Gedeon Philippes de Gorrequer

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Gedeon Philippes de Gorrequer


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This article by Cecil Dolmage, great grandson of Col Gorrequer, was first published in the Annual Bulletin of La Societe Jersiaise in 1907. It is a full biography of the Jerseyman who was present at the death of Napoleon Bonaparte


The Family of Philippes de Gorrequer, which settled in St Brelade about the middle of the 18th century, was of Breton origin. The surname of Philippes, or Phélipes, is practically extinct in Brittany at the present day; but the ’’Histoire de Bretagne’’, by the Benedictine monk, Dom Lobineau, (Paris, 1708), suffices to show that it had many active representatives while the Dukedom was in being.

We read therein, for instance, of Rolland Philippes, Sieur de Coëtgouréden, Seneschal of Charles of Blois (nephew of Philip VI of France) who claimed the Dukedom about the middle of the 14th century.

Guingamp tomb

Rolland Philippes’ beautiful tomb, with his recumbent effigy, will be familiar to all who have visited the Church of Notre Dame de Bon-Secours at Guingamp. It is alluded to, in error, by some guidebooks, as that of Charles of Blois himself. Strange to say, this tomb appears to have almost entirely escaped the general damage done during the Revolution, whereas that of the Duke of Mercoeur, close by, has suffered severely.

The following also figure among the various references made by Dom Lobineau to the name of Philippes:

  • In 1381 Messire Henri Philippes formed one of the embassy sent by the Duke Jehan IV to treat with King Charles VI of France.
  • In 1407 Eon Philippes was appointed one of the Captains of Brest: —“ Nobles homs Eon Phelipes, et Monsour Jehan de Lannion, Chevalier, Capitaines de la ville, chastel, bastide et forteresse de Brest, font serment le premier Juillet 1407 ”
  • About 1425 Hervé Philippes was “ Maistre d’Hostel ” to the Duke.

In the lists of those Nobles of Brittany, who swore fealty to their Duke in 1437, are the names of Etienne Philippes, Jehan Phelippes, Guillaume Philippes, etc

Also, in 1480, Julienne Philippes was one of the ladies in waiting to the Duchess of Brittany.

In the Nobiliaire et Armorial de Bretagne, by P Potier de Courcy, will be found a very full list of the chief houses of Philippes. Two families of the name, formerly inhabiting the district of Plouvien, which lies about ten miles to the north of Brest, are noted therein respectively as Sieurs of Kerdu (or Kerduff) and’Gorréquer ; lands adjoining, as may be seen at once by a reference to the modern large scale maps of the Department of Finistère.

M de Courcy states expressly that both these families bore the same coat of arms: D’azur, à trois couronnes ducales d’or. They sprung, no doubt, originally from the same stock; but it is impossible today to trace the connection between them, as the documents of the neighbourhood prior to the end of the 16th century have been destroyed by fire.

End of male line

The family of Philippes de Kerdu, which claimed descent from Eon Philippes who was Captain of Brest in 1407, came to an end in the male line towards the close of the 16th century; and became merged in that of Châteauneuf, by the marriage in 1595 of Jeanne Philippes, its last representative, with Pierre de Châteauneuf, Sieur de la Mériais.

The family of Philippes de Gorréquer, however, survived that of de Kerdu; and the parish registers of the district show that Guillaume Philippes de Gorréquer died on 1 August, 1632, at the age of 82. Passing over the remainder of the 17th century, during which several members of the family resided at Quimper, we come to his descendant Guillaume Philippes, Sieur de Gorréquer, who died at Brest in 1747, aged 85. He married Catherine Renée Lisac (or, L’Ysac), a member of a well-known family of that town, and by her had two children: Jacques Guillaume, born at Brest in 1711 and Louis Claude, born 1715. The younger of these, who was Sieur de Kerogat, died at Roscoff in 1767, leaving several children. His descendants in the male line, however, appear to be long extinct.

