The Haitian Nobility
The Haitian Nobility is the class bringing together all individuals raised to the nobility status by the different monarchs (2 Emperors and a King) who reigned over this nation.
Overview of the Haitian Nobility by Regime:
First Empire of Haiti:
Under the First Empire of Haiti, Emperor Jacques I replied, to those of his generals asking him to establish a nobility, that “he alone was noble”.
Eight months after the independence of Haiti, the governor general, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, is proclaimed emperor according to the will of the people, the 2nd of September of 1804. The First Empire of Haiti and his Emperor, Jacques I, leads a French anti-colonialist policy and in favour of the old slaves which earned him to be assassinated on the 17th of October of 1806.
After his death, the country is separated between north and south. The north remains a monarchy, and the South becomes a Republic. History and Creation of the Haitian Empire
General Dessalines succeeded on the 18 of November of 1803 to defeat the French at the Battle of Vertieres, and the 1st of January of 1804 he himself proclaims the independence of Haiti. He first became Governor General for life, then Emperor – not to be preceded by his rival, Bonaparte (under the name of James I) (1804). The 8th of October of 1804 he was formally invested and crowned by the Archbishop Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Brelle. He massacred the French “who hoped the return of the old order in Haiti" and pursued a policy of agricultural corporatism designed to maintain the profits of the sugar industry by force, without slavery itself.
The Religion of the Nobility of Haiti
The official religion of the Haitian Nobility was the Catholic Faith. Formally, the Haitians have always been staunch Catholics. In fact, two French Archbishops formally crowned the three Haitian sovereigns, and Haiti always had excellent relations with the Vatican. The two Haitian Emperors and the Haitian King were all fervent Catholics, but all paid also private homage to their syncretic African beliefs, having a very original and particular kind of religious devotion which mixed the typical French and Spanish Catholicism with the afro Caribbean beliefs.
The Reign of Jacques I, Emperor of Haiti
February 25, 1805: Dessalines at the head of 30,000 men seized Santiago. On March 7th, the Haitian army converges on the city of Santo Domingo and besieges it. On March 21, the besieged receive reinforcement from a French squadron, led by Admiral Comte de Missiessy. On March 28, Dessalines abandons the siege of Santo Domingo and retreats to Haiti. He will then begin the Haitian Massacres of 1804 against the whites who remained in the country, with more than 5000 white mean dead, a very successful example of ethnic cleansing in the Caribbean that might deserve a deeper sociological analysis.
At the same time, it formalizes the use of the French language, despite the vast majority of the population speaks only Creole.
He repossesses the lands of the French colonists and gives the best to his favourite officers. His constitution of the 20th of May of 1805 forbids land ownership to whites. To restart the economy, it enacts the forced labour of farmers with a harder regulation than that of Toussaint. The people take up arms against this dictatorship. After his death by murder in 1806, the country is separated between north and south. The north remains a monarchy with a nobility, and the South becomes a Republic.
The Haitian Nobility with King Henri Christophe:
The feudal nobility of Haiti was created during his reign. He also built six castles and eight palaces, of which only two still exist (the Sans-Souci Palace and La Ferrière Citadel). Henry I also created a feudal system comprising a new nobility for his kingdom: four princes, eight dukes, 22 counts, 37 barons and 14 knights.
At the end of four years of reign, Henry I made the following ennobles among his generals and high-functionaries, often former heroes of the Haitian revolution:
3 Princes (Gonaïves, Limbé, Saint-Marc)
9 Dukes (Fort-Royal, La Grande-Rivière, L’Anse, L’Artibonite, La Marmelade, Morin, Plaisance, Port-de-Paix, Port-Margot)
19 Earls (Counts)
Inspired by the Napoleonic example, he attached to each of these noble titles landed estates, cultivated by peasants subject to the chore but receiving, right, part of the harvest of sugar cane of these areas which gave their names to their holders; the nobles also received coats of arms.
The Euphonic Qualities of the Haitian Nobility:
Some of the names of the titles and territorial designations and predicates, such as "The Count of Lemonade" and "The Duke of Marmalade" (Marmalade and Limonade were the names of two big plantations in Haiti, and these names originated the two most well-known and famous noble titles of the whole Haitian nobility, reaching a big popularity due to the exotic sonority of these nobility designations). These names were talked about, though some observers, among them King Christopher himself, remarked with irony that France had a Duke of Bouillon (It means broth in English).
