13 November 2022

The prince from Napoleon’s
family who worked on the
trams in Stony Stratford

The former ticket office and waiting room of the light railway on the corner of Wolverton Road and High Street in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

A sign on the corner of Wolverton Road and High Street in Stony Stratford gives a very full, illustrated account of the Stony Stratford Light Railway. The sign stands in front of the former ticket office and waiting room of the light railway.

The Stony Stratford to Wolverton Steam Tramways Company began operations in May 1887, carrying hundreds of workers to the Railway Works and McCorquodale’s printing factory, and passengers to Wolverton Railway Station. The line was extended through Old Stratford to Deanshanger in 1888.

The light railway used one of the largest tramcars ever built at over 44 ft in length, and it carried 120 passengers. Despite financial difficulties, the tram ran for 39 years until its last run in May 1926.

One small panel on the display board asks: ‘Did You Know …? The second managing director of the Tramway was Mr Louis Clovis. His full name and title was Prince Louis Clovis Bonaparte, the Grandnephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.’

Louis Clovis (1859-1894) was a civil engineer who lived in Old Stratford as Louis Clovis. It is said that it came as a surprise locally when on his death his full name was revealed as Louis Clovis Bonaparte.

One local resident, Herbert Meacham, later told the Mercury & Herald in 1954, ‘I can remember the tram company manager well. He had the grand name of Louis Clovis Bonaparte. He lived at Old Stratford and whenever he spent a night celebrating in Stony Stratford, they ran the tram specially to take him home.’

One local historian has suggested: ‘Obviously the reason for his secrecy being that the Napoleonic Wars were still in living memory.’

But there were more direct reasons for Louis Clovis Bonaparte not using his full name in Stony Stratford where he worked and in Old Stratford he lived. He was jailed in 1891 for defaulting on payment for stocks and shares he had bought and for failing to pay his doctor’s bills. In addition, by Victorian standards, both the circumstances of his birth and his involvement in a number of cases of bigamy and divorce were regarded as scandals.

Louis Clovis was born on 11 February 1859, the only son of Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte and his mistress, Clémence Richard. Later in life he called himself prince although he had no right to assume the title as his parents did not marry until shortly before his death.

His father, Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (1813-1891) was born at Thorngrove in Grimley, Worcestershire, the sixth child of Lucien Bonaparte (1775-1840), Prince of Canino and the second surviving brother of Napoléon I.

The Stony engineer’s grandfather, Prince Lucien Bonaparte, lived much of his exile after he came to oppose many of Napoleon’s policies. Lucien spurned all imperial honours and went into self-imposed exile by living initially in Rome, where he bought the Villa Rufinella in Frascati.

The British government allowed Lucien to settle with his family at Ludlow, and later at Thorngrove House in Grimley, Worcestershire. Napoleon regarded Lucien as a traitor. Back in Rome, o Rome, where on 18 August 1814 he was Pope Pius VII made him Prince of Canino in 1814, and Lucien returned briefly to the cause of Napoleon who made him an imperial prince

But Lucien returned to England after Waterloo, and later Pope Leo XII made him Prince of Musignano in 1824.

One of Lucien’s daughters, Letizia (1804-1871), married Sir Thomas Wyse (1791-1862) of Waterford, later British ambassador to Greece. One of his sons, Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (1813-1891), inherited many of the Papal titles and became a French senator. But he returned to England around 1852, and spent most of the rest of his life in London.

Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte had married Maria Anna Cecchi in Florence in 1833. They separated in 1850, he began living with Clémence Richard (1830-1915), and their son, Louis Clovis, was born in London 1859. Louis Lucien regarded himself as a devout Catholic, and he refused to divorce Maria Anna. She died on 17 March 1891, and, after many years of living together, Louis Lucien and Clémence Richard were married in Kensington on 15 June 1891.

Their only son, known variously as Louis Clavering Clovis Richard and Louis Clavering Clovis, was 32 when his parents married; he was declared legitimate by his father and he started calling himself Louis Clovis Bonaparte.

By that time, however, Prince Louis Lucien’s health was failing. He went to stay with his niece in Fano, Italy, and died there of heart failure on 3 November 1891, less than five months after the marriage, and just three weeks after recognising his son Louis Clovis on 12 October 1891. His body was brought back to London and he was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Kensall Green.

Louis Clovis of Stony Stratford was born Louis Clovis Richard on 11 February 1859. Although his parents were not married, he lived them in London. He trained as a railway engineer and was living in Gateshead in 1879 and Newcastle in 1881.