To Jersey

The elder, Jacques Guillaume Philippes de Gorrequer, moved to Jersey, and was married in 1742, in St Martin’s Church, to Anne Syvret of St Ouen. She was born in 1715, the daughter of Jean Syvret, son of George, and Sara, both of St Ouen.

They took up residence in St Brelade, and had the following children: Jeanne, born 1743; married 1760 to Ambrose Lundy; Marie, born 1745, died 1746; Gédéon, born 1747; Jean, born 1750, died 1755; Elie, born 1754, killed in an accident in 1765.

The surviving son, Gédéon Philippes de Gorrequer, married in 1772 Susanne Raven, whose second marriage would be to Matthew Holcott, Lieutenant of one of the Independent Companies of Invalids then quartered in Jersey.

Susanne was the daughter of Edward Raven, from England. She and Gedeon had the following children:

  • Susanne, born 1777, married in 1799 to Julius Dolmage, eldest son of Adam Dolmage, of Rathkeale, Limerick, Captain Loyal German Fusiliers. Julius Dolmage, at the date of his marriage, was serving in Jersey as a Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Loyal Limerick Regiment. He afterwards purchased a commission in the 55th Foot, and died on half-pay of the 4th King’s Own Regiment in 1849. He resided with his wife for a time in St Aubin, and had five children: Julius, born 1800; Margaret Susannah, born 1802; Julie, born 1805; Gédéon Gorrequer, born 1807; and Rebecca, born 1808.
  • Gédéon, born 1781; Colonel; Knight of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, Knight Commander of the Royal Sardinian Order of St Maurice and St Lazare, Knight Commander of the Royal Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, and Knight of the Imperial Ottoman Order of the Crescent; served 40 years in the Army, 30 of which in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment; was Military Secretary to Sir Hudson Lowe at St Helena, during the captivity of the Emperor Napoleon I. He never married; and at his death, the family of Philippes de Gorrequer became extinct in the male line.

The grave of the Philippes de Gorrequer family is in the Churchyard of St Brelade, on the west side of the church.

Gédéon, or Gideon

Gédéon Philippes de Gorrequer (or, Gideon Gorrequer, as he appears all through his service) entered the Army on 1 June 1797, obtaining an ensigncy by purchase in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment. A year later he was promoted lieutenant in the same corps. In 1801 he served with distinction in the expedition under Sir Ralph Abercromby against the French in Egypt, being present at every action fought during that campaign. For “gallant conduct before the enemy ” he received from the Sultan Selim III the Imperial Ottoman Order of the Crescent, of the 2nd Class.

In 1804 he obtained his company in the 18th, and proceeded with the regiment to the West Indies. In 1809 he was aide-de-camp to Major-General Montresor during the occupation and defence of Sicily; and still in the same capacity, during the operations of Lord William Bentinck against the French at Leghorn and Genoa in 1814.

Promotions and Knighthoods

For his services during this and the Sicilian Campaign, Captain Gorrequer was promoted Brevet-Major; receiving in addition, from the Prince Regent, the Knighthood of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, and from the Kings of Sardinia, and of the Two Sicilies, respectively, the decorations of Knight Commander of the Royal Sardinian Order of St Maurice and St Lazare, and of the Royal Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit.

On the deportation of the Emperor Napoleon I to St Helena in 1815, Major Gorrequer was sent out to that island as aide-de-camp to the Governor, Sir Hudson Lowe; and shortly afterwards became his Military Secretary. In the preface to "History of tho Captivity of Napoleon at St Helena; from the Letters and Journals of the late Lieut -Général Sir Hudson Lowe” there is quoted a passage which is a handsome tribute to the services of Major Gorrequer:

'There are perhaps few, if any, public administrations of any kind, of which the records are so full and complete as those of my Government at St Helena. There is not only a detailed correspondence addressed to the proper department of His Majesty’s Government, reporting the occurrences of almost every day during the five years that Napoleon Bonaparte remained under my custody, but the greater part of the conversations held with Bonaparte himself, or with his followers, was immediately noted down with an ability and exactness which reflect the highest credit on my Military Secretary (Major Gorrequer). This gentleman was not only a perfect master of the French language, but possessed a memory equally remarkable for its accuracy and tenacity, and was therefore eminently qualified to report the conversations at which he was himself present, and to detect any error to which a misapprehension of the meaning of foreigners might lead other persons who repeated what passed at interviews with Bonaparte and his followers'.