Inspired by the Napoleonic example, he attached to each of these titles landed estates, cultivated by peasants subject to taxation, but receiving also a part of the harvest of sugar cane of these areas which gave their names to their holders; these nobles always received coats of arms and were authorised to use mottos.
The 28th of March of 1811 is the day of the Proclamation of the Kingdom, when General-President Henri Christophe becomes formally King of Haiti under the name of Henry I.
The 20th of February of 1812 is approved the famous Henri Code, in order to promote education and classify the by-laws of the kingdom. The Kingdom of Haiti is now a constitutional monarchy established in 1811 by Henri Christophe, President of the State of Haiti which occupies the northern part of the country. Christophe proclaims himself King Henry I, becoming the second monarch of Haiti (after Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who was Emperor Jacques I).
After a nearly fatal stroke and a popular insurrection, Henry I committed suicide on October 8, 1820. His son and heir, Victor Henry, was killed on October 18 by the revolutionaries. They are both buried at the Sans-Souci Palace. After Christophe’s death, the kingdom of Haiti reunited with the south to form a new regime, with Jean-Pierre Boyer as supreme leader.
Nobility system of the kingdom of Haiti:
By an edict dated April 5, 1811, King Henry proclaims a noble class whose nobility titles, coat of arms and mottos are destined to be inherited. This noble system is largely inspired by British institutions, but it still has a certain French influence, partially resembling the Napoleonic nobility, as it contains neither Marquis nor Vicomte titles. The titles conferred are for the most part majorats, in this case large areas of plantations, whose nobility is responsible for ensuring supervision in person or by decree.
Palaces of the Haitian Nobility and Royalty: Sans Souci Palace
Sans Souci Palace is a castle located in Milot, Haiti, in the North Department, in the National Historical Park – Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers, about twenty km south of Cap-Haitien. This is the former main residence of Henri Christophe.
This palace and its outbuildings were built from 1810, under the impetus of General Henri Christophe, one of the heroes of the Haitian independence war, self-proclaimed king under the name of Henry I in March 1811 of the northern half of present-day Haiti whose capital was Cap-Haitien renamed Cap-Henri. The works are completed in 1813. Besides the main body, are also built a chapel with a large cupola, and many annexes: barracks, hospital, ministries, printing, hotel money, school, art academy, farm, and more. King Henri, his wife Queen Marie-Louise and their children – including Victor Henry Christophe, the Crown Prince and Royal Prince of Haiti – lived in this place, as well as their staff and the various councillors and ministers, until October 18, 1820, date of the beginning of the end of the Kingdom of Haiti and its attachment to the southern part of the country.
The King was seconded for the elevation of his palace by Baron Pompey Valentin Vastey, a member of his private council, and the architects employed were Chery Wallock and Henri Besse, Chief of the Royal Haitian Military Engineers. The land chosen was a former French Plantation, appropriated by the rebels and that Christophe had then managed himself, as an industrialist, imposing an iron regime, covering his country with sugar factories, one of his main sources of income.
The king owned 20 more plantations and had other manors built, as well as several strongholds throughout his kingdom, including the Citadel La Ferriere, situated a few kilometres from the palace, equipped with 250 heavy guns. The geographic location of the Royal Palace and the Fortress-Citadel is described on the national strategic plan of the Haitian Kingdom: this land is at the same time in an advantageous and elevated position, concealed and completely autonomous, and it allows the monarch to control its territory and to defend it from both his internal and external enemies, including the French, who will continue to try military invasions of their former colony as proved by the attempted landing of 1814-1815, supported by Louis XVIII.
One can realize the architectural style, very eclectic, and have a reconstructed overview, thanks to various drawings that were made of the palace and the estate during the 1820s: there were two entrances on each side of the main building which had three floors; the first entrance, prestigious, has a double monumental staircase leading to the central pavilion. There is little left of interior decoration and gardens arranged in esplanades and terraces, apart from a marble bust supposed to represent the Queen, as well as some peristyles. The style of this building was so peculiar that it was rapidly labelled by eyewitnesses as the “Versailles of the Caribbean”.
The palace was the outcome of a combination stimulated by everything that was built in the in Baroque Europe, in the XVIII Century, bearing resemblances in name and form almost identical names of the King of Prussia, but also the Neo Palladian palaces of London: this is the case for example for the portico of the chapel that still exists. The king had allied himself with the British, who sent advisers, whose degree of involvement is not well established.