At some time around 1878-1883, Louis Clovis is said to have married Nita Gerald, an English actress who appeared in burlesque and pantomimes and who toured with theatre companies in Britain, Australia, and the US.

Whether Louis and Nita ever married, they had three children, a daughter and two sons: Blossom Marguerite Gerald (or Lewis), born in 1878; Marcus Julian Gerald (or Lewis), born in 1880; and Valentine Clavering Gerald (or Clovis) (1883-1979). However, Louis abandoned Nina, and their children were raised by were raised by Mrs Harriet Bowerbank.

After leaving Nina and their children, Louis Clovis entered into two further marriages, although the legitimacy of each marriage has been questioned and there were no children in either case.

Louis married Rosalie Barlow on 30 May 1888 in Saint Thomas’s Church, Douglas, on the Isle of Man. Rosalie was born in Altrincham in 1863, the daughter of Robert Barlow. But she had already married Norfolk Bernard Megone in Saint Saviour’s Church, Hampstead, on 20 Decemr 1884.

Megone successfully divorced Rosalie, citing Louis as the co-respondent. He had walked out on Rosalie on 27 September 1891, and three weeks later married his second (or third) wife, 19-year-old Laura Elizabeth Scott (1872-1953) from Hackney on 14 October 1891; four months earlier, his parents had married on 15 June 1891 and two days earlier his father had publicly recognised him as his son.

However, Louis Clovis was charged on 12 January 1892 with conspiracy to defraud Rosalie Clovis Bonaparte of jewellery valued at £20,000. It seems Louis and Rosalie had conspired to blackmail and defraud Dr John George Sinclair Coghill of Ventnor, a doctor on the Isle of Wight. Coghill accused them of refusing to pay their medical bills, while Rosalie seems to have attempted to be a willing ‘honey trap’, accusing the doctor of attempting to seduce and defraud her.

The complex marriage arrangements of all involved were exposed in court, despite Rosalie’s attempts to avoid turning up as a witness, and became a Victorian scandal when Louis’s bigamous marriage to Rosalie was revealed in court the following year.

Rosalie filed for a dissolution of her marriage to Louis on the grounds of his second marriage to Laura Scott. Louis brought a counter suit in the English courts for the annulment of his marriage to Rosalie on the ground that she had a husband living at the time. Louis was granted his annulment on the 1 August 1892 and the French courts sustained the judgment of the English tribunal, so legalising his second marriage in both France and England.

Until then, perhaps, Louis Clovis’s career as a civil engineer was promising. He was only 35 when he died at 52 Chepstow Villas in London on 14 May 1894, 2½ years after his father’s death. He was buried near his father at Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green.

His gravestone says he was ‘endowed with a warm heart, he was beloved by all his friends, inheriting much of the talent of his distinguished family.’

His wife, who called herself Princess Laura, and his mother, Princess Clémence Richard, quarrelled over his small estate. Clémence died in 1915, Laura married Arthur Evelyn Brooke in 1900 and died in 1953; both women may have been buried beside the engineer-prince who once worked in Stony Stratford.

A sketch of Louis Clavering Clovis Richard Bonaparte (1859-1894)

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG :
Sunday 13 November 2022

The window by Charles Eamer Kempe at the west end of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, depicting three archangels: Saint Gabriel above, and Saint Michael and Saint Raphael below (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

This is Remembrance weekend: today (13 November 2022) is the Second Sunday before Advent and Remembrance Sunday. Later today I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, and to attend the Remembrance Sunday service at the War Memorial on Horsefair Green.

But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

Throughout this week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection on the stained glass windows in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Six apostles, James, Peter, John, Thomas, Andrew and Saint James the Less, seen from inside (above) and outside (below) the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Luke 21: 5-19 (NRSVA):

5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8 And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.

9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10 Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.’

Philip, Paul, Bartholomew; Jude, Simon and Matthew seen from inside (above) and outside (below) the church (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Stained-glass windows in Stony Stratford, 1:

It is just six weeks to Christmas. Throughout this week, I am reflecting each morning on the stained glass windows in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire.

The 12 windows in Saint Mary and Saint Giles include a two-light window at the west end by Charles Eamer Kempe, depicting three archangels; a set of three windows in the south gallery, among them important work by John Groome Howe of the Hardman studios; two separate windows in the south gallery that appear to include fragments from an earlier window; and six windows – three below the gallery on the south wall and three below the gallery on the north wall – by NHJ Westlake of Lavers & Westlake.

The window at the west end of the church is a two-light depicting three archangels: Saint Gabriel above, and Saint Michael and Saint Raphael below. This window, dated 1903, is by Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907).