In 1819, while at St Helena, Major Gorrequer was promoted Brevet Lieut-Colonel. After the death of Napoleon in 1821, he returned to his regiment, and served with it for some time in the Ionian Islands, obtaining the regimental Majority in 1824. In 1826 he was promoted to the full rank of Lieut-Colonel on the half-pay list, and took up his residence in London; part of his time being passed there, and part on the Continent.

In 1837 he was appointed Colonel of the 4th King’s Own Regiment; and retired from the service shortly afterwards. He lived only a few years longer, dying suddenly from failure of the heart, on 18 July 1841, while walking across Jermyn Street. He is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, where a striking monument was erected to his memory.

Letter on death of Napoleon

The following interesting letter, which details the circumstances attending the death of Napoleon, appeared in Cornhill Magazine a few years ago, in the course of an article entitled More Light on St. Helena.

From Colonel Gorrequer to Sir George Bingham

'St Helena, 6 May 1821: Bonaparte expired yesterday evening at ten minutes before six. Just at the very instant the sun sank below the horizon, he breathed his last sigh. He had died in a manly, proper manner; no complaint, no murmur, no invective, no lamentation or remorse. Extreme unction was given to him before his death; and from six in the morning yesterday, till six at night, the whole of his attendants, from the highest to the lowest, surrounded his bed in deep silence till the moment of his dissolution.
'Some sketches were afterwards taken, but they are quite below the original. I never saw his face so handsome (and really you may use the term) as at that moment; all the superfluous flesh and sallowness had disappeared, and left a well-proportioned countenance, such as he might have had some 12 or 14 years ago. A dozen of those who saw him concurred in saying that he did not look at the utmost more than 40, and he certainly did not - even less, I think. His hair retained its natural dark brown, and not a wrinkle or the slightest contortion was on the face.
'He is to be buried tomorrow with military honours, as a general of the highest rank, by the side of the spring near Torbett's house, below Mr Ibbetson's at Hutt's Gate, under the shade of a cluster of weeping willows, which we have been looking at this forenoon; and I do not think a more appropriate spot could have been selected. He had fixed upon it himself in the event of being buried here. Montholon has requested the spot may be consecrated by our clergyman, and afterwards by their own priest, Vignali. The night preceding his death, an old favourite gum-wood tree opposite Montholon’s quarters fell down, broken from the roots. The store ship Waterloo arrived two days previous; and just before he expired his favourite little horse got the head-stall off, ran out of the stable, and was for a long time galloping about the house. These circumstances will by some be considered as presages of his fate.
'Montholon has applied for his heart; it is not, however, to be given up now, but most probably will be enclosed in a leaden case and buried with the body. If Government should approve, it will later on be delivered up to his friends. He has left a will, but the question is whether it is to be opened yet or not; his followers desire it.
'At half past five o'clock yesterday morning he was speaking of his son, and knew everyone about him. In his usual way the day before, he tutoyed the servants, and spoke French to some, Italian to others. He has been long sinking, depend upon it; he has frequently said for some months past, Il n’y a plus d’huile dans la lampe, meaning he was wasting fast.
'The new house was just ready for him, and it was agreed to take down the railing round part of the lawn, of which he complained, calling it a cage. After the dissection had taken place, his attendants dressed him out in a new plain uniform of a colonel of Chasseurs, of the late Imperial Guards; sword buckled on, cocked hat, booted and spurred, etc, and a cape richly embroidered in silver spread under his body. This was the same that he wore at the battle of Marengo, and took with him in all his subsequent campaigns, though apparently little worn. In this state all the officers, respectable inhabitants, and a great part of the men of the 20th were admitted to see him.
'Almost everybody who chose had access to the room, both before and after the body was placed in the coffin. His followers appeared pleased at the concourse of persons that came there. Some attempts at likenesses were made before and after he was dressed out; I have not seen any, however, really like. A cast of plaster of paris was also taken of him, and a bust made from it, which is now in the possession of Madame Bertrand.
