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UCLan academic plays integral role in gaining recognition for a Caribbean Queen

Posted on - 16th February, 2022 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Education, Politics, Preston News, UCLan
Blue Plaque Unveiling of Marie-Louise Christophe, first and only Queen of Haiti

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) academic has played an integral role in gaining official recognition for a Caribbean Queen.

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Dr Nicole Willson’s research into Marie-Louise Christophe, Haiti’s first and only Queen, has led to a blue plaque being mounted on a London property.

In 2019, Dr Willson unearthed a translation of the original will of Marie-Louise Christophe in the UK National Archives.

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The document proved the wife of Henry Christophe, the revolutionary general turned king, who reigned between 1811 to 1820, once lived in the fashionable outskirts of London.

Marie-Louise moved from Haiti to England with her two daughters, Améthisse and Athénaïre, after a coup by rebel forces which led to her husband’s suicide and the assassination of her only surviving son.

Marie-Louise and her daughters were spared the same fate and, after several months, sought refuge with abolitionist friends in England. The document helped Dr Willson to trace the Queen’s movements across Britain and highlighted how Marie-Louise remade her life in exile.

Marie-Louise lived for short periods in Blackheath and Hastings before eventually taking up residence at 49 Weymouth Street in Marylebone. She stayed at the now Grade II listed property until 1824 when she departed with her daughters for Europe.

Dr Willson, a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Researcher at UCLan’s Institute for Black Atlantic Research, who is working on a project on Haiti’s rebel women, said: “I’m absolutely delighted my research has led to the first plaque being dedicated to a Haitian woman in the UK.

“This has been a monumental journey which has been several years in the making.

“It shines a spotlight on the history of someone who, though remarkable, has been largely overlooked in the history books.

“Given the under-representation of Black figures on blue plaques throughout the UK more broadly, the commemoration of a Black Queen who lived in Georgian London has wide and significant value for public history.”

The unveiling event, held on 7 February, was opened by Councillor Andrew Smith, Lord Mayor of Westminster, and featured speeches from Dr Willson, University College London’s Professor Matthew Smith, Wilford Marous and Michelet Romulus of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Haiti Support Group Shodona Kettle and Haiti’s Ambassador to the UK Euvrard Saint-Amand.

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