CE Kempe’s studios produced over 4,000 windows and designed altars and altar frontals, furniture and furnishings, lichgates and memorials that helped to define a later 19th-century Anglican style.

At Pembroke College, Oxford, Kempe was influenced by the Anglo-Catholic Tractarian revival and considered a vocation to the priesthood. Inspired by William Morris’s work, he went to study architecture with the Gothic Revival architect George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) at a time when Bodley was working on All Saints’ Church, Cambridge. There he learned from both Bodley and William Morris, and Bodley and Kempe became lifelong friends and collaborators.

Kempe’s work was strongly influenced by the Gothic Revival and the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His studios produced over 4,000 windows and designs for altars and altar frontals, furniture and furnishings, lichgates and memorials that helped to define a later 19th century Anglican style.

The English cathedrals with his work include Lichfield, as well as Chester, Gloucester, Hereford, Wells, Winchester and York. I have also written about his windows in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield and Christ Church, Leomansley, Lichfield.

The Cambridge Church Historian Owen Chadwick has said Kempe’s work represents ‘the Victorian zenith’ of church decoration and stained glass windows. Kempe was seen by his contemporaries as a Tractarian, but primarily he saw his task ‘to beautify the place in which to celebrate the glory of God.’ His window in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church in Stony Stratford offers an interesting illustration of this principle.

The first three sets of three-light windows in the south gallery in Saint Mary and Saint Giles include a window by John Groome Howe of James Powell and Sons (1877).

This first window is dedicated to: Josiah Michael and Ann Smith and shows six scenes with themese of the Resurrection or being raised to new life: top, 1, the raising of Jairus’s daughterr (Matthew 9: 18-26; Mark 5: 21-43; Luke 8: 40-56); 2, Christ with two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35); 3, the raising of the Widow of Nain’s son (see Luke 7: 11-17); below, 1, the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1 -44); 2, the Supper at Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35); 3, hthe healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8: 14-15, Mark 1: 29-31, Luke 4: 38-39).

The firm of James Powell and Sons, also known as Whitefriars Glass, were London-based glassmakers, leadlighters and stained glass window manufacturers. As Whitefriars Glass, the company dated from the 17th century, and it became well known as a result of the 19th-century Gothic Revival and the demand for stained glass windows.

During the latter part of the 19th century, the firm had close working links with leading architects and designers including TG Jackson, Edward Burne-Jones, William De Morgan and James Doyle, and produced the glass that Philip Webb used in his designs for William Morris. Nathanael Powell’s eldest surviving son, Harry, was an admirer of John Ruskin.

The next two windows in the south gallery are three-light windows depicting 12 apostles, each with six illustrations. Their date and the artist are unknown.

The first depicts: top, Saint James, Saint Peter, Saint John; below, Saint Thomas, Saint Andrew, Saint James the Less. The second depicts (top) Saint Philip, Saint Paul, Saint Bartholomew; and (below) Saint Jude, Saint Simon, Saint Matthew.

A fourth and fifth window in the south gallery show the Risen Christ and the Crucifixion.

The window by John Groome Howe of James Powell and Sons with six Gospel scenes seen from inside (above) and outside (below) the church (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Collect:

Heavenly Father,
whose blessed Son was revealed
to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Gracious Lord,
in this holy sacrament
you give substance to our hope:
bring us at the last
to that fullness of life for which we long;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Additional Collect

Heavenly Lord,
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Living Together in Peace.’ This theme is introduced this morning:

‘PROCMURA stands for the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa. USPG has provided an annual grant to PROCMURA since it started back in 1959, helping the organisation to build relationships between people of different faiths across Africa.

‘Despite the challenges of working in a context where the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet truly over, PROCMURA has been able to carry on with its work over the past year. 2021 saw the organisation launch a Master of Arts programme in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations with the Protestant University of Central Africa in Cameroon to enable the development and training of clergy from Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal and Burkina Faso.

‘PROCMURA also teaches young people the importance of religious tolerance. The organisation organised a Youth Symposium on Religious Tolerance, Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in East Africa which brought together 100 Christian and Muslim university students from 22 universities across Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, South Sudan and Tanzania. The success of this event led to the creation of interfaith clubs within many of these universities.

‘On a local level, PROCMURA continues to host interfaith meetings and guide communities in how to live together in peace with people of different faiths.’

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Peaceful God,
teach us to forsake division and violence.
Let us serve each other in peace,
and live side by side in harmony.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, on the corner of Church Street and High Street, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org