Friday, June 5, 2015

French Biographer Pierre Bardin Documents the Death of Nanon, Mother of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, in her 4th floor apartment on December 16, 1795

Violin Concertos, Op. 5, Nos. 1 & 2;
Op. 3, No. 1; Op. 8, No. 9

Bernard Thomas Chamber Orchestra
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Violin 
Arion 68093 (1990)

Afro-French Composer, Violinist & Conductor
France's Best Fencer & Colonel of Black Legion

L'Association des Amis de Joseph Bologne [Association of the Friends of Joseph Bologne] is based in Guadeloupe.  Its President is Jean-Claude Halley, who has been a close friend and supporter of since the website's launch in 2000.  He informed us in February, 2015 of an important development in the history of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges.  Daniel Marciano is a fencing expert, author, playwright and retired professor in France.  Since 2004 he has volunteered as a French language translator for the biographies of Saint-Georges and a number of other composers at  He graciously translated the lengthy text on the passing of Nanon, which has been added to the biography of Saint-Georges as section 41. 

Nanon Found Again

On 12 February 2015, Pierre Bardin, eminent biographer of Le Chevalier de Saint Georges, announced a sensational discovery on the website :

Généologie et Histoire de la Caraïbe –

Here is a summary of his discovery. However, we recommend that you consult the above-mentioned website for more ample information about the documents on Anne Nanon, the mother of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, unearthed by Pierre Bardin from notary and registry office archives of the period.

“Among all the people who lived by Saint-George’s side, just one person, yet so important, had escaped me: Anne Nanon, his mother, born on the island of Guadeloupe. Yet, it was not for want of looking. Today the blanks can finally be filled in.”

It is in this preamble that Pierre Bardin relates the progress of his fascinating research. He found the last trace of the mother of Saint-Georges.

Anne Nanon died during a difficult period in the life of Saint-Georges. Arrested on 26 October 1793, then imprisoned in the Castle of Hondainville, close to Clermont sur Oise, Saint-Georges will only be released on 23 October 1794 and vainly try to regain the command of his battalion.

“No doubt weary of all these changes of fortune, tired by his illness (an ulcer or cancer of the bladder), at the very least disappointed if not bitter, he resumed playing the violin. Very soon those who knew him said he had never played as well,” Pierre Bardin writes.

It is in these circumstances that Nanon died on 16 December 1795. When Saint-Georges went to the notary on 29 March 1796 to close his mother’s succession, Nanon had passed away four months before. The testament mentions that he was the sole and unique heir of his late mother, which is no surprise. But what is disconcerting is that his mother had changed names. It is no longer a question of Anne Nanon but of Citizen Anne Danneveau.

We also learn that Nicolas Benjamin La Boëssière, who was his fencing master and spiritual father, had received mandate to settle the succession.

Long before she died, Nanon had recorded a testamentary deed dated 18 June 1778, signed Anne Danneveau, by which “she gives and bequeaths to Mr. De Boulogne St-George, living rue Saint Pierre, all her belongings, pieces of furniture and properties belonging to her on the day of her death.”

According to Pierre Bardin, this testament shows Nanon’s deliberate desire, out of motherly love, to deprive herself of her real identity to conceal the African origins of Saint-Georges.

After her death, Nanon’s neighbours restored her identity, the death certificate of 16 December 1795 found by Pierre Bardin giving proof of this change of names.
One of her neighbours, Citizen Jean Dieudonné Descoings, testified to the justice of peace that “today at 11.00 AM Citizen Nannon died, being about 60 years of age, living in her house on the fourth floor in front… the (above-mentioned) deceased was alone with no heir present…”

The justice of peace immediately went to the address mentioned, climbed to the fourth floor and entered “a room lit by two windows above the rue des Boucheries” where he can see “the dead body of a black woman lying on a straw mattress on a wooden bed which the so-called Descoings and those mentioned below declared to be the body of the above-mentioned Citizen Nannon.”

The witnesses were Descoings, the owner, a neighbor named Legendre, present when she died, and a neighbor who took care of Nanon during her illness and who had closed her eyes. Pierre Bardin was stupefied when discovering the name of this woman: Claire BARDIN!!!

It was not possible to discover the place where Nanon was buried. Why not in the churchyard of Sainte-Marguerite where Saint-Georges was laid to rest four years later?

Pierre Bardin ends his communication with a remark of his wife’s, whose constant support he was able to count on. Seeing how puzzled he was when discovering this name, she said, “It’s your name that closed her eyes and your name that brought her back to light again.”

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