Marie Louise Coidavid – The Haitian Queen in exile (Part two)




marie louise coidavid children
Marie Louise's children (public domain)

Read part one here.

It would seem that the Queen would have a glorious reign. Queen Marie Louise Coidavid seemed to ensure a dynasty in Haiti. Her son, Victor Henri, would be the next King of Haiti. However, there would soon be political unrest. Nine years after she was crowned, she would be forced to spend the rest of her life in exile. Little did she know that she and her husband would be the only monarchs of Haiti. 

Now that she was Queen, Marie Louise had her own court.[1] They consisted of ladies-in-waiting and her own secretary. Her husband also created his own court that consisted of princes, dukes, counts, barons, and chevaliers.[2]On Thursday evenings, the King and Queen held royal protocol.[3] All of the ceremonies were orderly and dignified.[4] Afterwards, there were balls. The King loved quadrilles and stately minuets.[5] These balls often pleased the Queen.[6] However, the foreigners that lived in Haiti found these royal balls and ceremonies ridiculous. They created a song that mocked the King and Queen:

“Know the land where the orange and lime

Mingle and grow; and it’s acidulous sweets

Are absorbed by the people in titles sublime

As observed when amorous Marmalade Duke meets Her grace, Lemonade.”[7]

King Henri was not always faithful to Queen Marie Louise.[8] He had several mistresses.[9] He was also very insecure because he saw the threats from France that wanted to invade his Kingdom. He completed Dessalines’ unfinished fortress and made it the greatest fortress in the new world called Citadel Laferriere.[10] He executed anyone who dared to oppose him. They included many freed slaves and those with mixed African and Caucasian backgrounds.[11] He erected many monuments to himself.[12] He also built a magnificent cathedral, which was Queen Marie Louise’s favourite building.[13] King Henri was in charge of the Crown Prince’s education. Queen Marie Louise hired female teachers to instruct her daughters.[14] They were accomplished in music, dancing, and painting.[15] King Henri set up schools around his Kingdom and hired foreign teachers.[16] He also paved roads and established forts.[17] He even established a legal system named Code Henri.[18]

Even though the Kingdom was prosperous, the people hated King Henri.[19] They called him “A bas le Roi.”[20] He tried to get the people to like him by working overtime. He worked so hard that he went into a coma.[21] He finally realized that he was so hated that the people wanted his death and would destroy all that he had built.[22] Thus, King Henri knew that the end was near and became depressed.[23] Fearing that he would be assassinated, King Henri committed suicide by shooting himself on 8 June 1820.[24] Queen Marie Louise was nominated as regent with her son Victor Henri as King of Haiti. However, the regency never came to be because, ten days later, a mob stormed the palace. Crown Prince Victor Henri was assassinated on 18 October 1820.[25] Queen Marie Louise and her daughters managed to escape to England.[26]

They were to remain in exile for thirty years, and they would never see Haiti again.[27] Throughout their years in exile, they would travel through London, Salzburg, Rome, and finally settled in Pisa.[28] Even though Marie Louise was a queen and her daughters were princesses, they were shunned by European society because of their skin colour.[29] Queen Marie Louise never remarried, nor did her daughters ever marry because no respectable European man wanted them because of their dark skin.[30] Thus, they became tourists travelling from one place to another.[31] When they finally settled in Pisa, Queen Marie Louise attended their chapels and formed a connection with the Monastery of the Capuchins.[32] She took care of the poor. Queen Marie Louise was happy in Pisa because it had a Catholic population.[33] 

Her daughter, Athénaïs, died in 1831. Françoise-Améthyste died in 1839 after she fell in the resort town of Stresa.[34] Her funeral was held at San Sepolcro, and her body was interred in Capella San Donnino.[35] The grief-stricken Queen went to Torino requesting for the President of Haiti to give her a safe passage back to Haiti.[36] Nothing came about, so she moved back to Pisa, where she spent her remaining years. She continued attending chapel services and building chapels. Sometimes, she received her two friends, the Claphams, whom she met in exile.[37] They did not call her Queen but “Madam Christophe”.[38] Queen Marie Louise died on 11 March 1851 at the age of seventy-two. She was buried in the Monastery of the Capuchins cemetery in Pisa, Italy. Her epitaph reads:

“Here repose mortal remains

[of] M[arie]-Louise widow of Henri I, deceased King of Haiti

Who having experienced one sort of fortune and another

Presented [herself] equably to prosperity and to adversity

A woman adorned with every Christian and social virtue,

A compassionate and generous donor to the poor,

Who sustained with a strong spirit

The loss of her husband and two sons in her country

And also that of her two daughters [during] retirement of Pisa.

She suffered mordant pain caused by dry gangrene in her left foot, to which

She patiently submitted herself to an amputation.

The final assault was repeated peri-pneumonia,

Comforted by the aid of religion,

[She] ceased to live on 11 March 1851 at age 72 and 10 months,

Greatly longing to be buried in this chapel

That she caused to be built after the death of her oldest daughter.”[39]

Queen Marie Louise Coidavid went from a poor, unremarkable life as an innkeeper’s daughter to the heights of power because of her ambitious husband. His ambition and arrogance, however, caused tragedy and sorrow. He committed suicide, and his son was assassinated. Queen Marie Louise Coidavid lived the rest of her life in Europe, enduring the death of her two remaining daughters. It appears that later in her life, the exiled Queen attempted to redeem herself through her involvement with the Catholic Church by building chapels and donating to the poor.

Sources:

Benson, L. (2014). A Queen in Diaspora: The Sorrowful Exile of Queen Marie-Louise Christophe (1778, Ouanaminth, Haiti–11 March, 1851, Pisa, Italy). Journal of Haitian Studies20(2), 90–101. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24340368.

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, 4 October). Henry ChristopheEncyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Christophe.

Waterman, C. E. (1935). Carib Queens. Boston: Bruce Humphries Inc. pp. 95-158. http://faculty.webster.edu/corbetre/haiti/history/earlyhaiti/marie-louise.htm.


[1] Waterman, p. 128

[2] Waterman, p. 128; “Henry Christophe” para. 5

[3] Waterman, p. 129

[4] Waterman, p. 129

[5] Waterman, p. 130

[6] Waterman, p. 130

[7] Waterman, p. 131

[8] Benson, p. 91

[9] Benson, p. 91

[10] Waterman, p. 120; “Henry Christophe” para. 5

[11] Benson, p. 91; Waterman, p. 126

[12] Waterman, p. 122

[13] Waterman, p. 124

[14] Waterman, p. 136

[15] Waterman, p. 136

[16] Waterman, p. 136

[17] Waterman, p. 154

[18] Waterman, p. 134

[19] Waterman, p. 154

[20] Waterman, p. 154

[21] Waterman, p. 154

[22] Waterman, p. 154

[23] Waterman, p. 154

[24] Waterman, p. 155; “Henri Christophe”, para. 5

[25] Waterman, p. 157

[26] Waterman, p. 157; Benson, p. 90

[27] Benson, p. 90; Waterman, p. 158

[28] Benson, pp. 95-96

[29] Benson, p. 91

[30] Benson, p. 91

[31] Benson, p. 91

[32] Benson, p. 97

[33] Benson, p. 97

[34] Benson, p. 97

[35] Benson, p. 97

[36] Benson, p. 97

[37] Benson, p. 97

[38] Benson, p. 92

[39] Benson, p. 98






About Lauralee Jacks 174 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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