[taken from Chapter 9 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]

LAURA, LADY BUCHAN, nee WILKS (b. 1797, d. 1888),

the eldest daughter of Col. Wilks by his first wife (see p. 154), will be chiefly remembered on account of her interview with the Emperor Napoleon just after his arrival in St. Helena.

She was then evidently a remarkably beautiful girl. Indeed, when the writer saw her at her house in Portland Place, London, some years before her death, she still had the remains of great beauty. Our knowledge of the interview is mainly derived from an article in " Blackwood's Magazine," of January, 1834, entitled, " Reminiscences of Napoleon Bonaparte. "1 It was written by a lady2 who was staying with Col. and Mrs. Wilks it the time, and who, by special request of Mrs. Wilks, accompanied her daughter when she (Miss Wilks) and Col. Wilks called on Napoleon. " was delighted," she writes, to chaperone so elegant, amiable, and beautiful a young lady . and felt proud that Napoleon should see so perfect a specimen of my fair countrywomen. Miss WILKS was then in the first bloom of youth, and her whole demeanour, agreeability, and elegant, modest appearance, conspired to render her the most charming and admirable person I ever before or have since met with in all my peregrinations in Europe, Asia, and Africa, for the space of thirty years." She then proceeds to describe their departure from Government-or Plantation -House, as it was called, in a huge vehicle drawn by six bullocks driven by three men.3 After some hours going across the most dangerous narrow roads, or rather paths, sharp turnings and precipitous horrors beneath, enough to terrify the stoutest heart, and turn giddy the strongest head," they arrived at Longwood. They found Napoleon "fully dressed and standing to receive Governor Wilks with etiquette." He was "arrayed in a green coat, with all his stars, orders, and ribbons-silk stockings, small shoes with gold buckles, and a chapeau-bras under his arm." His secretary and interpreter, Count Las Cases, stood by his side. The governor then presented his daughter to Bonaparte, who, " looking at her with a pleasing smile, addressed her in these words : ' I have long heard from various quarters of the superior elegance and beauty of Miss Wilks ; but now I am convinced from my own eyes that the report has scarcely done her sufficient justice.'4 Saying this, he bowed to her politely." From another source,5 we gather that Napoleon also said : " You must be very glad to leave the island;" to which she replied, " Oh I no, sire, I am very sorry to go away," to which Napoleon very naturally answered : " Oh ! mademoiselle, I wish I could change places with you." He then presented her with a bracelet. Some years after her arrival in England she married General Sir John Buchan, K.C B., whom she survived. She was a considerable landowner in the Isle of Man, having succeeded to her father's properties of Kirby, Castleward, &c.

+ Kindly copied by Mr. Frowde. :

2 Her name is not given.

3 The writer explains that on account of " the steep precipitous roads . . . to proceed in a carriage drawn by horses would be dreadfully dangerous, nay almost impossible."

4 O'Meara, in his " Napoleon at St. Helena," gives the date of this interview as April 21, 1816, saying that it took place just before Col. Wilks left for England in the "Savannah." In describing it, he uses the following words: "He (Napoleon) was highly pleased with Miss Wilks (a highly accomplished and elegant young lady), and gallantly told her that 'she exceeded the description which had been given of her to him."

5 A note in the Isle of Man Times of May, 1888. The writer of it refers to the article in "Blackwood," but does not say where he got his further information from.


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