There are Canals, still in place, which brought water from the mountains to the palace and passed under the mezzanine to bring cleanness, freshness and bloom. Christophe’s ambition was to demonstrate to Westerners by this gesture the ability of his new black nation to be architects like their Egyptian or Ethiopian ancestors: This was a political tour de force, as this project cost a fortune and asked for a very important amount of personnel, given the relatively short duration of work. According to a witness of the time, Jonathan Brown, an American Medical Doctor and missionary, it was the most beautiful building in this part of the world by far.
The End of the Haitian Nobility: The Suicide of the Emperor
The 8th of October of 1820, weakened by a cerebral attack, and while a revolt rises among the people against the agrarian laws, the king chooses to commit suicide in the palace chapel with a bullet shot straight to the heart, which, according to the legend, would have been in gold, and fired with a very old Spanish Duel Pistol. His body is buried in the nearby citadel. The golden era of the Haitian Nobility had finished.
The palace and several outbuildings were very affected by two series of violent earthquakes, one taking place the 7th of May of 1842 which destroyed Cap-Haitien, and after that, the famous earthquake of February 1843. The palace was never rebuilt. Since 1982, the ruins of the palace have been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Castles and Military Fortresses of the Nobility of Haiti in the Kingdom Period
The Military Nobility of Haiti needed desperately a stronghold. The Citadel of La Ferrier is a military structure built in the early nineteenth century at Milot in Haiti in the Nord department, by King Henri Christophe. It is the largest fortress of the Caribbean: at 900 meters above sea level, it is located 15 km to the south of Cap-Haitien, in the National Historical Park classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1982.
The fortress was built after the independence in 1804 to defend the northern part of the island of Haiti against a possible return of the French. More than twenty thousand people took part in the building works, which lasted nearly 15 years. It should be remarked that more than 10% of these workers perished during construction (more than 2000 dead workers). This “former slaves blood mixed with the cement of the edifice” is the cause of the strength of the Citadel, according to Haitian folklore and legends.
The constructions were partly demolished by the earthquakes of 1842. Rebuilding and renovation works were carried out around 1990. A memorial stone and inscription was erected around 1991 to remind Haitians visiting this place that King Henry Christophe I, who committed suicide the 8th of November of 1820 at Sans Souci Palace, was buried in this Citadel. This place has a very important patriotic value in the eyes of Haitians.
Second Empire: Emperor Faustine I creates at least 400 new members of the Nobility in Haiti
Faustine Soulouque (August 15, 1782 – August 6, 1867) was a career officer and general of the Haitian army when he was elected President of the Republic in 1847. In 1849, he was proclaimed Emperor of Haiti under the name of Faustin I. Soon he purged the army of the Mulatto elite who led it, installed black loyalists in administrative posts, and created a secret police and a personal army. In 1849, he instituted a purely black nobility in the country. However, his unsuccessful attempts to recapture the neighbouring Dominican Republic undermined his power and a conspiracy led by General Fabre Nicolas Geffrard forced him to abdicate in 1859, and go into exile in Jamaica.
The 25th of August of 1849, he was proclaimed emperor by the Parliament. His coronation took place on 18 of April of 1852, in ruinous splendour for the weak finances of this country, and the payment of the debt must be interrupted. He organizes a violent repression against mulattoes and restores absolutism on the island. Faustin becomes emperor Faustin I, the empire is hereditary but the emperor has no male heir. The Imperial succession consequently passes to Prince Joseph Manville (son of his younger brother, the Grand Duke Jean-Joseph) who married Olive Soulouque (adopted daughter of Faustin, from a first union of the Empress Adeline) with whom he will have numerous offspring (at least three children).
He also created a large nobility, recruited mainly among its senior officials, supporters and advisers.
Like King Henry, Emperor Faustin I gave generously nobility grants and patents to his principal collaborators and high civil servants. It must be noted however, that there were no landed estates attached to these titles, which, nevertheless, in a way continued those given by King Henry.
The titles of nobility were granted by right to the Imperial Family as well as to high civil servants and military leaders, dignitaries and courtesans: thus all the members of parliament and senators were barons, a sort of hereditary peerage.
In the first year Soulouque created four princes of the empire, fifty-nine dukes, two marquises, ninety counts, two hundred and fifteen barons, and thirty Lords, altogether four hundred nobles; the speed of ennoblement slowed down in the subsequent years of his reign.
