THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD
Henri Christophe (as a cook, page 73; as king from p.109 and thereafter)
Christophe (1767-1820) was one of the Haiti's revolutionary leaders. A freed black slave, he aided Toussaint L'Ouverture in the liberation of Haiti and was army chief under Dessalines. When Dessalines declared himself emperor, Christophe took part (1806) in a successful plot against his life and was elected president of the republic. Christophe, a pure-blooded black, then waged a savage and inconclusive struggle with Alexandre Pétion , the champion of mulatto supremacy, who retained control of southern Haiti.
In 1811, entrenching himself in northern Haiti, Christophe declared himself king as Henri I and entered upon an energetic but tyrannical reign. He created an autocracy patterned after the absolute monarchies of Europe. Compulsory labor enriched his fiefdom. Christophe surrounded himself with lavish, and sometimes ludicrous, magnificence; the pomp and splendor of his reign are still shown by the ruins of the citadel of La Ferrière, a formidable fortress on top of a mountain, surrounded by precipitous cliffs, and of the fabulous palace of Sans Souci, at Cap Haïtien, his capital. In 1820, when he was suffering from partial paralysis, revolts broke out. In despair, Christophe committed suicide.
Henri Christophe was born in 1757 on the island of Grenada. He was an adolescent when he arrived in Cap-Francais in St-Domingue. In 1778, he fought as a volunteer in Savannah, Georgia, for the independence of the United States of America. He was only 21 years old. Henri Christophe, a lieutenant of Toussaint, who fought the army of Napoleon during the War of Independence, is very well known for his influence in the nothern section of Haiti, where he built monuments, palaces and forts.
He proclaimed himself King of Haiti in 1811 and created an atmosphere of discipline, work, and education in that region. He was feared and regarded as a man of steel. He carried an extraordinary vision of grandeur for the Haitian people, which can be seen in his accomplishments. Among his magnificent works are the Citadel, that carries his name, and the Sans-Souci palace, which, even in ruins, draws admiration.
Paralyzed by a stroke and faced with the weakening of his army, Henri Christophe took his life on October 8, 1820. He remains the most admired of Haitians for his genius and advanced vision of Haiti as a civilized and prosperous nation.
(There is some difference of opinion as to Christophe's birthdate, either 1757 or 1767; the latter seems the more frequently cited date).
For further information, go to:
For a picture of his statue and more information:
For a contemporary painting of Christophe approaching the Citadel: