The French Emperor and the Rottingdean lad

William Balcombe was born in Rottingdean in 1777.  On 18th October 1815, he received the fallen Emperor, Napoleon I into his home.  Not in Rottingdean but on the bleak island of St Helena in the middle of the Atlantic.  Not in a grand mansion but in his simple colonial villa, The Briars.  And not even in the villa itself.  Napoleon opted for an outbuilding.  The great man did not want to inconvenience his gout-ridden host’s wife and children.

The Briars 1853

The Briars was perched on a little hill. This 1853 image does not show Napoleon’s tent (pavillon) attached to the main house. University of California Libraries

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The Laughing Onion

In 2014, the following announcement appeared in The Argus:

J-J Jordane death notice

Jean-Jacques Jordane

The Stage Thursday 20 April 1967 (c) British Newspaper Archive

The announcement is deceptively bland.  It gives very little clue to the life of this charismatic man, chanteur and chef/owner of the Laughing Onion Restaurant in Kemp Town.

If you read no further, watch Stephen Matthew’s wonderful short video about Jean-Jacques

Jean-Jacques looked every bit the French pin-up ‘boy’ of the time and spent 18 months in the early 1960s performing in Britain. Continue reading