'He had conceived, very justly, that the original instruction for the conveyance of his remains to Europe might be counter-ordered; and therefore selected that pretty spot I mentioned in my last letter, close to a fountain near Torbett's cottage, below Ibbetson's, under two weeping willows, in the event of his being interred at St Helena; at the same time desiring his heart should be sent to his wife. His wishes on this point, however, it has not been thought proper to accede to, but the heart has nevertheless been enclosed in a small silver vase, preserved in spirits of wine, and soldered up, and deposited in the coffin along with the body, so that the heart may still be got at, should the widow on deliberation at home be allowed to become the possessor of it .
'On the 7th the body, in full uniform as above described, was put into a wooden coffin lined with tin, which was then placed in a leaden one, and then into a third made of mahogany. Within the interior shell were deposited along with the body twelve coins of the French Empire aud Kingdom of Italy (eight gold and four silver), a silver plate, a silver- handled knife and fork, a silver ewer instead of a lamp, and a silver cup or small vase. The 9th having been fixed upon for his burial with the honours due to a full general, all the troops in the island, marines from the flagship, St Helena Volunteers, etc, assembled, and formed a line reaching from the crest of the hill above the road leading to Hutt’s Gate, to the guardhouse at Longwood, close to which the right of the line extended.
'A funeral car bad been made from his old sociable or barouche, and was drawn up, with his four carriage-horses harnessed to it, at the foot of the garden in front of what was formerly the billiard-room in the old house. The coffin was then carried by a party of the grenadiers of the 20th from the room he died in and placed upon the car.
'The procession was then formed as follows: Priest Vignali led the van on foot, dressed in rich golden-embroidered canonicals with a bénitier of holy water in his hand. Next walked Henry Bertrand with an encensoir. Then followed the car with the body, and with the Marengo mantle and sword placed on the coffin, flanked by 12 grenadiers of the 20th, six on each side. Immediately behind the car was his favourite little horse, formerly Miss Charlotte Somerset’s, then called 'King George’, but afterwards named ‘Scheik’ by Bonaparte.
'Doctors Antommarchi and Arnott followed next. Then succeeded Madame Bertrand, with her daughter and youngest boy, in a phaeton; and following them were all the rest of the attendants, with the two Counts, this group being the chief mourners. Then came the midshipmen of the men-of-war in harbour on foot, succeeded by a cavalcade of civil, naval, and military officers, closed by the French Commissioner, the Admiral, and the Governor.
'This cortège proceeded slowly along the front of the line, the whole resting on their arms reversed, and the bands playing a solemn dirge. When it reached the left, the troops filed off, joining the rear of the procession, until they arrived opposite Torbett’s cottage, where the horsemen dismounted, and the coffin, having been removed from the car, was borne by detachments of grenadiers of the different corps. Bertrand and Marchand followed in the same order as before. The body was then deposited in the grave; the troops having meantime extended to the right and left of the artillery, which halted opposite to the burying-place. Three rounds of eleven field-pieces were fired over it, and the troops were then withdrawn.
'The grave was 12 feet deep, and 5 feet wide; the sides and bottom of masonry 2 feet thick. A kind of sarcophagus, composed of four large slabs of Portland stone taken from a platform of one of the batteries, with two smaller ones of the ends, supported by eight squares stones 1 foot high, placed at the bottom of the grave, finally received the body. The stones forming the sort of sarcophagus were united together with Roman cement, and immediately over this were placed two layers of island freestone, 2 feet thick, which besides being well cemented together, were connected with iron cramps. The upper part of the grave was then filled up with earth; and lastly another large slab of Portland stone covered the mouth of it, with a border of masonry all around it.
'The grave has been enclosed with a railing, and an officer’s guard mounted on it ever since. There is therefore no chance, as you may well suppose, that any clandestine removal can take place. The weather was beautiful the day of the funeral, and the sides of the hills which surround the ravine being covered with the population of the island, with the ladies in their best attire, produced, together with the military ceremony, a very beautiful, imposing, and awful effect.
'Extreme unction was administered to Napoleon before his death. When he expired, a chapelle ardente was fitted up; mass and prayers were said frequently; everything, from his death to his funeral, was extremely well conducted, and the most perfect propriety marked the conduct of all. Napoleon behaved with princely liberality to Dr Arnott, who attended him from 1 April only, having at last admitted an English medical officer to see him, more however, I believe, to avoid being constrained to receive the visits of the orderly officer than from any expectation of being cured of his disease.

