From St Peter Port to revolution. A request from Angela Jianu* of Warwick University for some research into the birth data of Marie Grant of St Peter Port has revealed the extraordinary history of a Romantic heroine, born here in Guernsey in 1819, daughter of Marie Le Lacheur, descendant of the Le Lacheurs of the Forest, and known today to all Romanians through her depiction as Revolutionary Romania, and because one of the main streets in Bucharest bears her name: Strada Maria Rosetti.
Marie Grant was the second of six children born to Marie Le Lacheur (b. 1789), daughter of Jean Le Lacheur and Ester Vaudin of St Peter Port, and Lieutenant Edward Effingham Grant (b. 1795), son of Charles and Ann Grant. Marie Le Lacheur and Edward Grant were married in St Peter Port in 1817. Their daughter Marie went on to marry Constantin A. Rosetti, poet, Francophile, journalist, revolutionary and political leader who eventually became Romanian Minster of the Interior. His entry in Wikipedia, by Marin Bucur, says of him:
C.A. Rosetti will always be remembered as the founder of the free, democratic press in Romania, one of the fathers of the democratic movement in Romania, and an idealist and a visionary to the highest degree of devotion and commitment. At times this became obsessive ...However, it would not be amiss to say that Rosetti taught and educated the Romanians to a greater degree than anyone else in the 19century about the fundamental values of the ethical, political and civil heritage of the European democratic movement.
Marie had four living siblings: Effingham (b. 1820), Sophia (b. 1821), Ann Mayer (b. 1822), and Eliza Marian (b. 1824), all named after their father’s relatives. Jean Vidamour, who originally researched Marie’s birth data, could only find one of these children, Eliza Marian, still living in Guernsey by the time of the 1841 census. She was seventeen years old and living in the home of a French merchant called Josué Massoneau and his wife, Margueritte. This nugget was to prove very important when it came to establishing the familial relationships surrounding Marie Grant and confirming her mother’s parentage; her aunt Charlotte (b. 1781) was godparent to two of Eliza's siblings and married Auguste Massoneau of Maine-et-Loire in 1824. Eliza married William Sarchet in Guernsey in 1855.¹
Marie’s father, Edward Effingham Grant, was born in Markyate in Hertfordshire in 1795. His ancestry, however, is full of interest. He had served as Lieutenant in the 8th West India Regiment of Foot and then in the Royal African Corps, on half-pay from 1819-1832. The West India Regiments² were raised at the end of the eighteenth century and patrolled the Caribbean. The officers tended to be Scots or Irish, the foot soldiers black, and the conditions in which they served less than ideal, yellow fever killing a great many. The Royal Africa Corps was originally made up of criminals and the dishonourably discharged, but by 1819 had been reformed and regularised, seeing action in Sierra Leone and undertaking journeys of exploration into the African interior. Edward Effingham Grant entered the 8th West India as Lieutenant aged 17, so presumably purchased the commission; although he was of Scottish descent and born in England, his family were planters in Antigua and St Vincent, near where the Regiment had its headquarters in Trinidad. The Napoleonic Wars caused the price of sugar to slump, and the plantation owners of the West Indies had begun to fall on hard times. In addition, retired officers on half-pay found the low taxes and mild climate of the Channel Islands to their liking.
When Marie Grant married C. A. Rosetti, who was a boyar, or nobleman, the arms of the Grants of Carron and Spey were incorporated into Rosetti. A family tree of the Grants of Carron and the Islands of Antigua and St Vincent³ includes Edward and his siblings, and reveals in part how this branch of the illustrious Grants of Spey came to reside in the West Indies,having previously lived at Holyrood House in Edinburgh. The family ancestry is far from straightforward, but both Charles Grant of the Adelphi Estate in St Vincent, Edward’s father, and his grandfather, Captain James Grant of Holyrood, left their estates deeply in debt and their children penniless. This large family, many of whom married cousins and other more distant relations, included several distinguished members, but those who were down on their luck seem to have turned to Antigua and the several estates of Dr Patrick Grant, a surgeon who willed his leases to his nephews, one of whom was Edward’s grandfather. Curiously, although Edward married Marie Le Lacheur in Guernsey in 1817, a Charles Grant of Antigua married Elizabeth Guilbert, daughter of John, in St Peter Port in 1799; they had a son, John Charles, whose godmother was another Marie Le Lacheur; and it maybe that Edward, who had many Grant cousins, came to Guernsey to visit him. Edward’s mother died in 1796 in Antigua and his father, Charles Grant, returned to England; he appears to have remarried, but whether he is the Charles who married in Guernsey is as yet unknown. He eventually died in Marseilles in 1821.
