Archive | April 2015

What happened to the Haitian nobility?


Above: Emperor Faustin Soulouque and his wife 

This year marks the 200 annirversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the end of Napoleonic rule in Europe. Not everyone is pleased with this, least of all the French. Recently a Belgian coin minted to commemorate this event caused a brief diplomatic issue between Belgium and France as the Elysee found the memory of his event to be painful even after 200 years. If the Batttle of Waterloo is too painful to be memorized, the prior defeat of the French in Haiti and its failure to reign in the Haitian rebels are events not described in French history books.

The legacy of Napoleon in the New World is particularly troublesome as it was Napoleon himself who reintroduced slavery in 1802 on the island of Haiti or Saint-Domingue as it was called in those days. Yet, as Haiti declared itself independent in 1804, the new ruling class of former slaves was quick to mimic European fashion and even European style of government,  including a complete European styled court system around its for the most part fickle rulers.  In the course of the 19th century Haiti was to introduce different forms of monarchy. Henry Christophe was Haiti’s only King and crowned himself King of Haiti in 1811, perhaps inspiured by Napoleon himself who crowned himself Emperor of France.

King Henry did not stop there but created an entite nobility, consisted of his leading folowers and military men. This charismatic King elevated some of hid best men to the titles of duke, baron, prince, baron etc., all based on a freshly invented system of peerage including armoy and titles with the names of the estates where former slaveholders had once held sway over Haiti’s economy and slave population. Thus somewhat strange-sounding titles as ‘Duc de la Marmelade’ and ‘Comte de Limonade” were created.

Another monarchy in Haiti that followed Henry’s kingdom, was the rule of Faustin Soulouque, who declared himself Emperor of Haiti. In the years after its independence Haiti had after all conquered the entire island of Hispaniola including the easten part currently known as (ironically) Santo Domingo which was less densely populated. The Spanish sepaking whites and mulattos in that part of the island however remained loyal to Spain and woukld soon rebel in their turn against Haitian rule. It was against this background that the Haitian Empire was created. It was however short-lived as Soulouque’s rule was one of terror, making the Emperor a target for many factions that he had alienated, especially the Haitian nobles. Soulouque had – in the same was as French Emperor Napoleon III had done – created his own imperial nobility. This Imperial nobility existed alongside the already existing nobility created by King Henry.

My question to readers is: what happened to the Haitian nobility in the tumultuous 19th and early 20th century? Many fled as a result of purges, war and conflict to France and to other parts of the Caribbean. If readers of this article know any more about this please email me at or leave a comment. Any new information regarding this question will be most appreciated.




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