Besides a rich gold snuffbox, the last he himself used, still half full of snuff, and upon the lid of which he had with his own hand engraved with a penknife the letter N, he caused him to be presented with six hundred napoleons; and he has been given some little remembrance from the Bertrands. Bonaparte has left to Lady Holland a beautiful gold snuff-box, with a very valuable antique cameo set in the lid, which had been one of the most admired in the collection of the Vatican, and made a present of to him by the Pope at the Peace of Tolentino in 1797, as a token of gratitude for some favourable articles introduced by him in the treaty.

'Inside the box on a card was written by Napoleon’s own hand, L'Empereur Napoléon a Lady Holland; témoignage de satisfaction et d'estime. On 16 April he made a codicil to his will, wholly in his own handwriting, by which he left all he possessed on this island to be equally divided between Counts Bertrand, Montholon, and Marchand, excepting only three mahogany boxes, about as large as a common-sized dressing case, principally containing snuff-boxes with antique cameos and medals set in the lids, and some with portraits of sovereigns and members of his family; others presented to him by crowned heads, cities, states, etc.
'These boxes he sealed up himself, and made four of his followers annex their seals to his own, desiring they should be delivered to his son when arrived at the age of sixteen. Two days after the funeral, his rooms in the old house were laid out exactly as they were during his lifetime; his dressing-table and apparatus, beds, furniture, apparel, even to the most minute article, were each exhibited. All the effects he left behind him — plate, the beautiful set of porcelain presented to him on his marriage with Maria Louisa; his wardrobe, the coats and hats that he had worn at various battles; the old straw hat he used to work in in the garden, etc — all these were laid out very neatly in the billiard-room and drawing-room, and the whole house thrown open for three days to everybody who chose to go and look at the display; and I believe everybody went that could, except the lowest class.
'We have many wild reports of the immense sums left by Napoleon to his followers; as one instance, to Montholon 1,000,000 sterling a year, and so on. We, however, saw nothing but a codicil. Whether the will itself was at home or concealed we can’t tell; for my part I am impressed with an idea that all the jewels he has been said to possess, and the millions deposited in the various banks in Europe and America, as well as other immense resources at his disposal, will turn out in general to be a fallacy; though it is natural to suppose he secured enough to reward those who came out and stayed with him here.
'He had very little plate indeed, and we certainly saw no article of particular value. The Sèvres china, presented to him by the city of Paris on his marriage, and the plate were probably the most valuable. The former only consisted of a few plates, cups and saucers, etc. We were all surprised at the simplicity and plainness of his wardrobe and the few things of value left behind him; not a diamond or jewel of any kind. What he brought here with him was mostly part of his camp equipment, which was extremely compact and portable for the purpose of carrying on mules or bât-horses. There has been great anxiety among some of the people here to obtain a little bit of his hair, and some have succeeded as they hoped through the means of his attendants. I did not try to get any, or I might have had it; I was satisfied with some of his handwriting.'

Gorréquer is a Breton word implying an elevated position. M de Courcy treats it as synonymous with the French Hauteville

The suffix -quer, or -ker, denotes location, and enters into the composition of very many place names in Brittany, though, in the majority of instances, it is prefixed to the word, thus: Kersaint.

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