Marie Grant’s mother, Marie Le Lacheur, was the youngest of eleven children. Her mother, Esther Vaudin, was from a reasonably wealthy Huguenot family, long established in Guernsey and Sark, that retained its strong religious connections; her godparents included her aunt, Anne Gaudry; many other non-Guernsey French names feature in her family tree. Her father came from the old Guernsey family of Le Lacheur of the Forest.
In 1837 Marie’s son, Effingham, Marie Grant's brother, found a post in Bucharest with the British Consul in Wallachia (southern Romania), Robert Colquhoun.4 Colquhoun and his circle sympathised with the revolutionary aims of the liberal nobility. Marie went out to join him as a governess to the family of a Colonel in the Militia, one of whom was the future writer and politician, Alexandru Odobescu. She met Rosetti there, and they married first at her family house, by then in Plymouth, and then in an Orthodox ceremony in Vienna.
Marie Grant, now Maria Rosetti, had some difficulty gaining acceptance into boyar society, but came into her own in the year of Revolution, 1848. Constantin Rosetti had spent some time in Paris, where he had been befriended by the poet Lamartine, patron of the Romanian exiles in France, and influential historian Jules Michelet, another supporter of Romanian radicalism. In 1848, also a year of upheaval in France, Rosetti and his colleagues encouraged a popular rebellion in Romania; the Ottoman Turks moved in and arrested them. Rosetti, who had sat on the new Provisional Government, and other prominent rebels, were taken by barge to Sviniţa, near the port of Orschowa on the Danube. With her friend, the Jewish artist Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, Maria followed the ships on shore; upon arrival, she persuaded the Austrian mayor that the Ottomans had stepped out of their jurisdiction;she got the guards drunk, the Austrians disarmed them, and the Rosettis fled to France. Her role in this last stage of the revolution was celebrated by French historian Jules Michelet in his 1851 essay Madame Rosetti,5 and by her husband, who compared her to Anita, the wife of Garibaldi, with whom he was acquainted. The family finally returned to Romania after the 1856 Treaty of Paris, and their aim of uniting Wallachia and Moldavia was effectively realised in 1859.
Around 1850, Rosenthal completed one of his most celebrated paintings, România revoluţionară (Revolutionary Romania), shown above.6 A national personification showing a woman in Romanian folk costume, it was also a portrait of Maria Rosetti. The artist died in July 1851, after his attempt to cross into Wallachia was intercepted by Austrian authorities, who tortured him to death in his native Budapest.
Her friend Daniel Rosenthal ensured that Maria Rosetti’s image became iconic, comparable in Romania to that of Marianne in France. A series of paintings by Matisse, known as La blouse romaine and The Dream, were surely inspired by it.7
In 1878, Maria Rosetti wrote in her Mama şi Copilul magazine:
[Rosenthal was] one of the best and the most loyal people that God created after His image. He died for Romania, for its liberties; he died for his Romanian friends. [...] This friend, this son, this martyr of Romania is an Israelite. His name was Daniel Rosenthal.8
Of Maria Rosetti’s eight children, four died as infants. Libertate Sofia ('Libby,' b. 1848) and three sons born in exile, Mircea, Vintilă, and Horia, survived. Maria became a journalist and writer, particularly concerned with the liberation of women, eventually editing her own magazine, Mama şi Copilul, which dealt with issues surrounding motherhood from something of a feminist perspective. She became well known for her charity work, especially after 1875, when her husband became a minister in the government of the National Liberal Party. In 1877, as Romania proclaimed her independence and joined the Russians in the war against the Ottomans, in which two of her sons fought, Maria Rosetti raised enough funds to establish a hospital to help the wounded.
Upon her death, a significant obituary was published in the National Liberal newspaper Voinţa Naţională, who proclaimed her one of the most outstanding Romanian women of her generation.
She is one of the characters in Camil Petrescu's novel Un om între oameni, 'A man amongst women' (unfinished at his death in 1957) and perhaps inspired Ivy Compton-Burnett, who features a feminist schoolteacher named Maria Rosetti in her comic novel More women than men (1933).
