Bonaparte was here - a long time ago. Worcestershire exhibition features French emperor's brother.

First published in News by

A LOCAL artist has been inspired to create his first solo exhibition and write a book about Napoleons’ younger brother, Lucien, who lived in Worcestershire and Shropshire two hundred years ago.

Mark Hilsden, a Worcester architectural pen and ink portraitist, has his solo exhibition “A Home in the Country” at Number 8 Community Arts Centre, Pershore until September 24 featuring old houses and buildings across Worcestershire, Shropshire, France and Italy linked to Lucien Bonaparte.

He explained: "While looking for house portrait commissions some 15 years ago in Ludlow I noticed a blue plaque on one of the houses saying that Lucien Bonaparte had lived there. A few years later I visited the little church at Grimley outside Worcester and discovered that Lucien Bonaparte had lived in the parish at a large property called Thorngrove. I was intrigued.

"After six years of intensive research, using government papers, private letters and old newspaper articles I have pieced together a story that came to an end 200 years ago this September. Lucien Bonaparte became an international celebrity, who unlike his brothers and sisters, spurned the chance of becoming king, preferring to remain married to the woman he loved with his integrity intact.

"Lucien became increasingly critical of his brother's government and was exiled to Italy, his political career over, he was only twenty-four. Settling down as a private citizen improving his estates, creating a outstanding collection of old master paintings, while working on an epic historic poem Charlemagne. Safe under the protection of the Pope, with whom he became friends, purchasing property and land to help the impoverished church. Napoleon offered his brother the chance to become King if he divorced his wife, he refused.

"Absorbing Italy into the empire, Napoleon imprisoned the pope, Lucien fearing for his life and that of his family, deciding to escape to America. Captured by the British and brought to England as a Prisoner of War where he lived under light surveillance in Shropshire and Worcestershire. A controversial celebrity prisoner and famous; people would travel miles out of their way to see him. With the help of powerful friends they bullied the government into allowing him to break the law and purchase a house in Worcestershire. Here lords and ladies would be entertained."

The artists new book “A Home in the Country” features a number of the drawings that are on show at the exhibition. It tells the story behind the pictures of a man whose life was full of contradictions.


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