St Thomas Church and a Bonaparte

 

                                                    by

 

                                             Peter Martin


Just how is St Thomas Church linked to a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte? Well, in order to
answer this question, we must delve into history, become bedfellows with 19th century scandal, before
finally crossing oceans to complete the story.


The journey begins in the church archives, held in the Church Wardens office. Where there is a
document that referenced a famous or infamous name, depending upon your point of view. It was a
‘receipt’, if you like, from the Manx Museum confirming they had received the documents pertaining to
this individual and had stored them in their archive.


Surely this couldn’t possibly be the same name we have all heard about from history.


But there were also a couple of letters dated November and December 1985 from D M Idigoras of
London. Firstly asking for information and secondly thanking the Vicar at the time Rev McIntosh for
providing a copy of a marriage certificate pertaining to this individual that he had been looking for.


This story revolves around two people. The first person is Louis Clavering Clovis who was born on 18
February 1859. The second person is Rosalie Barlow, who was born on 8 January 1863 in
Altrincham.
Louis and Rosalie established a friendship despite Rosalie being already married to a man named
Bernard Megone. Mr Megone successfully divorced Rosalie citing Louis as the co-respondent. Even
so, the relations between Louis and Rosalie continued after the divorce.


Finally on Wednesday 30th May 1888 Louis Clavering Clovis married Rosalie Barlow at St Thomas
Church, Douglas, Isle of Man. The wedding was overseen by Reverend Savage, there is a dedication
on the wall to him just before you walk into the vestry corridor.


On the face of it, this seems like a simple tale of two people who fell in love, a tale that is repeated
around the world. However scratch under the surface and we come across an altogether different
story.


At the time Louis married Rosalie, he was known as Louis Clavering Clovis, a civil engineer. However
on 12th October 1891, he was acknowledged by Prince Louis Lucien as his son. Prince Louis Lucien
gaining the title of Prince Français on 22 March 1815 and then Prince Bonaparte on 21 February
1853.


Louis Clavering Clovis was now the acknowledged grandnephew of French Emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte.


Louis Clavering Clovis’ grandfather Lucien Bonaparate was Napoleon’s younger brother and was
known as the 1st Prince of Canino and Musignano. Titles bestowed upon him on 18 August 1814
(Prince of Canino) and on 21 March 1824 (Prince of Musignano) by Pope Pius VII. Canino and
Musignano are two neighbouring villages in the Province of Viterbo in Italy where he eventually died
on 29th June 1840 at the age of 65.


Louis Clavering Clovis’ father was known as Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte and sadly died shortly
after acknowledging Louis Clavering Clovis as his son. A report, at the time, of Prince Louis Lucien
Bonaparte’s funeral, recorded that Lord Romily was in attendance as a representative of the Queen
and it took seven carriages to take the dignitaries to the cemetery not counting the several hundred
mourners who followed his remains. The funeral, whilst brief had some unusual features. Prince
Lucien had designed his own sarcophagus and had the oak coffin built to have the sides and top removed.


Louis Clavering Clovis’ father was known as Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte and sadly died shortly
after acknowledging Louis Clavering Clovis as his son. A report, at the time, of Prince Louis Lucien
Bonaparte’s funeral, recorded that Lord Romily was in attendance as a representative of the Queen
and it took seven carriages to take the dignitaries to the cemetery not counting the several hundred
mourners who followed his remains. The funeral, whilst brief had some unusual features. Prince
Lucien had designed his own sarcophagus and had the oak coffin built to have the sides and top
and it took seven carriages to take the dignitaries to the cemetery not counting the several hundred
mourners who followed his remains. The funeral, whilst brief had some unusual features. Prince
Lucien had designed his own sarcophagus and had the oak coffin built to have the sides and top removed. After Prince Lucien’s remains were laid in place, these were removed and the deceased
Prince, dressed in Court costume, with Oxford gown lay upon a mattress covered with violet satin,
trimmed with gold.


A look at the Bonaparte family tree shows :


Carlo Maria Bonaparte (b. 29th March 1746 d. 24th February 1785)
                 Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (b. 15th August 1769 d. 5th May 1821)
                       Louis Lucien Bonaparte 1st Prince of Canino & Musignano (b. 21st May 1775 d. 29th Jun 1840)
                                 Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (b. 4th January 1813 d. 3rd November 1891)
                                               Louis Clavering Clovis Bonaparte (b. 18th February 1859 d. 14th May 1894)


Carlo Maria Bonaparte (b. 29th March 1746 d. 24th February 1785)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Napoleon Bonaparte 15th August 1769 – 5th May 1821

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lucien Bonaparte1st Prince de Canino and Musignano 21 May 1775 - 29 Jun 1840

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte Prince Francais & Prince Bonaparte 04 Jan 1813 - 03
Nov 1891


Sadly we could not find any painting nor photograph of Louis Clavering Clovis.


Nor did Uncle Napoleon attend Louis and Rosalie’s wedding at St Thomas’ having died many years
before they were married.


However, the story did not end there. At this point, we have to travel across oceans in order to pick up
the threads of the tale. Three newspaper reports continue the story of the marriage :


Timaru Herald (New Zealand) 4th March 1892
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic 1848-1957) Wednesday 3rd August 1892
The New York Times published May 17 1894


At a West London Polic Court on Jan 12th 1892 Prince Louis Clovis Bonaparte, was charged with
conspiracy with William Alexander Thompson to defraud Rosalie Clovis Bonaparte of a quantity of
jewellery valued at £20,000 ($100,000 as reported in the New York TImes).


It transpires that Louis and Rosalie remained married until 27th September 1891 when, at midnight
Louis walked out on Rosalie and she had not seen him since. Louis later contacted Rosalie and told
her that he was in trouble and had instructed his solicitors, Messrs Lewis and Lewis, to institute legal
proceedings against Dr Sinclair Coghill who had begun his own civil proceedings against him claiming
Louis was trying to extort money from him.


Mr Thompson visited Rosalie requesting jewellery that she had been given by Louis to use as
inducement to Dr Coghill to try and get him to drop proceedings.


A few days later, Mr Thompson called on Rosalie to say that the matter was now settled.


Later on, Rosalie found out that Louis had married Laura Elizabeth Scott on 14th October 1891, 2
days after his father had acknowledged him and he had taken the surname Bonaparte, and had given
the jewellery to his new wife. She went to the Messrs Lewis and Lewis and found they had not been
given any instructions from Louis.


Inspector Morgan, of the X division, produced the jewellery in court and Rosalie identified it as her
property. She said she parted with it to save her husband. The jewellery was given to her by Louis,
who stated that it belonged to his mother. The marriage of Louis and Miss Scott was announced in an
illustrated paper, which gave a description of the jewellery given to the bride.


Louis was eventually acquitted of the charges.


But their divorce seemed to be a messy affair with Prince Louis never gaining a legal separation from Rosalie prior to marrying Miss Scott.


This led Rosalie to file for a dissolution of her marriage with Louis on the grounds of his second marriage to Miss Scott.
Louis bringing a counter suit in the English courts for the annulment of his marriage to Rosalie on the ground that she had a husband living at the time. The annulment asked for by Louis was granted on the 1st Aug 1892 and the French courts sustained the judgement of the English tribunal, thus legalizing the second marriage in France as well as in England.


There is a Decree Absolute dated 25th April 1893 for the marriage in the Manx Museum archive, part of the documentation the Church sent to the archive and recorded on the ‘receipt’ that was found originally.


However, Louis second marriage was to be short lived as Louis Clavering Clovis Bonaparte, a grandnephew of the Emperor Napoleon, died on Monday 14th May 1894 in London at the age of 35.


He is buried at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green in the London Borough of Brent. The inscription on his grave reads :


“Here rests the body of Prince Louis-Clovis Bonaparte, the only son of His Highness Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, the celebrated philologist. Endowed with a warm heart, he was beloved by all his friends, inheriting much of the talent of his distinguished family. He gave promise, attaining eminence as a civil engineer, when death cut short his career in the 36th year of his age. He was born the 18th. of February 1859 and died the 14th. of May 1894. On his soul sweet Jesus have mercy. Beloved in life, in death he is not forgotten."


Prince Louis Clavering Clovis Bonaparte was buried immediately to the North of his father. It is possible that one or both of his wives may be buried next to him, as none of the wording on the adjacent grave is legible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What started with a question “Just how is St Thomas Church linked to a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte ?” has led us back over 126 years, to a marriage at St Thomas church and a famous French family who had an even more famous French son Napoleon Bonaparte. It led us across oceans to newspaper reports in both hemispheres finally ending up at a graveyard in London.


There are many more threads that could be un-earthed and followed in this tale. It raises many other questions such as why did Louis and Rosalie choose St Thomas church to wed ? Did they live on the Isle of Man, if only for a short time ? Did Louis know of his parentage throughout his life or was it a shock when finally announced ? What happened to Rosalie after the trial ? We leave these threads with you should you want to dig any further into the life of Louis Clavering Clovis Bonaparte, grandnephew of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who was married at St Thomas Church, Douglas, Isle of Man on Wednesday 30th May 1888.

This article was researched and written by Peter Martin and first appeared in our Monthly Parish Magazine.

 

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IM1 2PL

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