Unlike their predecessors, who benefited from the profits of sugar plantations attached to their titles, the members of this new nobility had a standard of living much lower, often exercising the same trades of market sellers or day labourers they exercised before their ennoblement took place.
LIST, ALMANAC AND ARMORIAL GENERAL OF THE NOBILITY OF HAITI
The creation by King Henry-Christophe I of Haiti of a national nobility gave rise on the 8th of April of 1811 to the proclamation of an Edict which determined the privileges, letters patent, feudal rights and coats of arms of the Princes, Dukes, Barons and Knights of the kingdom. The General Armorial of the Kingdom of Haiti, which includes 87 coats of arms and 92 Heraldic Drawings, which has been preserved since 1858 at the English College of Arms (document duly archived and registered under the reference JP 177).
Baron d’Ambroise, Colonel and Chief of the Haitian Royal Artillery.
Baron of ALMAJOR
Knight of BAUBERT, Judge of the High Civil Court
Baron of BARTHÉLEMY-CHOISY
Baron de BASTIEN-FABIEN, Division Chief of the Royal Haitian Navy.
Baron of BAZILLE-SAILLANT, Colonel, employed in the South with the Count of Jeremiah.
Baron of BAZIN, tutor to the Prince Royal.
Baron of BÉLIARD, director and steward of the gardens and waters and forests of the king’s palaces.
Knight of BOCHER, Lieutenant Colonel and Aide de Camp of the king.
Hyacinth count BORGNE, lieutenant colonel, governor of the pages of the Queen.
Baron of BOTTEX, colonel, aide-de-camp to the king.
Knight of BOYER, guard central store.
Baron of CADET-ANTOINE, Divisional Head of the Navy.
Pierre Cottereau count of CAHOS, Field Marshall, governor of Dessalines.
Baron of CAZE
Baron de CÉLESTIN-CAP, Colonel, aide-de-camp to the king.
Baron de CHARRIER, Secretary to the King, Secretary of the Queen’s Quarters, Director of the Domains of the Northern Province.
Baron de CHEVALIER
Knight of CINCINATUS LECONTE, lieutenant colonel and aide-de-camp of the king.
Baron of DELON
Baron of DESSALINES, Adjutant of arms of the place of Cap-Henry.
Baron of DEVILLE, Colonel, commander of the second regiment of artillery.
Knight of DÉZORME, Lieutenant Colonel and aide-de-camp of the king.
Jassemain Count of DONDON, Governor of the Citadel Henry.
Baron DOSSOU, Commander of the 14th Infantry Regiment.
Knight of DUPIN, sub-tutor of the Crown Prince of Haiti.
Baron of DUPUY, Secretary and Interpreter of the King.
Joseph Raphael, Count of ENNERY, Field Marshal, Commander of the First District of the Second Northern Military Division.
Prince EUGENE (natural son later recognized by King Henry Christophe).
Baron de FARAUD, Colonel, Director of the Haitian Engineering Works.
Knight of Felix, employed in the South with the Count of Jeremiah.
Baron of FERRIER, Aide-de-camp to the King.
Noel Joachim, Duke of FORT-ROYAL (Marquis de L’AVALASSE in 1816), Lieutenant-General, Grand Marshal of Haiti, Grand Marshal of the Palace, Commander of the First Northern Military Division.
Baron of GALBOIS, Colonel, Aide-de-camp of the King.
Knight of GILES CRÉON, Lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Squadron of the King’s Horse Guard
André Vernet, Prince of GONAIVES, Lieutenant General, Grand Marshal of Haiti, Minister of Finance and Police.
Placid Lebrun Earl of GROS MORNE, Field Marshal, King’s aide-de-camp, Commander of the Second Borough of the Second North Division.
HENRY CHRISTOPHE 1st, King of Haiti.
Baron of HENRY-PROIX
Baron of ISAAC, Justice of the Peace, Seneschal of Cap-Henry.
JACQUES-VICTOR HENRY, Crown Prince of Haiti.
Prince JEAN, Great Baker of the king.
Knight of JEAN-BAPTISTE LAGARDE, employed in the South with the count of Jeremiah.
Baron of JEAN-BAPTISTE PETIT
Baron of JEAN-CHARLES-CHARLAU, Colonel, King’s aide-de-camp.
