Page 69c2 Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

Capt. Athanase de Charette - Papal Zouave, 1861

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure An absolutely fabulous frame and one of the oldest we've ever come across. It turned up in an old Ontario, Canada, estate sale.

And it features an unfamiliar military leader in a wild outfit obviously exhorting his men onward in the midst of a battle.

This print is very, very old, and slightly faded from age. It has no dots from photomechanical reproduction and so is an original and must date from the mid Victorian period.

The glass is some of the most wavy we've ever seen, and the back is covered with ancient paper.

So this too is probably 1860s or 70s vintage for certain.

And the picture originally came from Quebec.

It bears an old paper label saying that N Rheaume and Bro, of Montreal, was the place where it was framed.

Boyd's Montreal Directory for 1875 lists Napoleon Rheaume as Carvers and Guilders of picture frames and looking glasses, as residing at 75 St Lawrence. Napoleon had probably been in business there for a time, so an 1860s date for the frame and picture is quite possible.

But why would someone in Quebec, in the 1860s, frame a picture of a soldier in such a wild outfit, and keep the picture intact in such fine shape for 150 years?

Better look into the French Connection...

Capt. Athanase Charles Marie de CHARETTE DE LA CONTRIE (1832-1911) - Lionel Royer - 1870
Orig. print - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - London, ON


















The officer is obviously dressed in the uniform of a French Zouave. The uniform was worn by French troops who had adopted it from the Berbers they encountered in their colony of Algeria in North Africa.

The most famous Zouaves were the Papal Zouaves under Pope Benedict IX in the 1860s. And there might be the Quebec connection.

In the 1850s the tide of revolution was sweeping Italy, as Garibaldi was leading democratically minded soldiers against the petty princess and kings of Italy. He hoped to sweep them aside and unite all Italians under one king.

One of the petty tyrants was the Roman Catholic Pope who owned considerable territories and ruled them like a King. After sweeping aside the King of the Two Sicilies Garibaldi's armies were threatening the Papal territories around Rome.

Catholics around the world grew alarmed. In Canada strong Catholics felt something had to be done. Young men in groups decided to go to Italy to fight for the pope.

There they were organized into an army that came to be called the Papal Zouaves and wore the distinctive uniform right.

It is the same one our officer wears.

So he is an officer in the papal zouaves.

In fact he was Captain Athanase de Charette, a French officer who decided to serve in the Papal armies to defend the pope and his territories. He commanded the first company of the Papal Zouaves.

He very likely had French-Canadians in his company. So probably one of his men, who outlived the wars, and returned to Quebec kept the picture of his commanding officer as a tribute.


Left a photograph of Captain de Charette which shows the obvious resemblance to our picture. Right a full portrait.

One French-Canadian who might have owned this picture is Louis-Philippe Hébert below. He was a young Quebecker who traveled to Italy as a young man, to serve in the Papal Zouaves.





Louis-Philippe Hébert became Canada's most famous sculptor at the end of the 19th century. Today his works dominate major public spaces in Canada.

Go to Louis Hébert

In fact de Charette became a hero to many Catholic Canadians. So much so that the St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. of Quebec, struck a parian-type bust of the colonel.

The curator of the Canadian Museum of Civilization says this was done about 1882, when he had been a general for eleven years already. But the bust is clearly labelled Col. de Charette.

So the colonel was made a general by the French Government in 1871. A decade later, would a ceramic bust maker, downgrade the rank of a celebrity figure it hopes to sell. Somebody goofed... who?

de Charette was an enthusiastic, if not very successful, military officer.

He joined the papal armies in May 1860 and his zouaves were defeated, and he was wounded, at the Battle of Castelfidardo in September.

The Sardinian army took the last of the pope's territories, leaving him only the Vatican.

In 1870 the Germans attacked France and de Charette brought his Papal Zouaves to France to defend his motherland at the head of the "Volunteers of the West." Our picture, is in fact, a painting by Lionel Royer, and shows de Charette leading the charge at the Battle of Loigny in December 1870.

The French, and the ever enthusiastic de Charette were defeated. de Charette was wounded and taken prisoner. He escaped and the Provisional Government of France made him a general.

When the French sued for peace with Germany de Charette's zouaves were mustered out of the French army. The Quebeckers went home and de Charette retired.

He would live another 30 years, before dying in 1911.

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous blue toned relief molded pitcher celebrating the European revolutionary hero of 1860, Garibaldi.

Looking more like Jesus in a Three Musketeers get-up, there is no resemblance to the real Garibaldi at all. But it says Giuseppe Garibaldi on both sides of the portrait so there is no mistake.

This 19th century pitcher probably belonged to a Canadian immigrant who longed to see his home country freed from the petty royal princes - including the Pope himself - who kept Italians in medieval thrall and division.

Philippe Hébert - Canada's most famous Victorian and Edwardian sculptor - was one of many other Canadian Catholics who went, as volunteer men of conscience, to serve their God and their Pope against the tide of History and the "heathen" democratic hordes of Garibaldi.

It merely goes to show that "actresses should act, singers should sing, and carvers should carve, and not try to intellectualize on important matters of state or politics" something proved nightly on television talk shows.

The Pope, and Philippe, were losers in the campaign as Garibaldi and the popular surge for democratic unity - the Risorgimento - would not be denied. The pope retreated inside his Vatican walls and Philippe, surviving the wars, retreated to Quebec to carve, something he was good at.

In the 1930s many Canadian volunteers similarly went to fight in Spain, but on the side of the Republicans, in their fight against the Fascists under General Franco and his allies, the German Nazis.

Go to Pitchers
Relief Molded Pitcher, Giuseppe Garibaldi, c 1860
Orig. stoneware - Size - 20 cm
Found - Kingston, ON
The Risorgimento - Count Cavour, Prime Minister of Sardinia left was the chief architect of the union of the italian states, through warfare and agreements with other nations, during the 1850s.

But the southern half of Italy - including the very problematic Papal States - remained independent. No one wanted to fight the head of the Catholic Church since he was the one who held the keys to Heaven shown on his heraldic crest above.

That's where the fearless Garibaldi right came in. He landed with a rabble of a thousand democratically enthused Italian revolutionaries in Sicily, defeated the armies of the King there and crossed to the mainland of the southern boot.

The Royalist forces fled; southern Italy was his, and he hammered on the gates of Rome where the Pope was quaking in his slippers. The problem was the French army was protecting him, and Cavour did not want to fight French forces, which he would have to do to get at the papal army protecting the city which Italians wanted as their capital.

Garibaldi turned over his conquests of southern Italy to King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. Count Cavour became Italy's first Prime Minister.

But Rome remained in the Pope's military fist. It would take an Act of God to break his grasp. And He acted.

France was also against the unification of Germany, which was going on at the same time as the turmoil in Italy. When Germany attacked France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 France withdrew its troops from Rome to help defend the homeland. The Pope was unprotected. The Italian army marched in and Italy was unified with its capital in Rome