In addition to the street in central Bucharest, a school in the Floreasca area of the city is also named after her. Her brother Effingham, born in Guernsey, has also left a lasting legacy in Bucharest. He married Zoia Racoviţă, a Romanian aristocrat. She owned land in central Bucharest, where she and her husband, both revolutionary sympathisers, bankrolled the 'Rosetti-Winterhalder Company,' created in the1840s by Constantin Rosetti and his friend Henric Winterhalder. The revenues from a book-shop, a lending library, and a delicatessen were used to fund the activities of the rebels in exile after the defeat of the revolution. He later sold the estate and the area was known for a time as 'Grant.' The main railway station in Bucharest was built there; one of the main bridges in the city still bears his name, Podul Grant.9 His son Nicolae was a well-known artist.
If you are interested in this family and would like any further details, please contact a librarian.
Angela Jianu is a native of Romania, resident in the UK. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of York, UK (2004) and works as an Open Studies tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Warwick. Having always been interested in Marie and her group, she conceived the idea of a book on the Wallachian Revolution of 1848 while working on her doctoral thesis. The book, entitled A Circle of Friends—Romanian Revolutionaries and Political Exile, was published in March 2011. Angela has her own website, with a link to the book and where it may be purchased. For those in Guernsey, Angela was kind enough to donate a copy of her book to the Priaulx Library, and it may be consulted there.
¹ The Mercure de Guernesey of 3 April 1819 features an announcement [from French original]: Mr Pierre Le Page, son of Thomas, seized of, through Mrs Esther Le Lacheur, his wife, the estate of Mr Jean Le Lacheur, son of Henry, of Charlotte Le Lacheur, of Elizabeth Le Lacheur, of Margueritte Le Lacheur, and of Mr Edouard Effingham Grant, and of Mrs Marie Le Lacheur his wife, and the inheritance of Esther Vaudin which involves the share of Mr Jean Robin, wishes to make it known to islanders, that anyone with a claim against the said estate must register it at the Greffe within a year and a day of the last publication of this notice, with the date and nature of the debts, on pain of the usual punishment.
The Gazette de Guernesey of Saturday 17 April, 1819: Jean Mellish, Esq., seized of the estate of Mr and Mrs Jean Le Lacheur, will offer for rent the House and Garden of the said estate, in Park Street .. for occupation from 24 June following.
² For more on the history of these regiments see http://website.lineone.net/~bwir/regiments.htm.
³ The History of the Island of Antigua,Vere Langford Oliver, 1894, 3 vols, p. 426. An interesting discussion of the social history of the Antigua plantation owners at this period (with relation to Jane Austen) is to be found in http://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/bnccde/antigua/conference/papers/davis.html.
4 The Grants and the Colquhouns were related; Edward had a brother, George Colquhoun Grant, who became Governor of St Lucia. Sir James Grant (b.1679), had married the heiress Anne Colquhoun on condition he took her name. He later reverted to the title Grant of Grant.
5 Jules Michelet's famous essay, dedicated to Maria's daughter: http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/CadresFenetre?O=NUMM-30822&I=292&M=imageseule. For another account of Maria and her husband see http://depts.washington.edu/cartah/text_archive/sam/15.shtml. There is an edition of Michelet's book in the Library.
6 This 1850 portrait is in the National Museum of Art in Bucharest. Angela Iacob of the National Museum of Art had this to say to us about the painting:
'The artist, Constantin D. Rosenthal was born in 1820 in Budapest, moved to Bucharest in 1840 and started painting portraits amongst the circle of young intellectuals, thus meeting C. A. Rosetti and establishing a powerful bond with him. He was a prominent participator in the Revolution of 1848. When the Revolution ended with a failure, he and Maria Rosetti followed the Turkich ships along the Danube (they were transporting the captured revolutionaries from Rusciuk to Vidin) and managed to free the prisoners near Orsova. Afterwards, the two became exiles and, after several adventures, Rosenthal reached Paris. He kept in touch with the other exiled Romanians and portrayed Maria Rosetti in the Revolutionary Romania painting.
This is one of the most popular works of art in Romanian painting and it depicts the revolutionary ideal. The revolutionary committee intended to make a lithograph of it and use it as propaganda material, as was the case with another one of Rosenthal's paintings Romania breaking her shackles on the Plain of Freedom. The work was originally known by various titles: 'Young Wallachian Woman,' 'Romania on 13-25 of September 1848,' 'Romania,' 'Portrait of Mrs. R.', 'Head of a woman.' Maria Rosetti, her husband and other personalities of that era were important models for many of Rosenthal's works.' Angela has been kind enough to allow us to reproduce both portraits of Maria here.
7 My opinion (ed.)!
8 The Jews were heavily discriminated against by law in Romania, and the Revolution did little to help the majority of them, although Rosenthal was among about 800 who were given special privileges.
A Rosetti family tree (a .pdf file).