Jean-Baptiste Perrier, Earl of Jeremiah, General, Commander of the Southern Province.
Baron of JOSEPH-JÉRÔME, Colonel Commander of the 20th infantry regiment.
Baron of JOSEPH-LATORTUE, Accountant General of the Western Province.
Jean-Pierre Richard, Count of THE BAND DU NORD, Governor of Port au Prince and Field Marshall
Knight of LACROIX, Colonel of the Royal Engineers
Charles Charlot, Count of ACUL Field Marshal, commanding the first district of the Second North Division.
Toussaint, Duke of the GRANDE RIVIERE lieutenant-general, grand marshal of Haiti, great huntsman of the king, inspector general to the reviews of the armies of the king.
Baron of LAGROUE, secretary and notary of the king.
Pierre Toussaint, Duke of MARMELADE, Field Marshal.
Corneille Brelle, Duke of ANSE, Cardinal Archbishop of Haiti (without papal bulls).
Pierre Saint-Jean Count of LA PRESQU’ILE, Rear Admiral.
Jean Philippe Daux duke of ARTIBONITE, Lieutenant General, Grand Marshal of Haiti, and Commander of the Western Provinces.
Count of LA TASTE
Warrior Duke of L’AVANCÉ, Earl of MIREBALAIS, Field Marshal, King’s aide-de-camp, commander of the First District of the Western Province.
Louis Achille Count of LAXAVON, Camp Marshal, Commander of the Second District of the First Northern Military Division.
Baron of LÉO, colonel, aide-de-camp to the king.
Jean-Baptiste Count of LÉOGANE, Rear Admiral.
Baron de L’ÉVEILLÉ, lieutenant colonel of the 1st squadron of the king’s horse guard, first squire of the queen.
Knight of LÉVEILLÉ, employed in the south with the count of Jeremiah.
Paul Romain, Prince de Limbe, Lieutenant General, Grand Marshal of Haiti, Minister of War and Navy.
Julien Prévost, Count of LIMONADE, Secretary of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Baron of LUCAS
MARIE LOUISE, Queen of Haiti.
Baron de MOMPOINT, grand Squire of the King.
Count of MONT-ROUIS
Rouanez, Duke of MORIN, Lieutenant-General, Grand Marshal of Haiti, Secretary of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Prince NOËL ,Duke of PORT-DE-PEIX, Colonel of the Haitian Guards, Grand Cupbearer of the king, and Brother of the Queen.
Toussaint, Count of OUANAMINTHE, Lieutenant Colonel, First Squire of the king.
Baron of PAPALIER, employed at the Ministry of War.
Baron of PESCAY, Colonel, and Commander of the 2nd Infantry Regiment.
Knight of PETIGNY, Lieutenant Colonel and Aide-de-camp of the king.
Knight of PIERRE BLAISE
Baron of PIERRE-POUX, Colonel, Aide-de-camp to the king.
Étienne Magny, Duke of PLAISANCE, Lieutenant General, Grand Marshal of Haiti, Grand Chamberlain to the King, Commander of the 2nd Northern Division.
Bernardine Sprew, Duke of PORT-MARGOT, General, High Admiral of Haiti, Governor of the Royal Prince.
Knight of PREZEAU, Secretary of the King.
Baron of RAYMOND, officer and employee near the Duke of Fort Royal.
Bernard Juste Hugonin count of RICHEPLAINE, governor of the "Castle of Delights"(A Manor of the Queen), and Attorney General of the King.
Just Chanlatte, Count of ROZIER, Queen’s Knight of Honour, Intendant General of the King’s Household
Martial Besse Count of SAINTE-SUZANNE, Field Marshal, Commander of the First District of the First Northern Division.
Simon Count of St. Louis, Field Marshal, aide-de-camp to the King, and Master of Ceremonies.
Prince of SAINT-MARC
Baron de SÉVELINGE, Librarian of the King.
Baron de SICARD, Grand Master of Ceremonies.
Baron de STANISLAS-LATORTUE, Attorney of the King and Intendant of Finance of the Northern Province.
Earl of Terre-Neuve, Minister of Justice.
Charles Pierre count of TERRIER-ROUGE, marshal of camp, governor of the pages of the king, aide-de-camp of the king.
Baron of THABARES
Toussaint Dupont, count of TROU, Inspector General of Cultures.
Count of VALLIERE.
Baron Valentin Pompey de VASTEY, Private Secretary of the King.