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Saturday, August 1, 2020

British hero of battle of Waterloo set to fall !!

Trinidad & Tobago is well known to all Cricket lovers.  Trinidad  is the larger and more populous of the two major islands and numerous landforms which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.  Trinidad and Tobago  is a Republic, an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles.   The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498.   

Cricket is one of the most popular sports of Trinidad and Tobago.  The legendary Brian Lara hails from this place.  The other famous West Indian cricketers would include – Ian Bishop, Mervyn Dillon, Larry Gomes, Logie, Deryck Murray, Stollymeyer, Wes Hall.  There have further been the  likes of Darren Ganga, Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul,   Kieron Adrian Pollard  and in the present team that is battling in England -    Shannon Gabriel.

In recent times, a  portrait of a Battle of Waterloo hero the Queen has hanging in Windsor Castle has had its accompanying gallery and online description changed!

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in Belgium, part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. A French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition. The battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Upon Napoleon's return to power in March 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies. Wellington and Blücher's armies were cantoned close to the northeastern border of France. Napoleon planned to attack them separately in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. On 16 June, Napoleon successfully attacked the bulk of the Prussian army at the Battle of Ligny with his main force, causing the Prussians to withdraw northwards on 17 June, but parallel to Wellington and in good order.  

Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last.   Napoleon abdicated four days later, and coalition forces entered Paris on 7 July. The defeat at Waterloo ended Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French and marked the end of his Hundred Days return from exile. This ended the First French Empire and set a chronological milestone between serial European wars and decades of relative peace, often referred to as the Pax Britannica. This post is no History chronicling but the fall of a man once considered mighty .. .. and now sought to fall in disgrace with changing times !

Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton GCB (24 August 1758  18 June 1815) (yes the day referred earlier as Battle of Waterloo)  was a Welsh officer of the British Army who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. According to the historian Alessandro Barbero, Picton was "respected for his courage and feared for his irascible temperament". The Duke of Wellington called him "a rough foul-mouthed devil as ever lived", but found him capable.  He is chiefly remembered for his exploits under Wellington in the Iberian Peninsular War of 1807–1814, during which he fought in many engagements, displaying great bravery and persistence. He was killed in 1815 fighting at the Battle of Waterloo, during a crucial bayonet charge in which his division stopped d'Erlon's corps' attack against the allied centre left. He was the most senior officer to die at Waterloo. He was a sitting Member of Parliament at the time of his death.

Earlier in 1795, he shot to prominence under  Sir Ralph Abercromby t at the capture of Saint Lucia and then that of St Vincent.  (those of us following Cricket and especially West Indies would easily know that these Caribbean places) After the reduction of Trinidad in 1797, Abercromby made Picton governor of the island. For the next 5 years he held the island with a garrison he considered inadequate against the threats of internal unrest and of reconquest by the Spanish. He ensured order by vigorous action, viewed variously as rough-and-ready justice or as arbitrary brutality. Picton was also accused of the execution of a dozen slaves and  the trade in captive humans was partly behind his considerable fortune.  

Now comes the news that the statue of 19th century slave owner Sir Thomas Picton will be removed from Cardiff City Hall where it has stood for 104 years after majority council vote in wake of BLM movement.  MailOnline reports that today  construction workers began to take down the controversial marble statue, which is now encased in a wooden box, after councillors agreed it should be removed at a Cardiff Council vote on Thursday. During the meeting, councillors said Picton's 'abhorrent' behaviour as Governor of Trinidad meant he was 'not deserving of a place in the Heroes of Wales collection', with 57 ruling in favour of the statue's removal, five voting against the move and nine abstaining. The move comes just a month after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled over by protestors in Bristol.   
Picton became the highest-ranking British Army officer killed at the Battle of Waterloo and a memorial dedicated to his efforts was unveiled by the former prime minister David Lloyd George as part of a series depicting the 'Heroes of Wales' in 1916.  However the senior officer was also known to have used the slave trade to build up his considerable fortune and in 1806 was also found guilty of torturing Luisa Calderon, a 14-year-old mixed-race girl, during his rule of the Caribbean island.  He was never sentenced, and two years later the verdict was reversed at a retrial. Cardiff's first black mayor Dan De'Ath called for the statue of the 'sadistic 19th Century slave-owner' to be removed.   

'Statues are not just about history. They are about celebrating the lives of the people they depict, and representing a certain set of values. These aren't the values, he's not the person, and these aren't the deeds we want to celebrate and recognise in Cardiff today.'  The girl, Louisa Calderon, was tortured in an attempt to get her to confess to stealing from a businessman she lived with as a mistress, and was suspended with rope by one arm above a spike in the floor.  The latest move comes just weeks after a portrait of Picton the Queen has hanging in Windsor Castle had its accompanying gallery and online description changed to include his links to slavery. Historical details of the painting of Picton were altered to include a reference to torturing a slave girl when he was the 'Tyrant of Trinidad'.

Picton joined Hood in military operations in Saint Lucia and Tobago, before returning to Britain to face charges brought by Fullarton. In December 1803 he was arrested by order of the Privy Council and promptly released on bail set at £40,000. The Privy Council dealt with the majority of the charges against Picton. Those charges related principally to excessive cruelty in the detection and punishment of practitioners of obeah, severity to slaves, and of execution of suspects out of hand without due process.  Picton was, however, tried in the Court of King's Bench before Lord Ellenborough in 1806 on a single charge; the misdemeanour of having in 1801 caused torture to be unlawfully inflicted to extract a confession from Luisa Calderón, a young free mulatto girl suspected of assisting one of her lovers to burgle the house of the man with whom she was living, making off with about £500.

Historical wrongs get reversed though after centuries ~ and may not mean anything for the man in statue !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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