aires . It was the comment from Palermo to the Mondongo neighborhood. But the joy lasted little and the drink died on July 2, 1847.   The next day the funeral is held with great popular assistance, and their remains are deposited in the Buenos Aires Recoleta cemetery, unknown the exact place although it is estimated that it shares vault with some Patricia family.  Walewski immediately left on his return to France with his wife, this diplomat who would then be Foreign Minister during the last French monarchy, and confidant of John the Baptist Alberdi in Paris. loss of credibility with his government, and anti-Rosist outlawers who lived it in Montevideo.  On August 3, 1847 he embarked on Montevideo, not if he first promised a force of six thousand French that would lift the siege, and destined to fulfill a goal, that “France comes to nail the flag in South America, on the banks of the Rio de la Plata” None of this would happen despite the called the warmongers of Louis Thiers in the French parliament, in the midst of the bareness of Louis Philip's reign, and the rise of Napoleon III.

Fifty-one days lived among us the granddaughter of Corso, “enlightened despot” for some, “crazy and tyrant” for others, but whose armies spread humanism founded on freedom, equality and fraternity. Those same principles that ignited the Sun of May 25.

Sources: de Venosa, E.  A granddaughter of Napoleon was born in Buenos Aires  in History Magazine Year XVI No. 61 March-May 1996. Buenos Aires; Quesada, E . The time of Rosas . Buenos Aires: From the Restorer. 1950; Balmaceda, D.  Stars of the past . Buenos Aires: South American. 2015.

Rating: 5.00/5.