Henri Christophe – Haiti’s King

Henri_ChristopheVery little is actually known about Henri Christophe’s childhood. Some say that he was born on Grenada Island, a small nation in the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles; some say that he was the son of a freeman. His father, also named Christophe, was by all accounts transported from West Africa or Central West Africa to Saint Domingue. A place we now know as Haiti.

It is known that in 1779, Christophe served with the French military as a drummer boy with a regiment described as gens de couleur in the American Revolution. The gens de couleur regiment fought at the Siege of Savannah in what is now the state of Georgia. In 1788, Georgia would become the fourth state admitted into the original thirteen colonies of the United States of America.

After the American Revolution, Christophe returned to Saint Domingue where he is reported to have worked in many occupations—most famously as a waiter, mason, sailor and stable boy. He also managed a hotel restaurant in Cap-Français, then the capital of Saint-Domingue, that served the wealthy French slave-holders from the surrounding plantations.

By August 1791, the Africans at Saint Domingue had rebelled France. The name they would eventually choose for their new nation would be “Haiti.”

Christophe, who became a hero during the Haitian Revolution, fought with the famous Francois-Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture—the great military leader who led Haiti to freedom. Eventually, Christophe became his brigadier general, and although L’Ouverture was captured by French agents in 1802 and deported, the revolution continued. Over the next thirteen years, the Africans would meet the French in battle many times and eventually won their freedom. Haiti became the first independent black republic in the west in 1804.

Even though their battle was won—the country was split in two. The north was presided over by Christophe and the south was headed by Alexander Pétion. It took until 1807 for Christophe to be elected president of the nation. He led the country as president for four years before he proclaimed Haiti a republic nation—and he himself became king. He was henceforth known as Henri I.

He continued as monarch until his death in 1820. The facts are still not clear about his death—but the most common story is that Christophe suffered a stroke and committed suicide.

Tradition and rumors still run rampant about Henri Christophe. One of the most long-lasting is that he built a summer retreat at the Northeast Point of Great Inagua. Many ships have sunk in that area—and two of the most famous are the Santa Rose and the Infanta—two Spanish galleons. It is said that it is here that Henri Christophe laid his treasure to rest. Many would-be treasure hunters still comb the area in the hopes of finding it.

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