New management for the French Domains of St Helena

SainteHelene signature convention
Seated from left to right, Victor-André Masséna, Prince d’Essling, President of the Fondation Napoléon, the French Ambassadeur Jean Mendelson, Mark Capes, Governor of St Helena, 14 October 2015 © Fondation Napoléon

On 14 October 2015 in the Generals’ Wing at Longwood House, two important contracts were signed, thereby completing the work achieved by the appeal “Saving Napoleon’s House on St Helena”.

The first of these – jointly signed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of Ministry of International Development (MAEDI), the Government of St. Helena and the Fondation Napoléon – established a non-profit company, the Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd.

The purpose of the second contract by the MAEDI was to delegate the daily management of the property and activities of the French Domains of St Helena [that is, Longwood House, The Briars and the Domain of the Tomb] to the newly created company Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd. This is what is known as a “delegation of services”.

For the purpose of signing these important contracts “on site”, Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, had delegated his ambassador Jean Mendelson, Goodwill Ambassador, former ambassador to Cuba and former Director of the French Diplomatic Archives. The other signatories of the first agreement were Mark Capes, governor of St Helena, and Victor-André Masséna, Prince d’Essling, president of the Fondation Napoléon. For the second contract, Susan O’Bey represented the Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage.

Creating a management company: Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd

A non-profit private company under St Helenian jurisdiction, Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd was born on 14 October. It is headed by a board of directors composed of one representative of each of the signatories: the France State (represented by Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, Director of the French Domains of St Helena and employed by the MAEDI); the Government of St Helena (represented by Thomas Holvey, Chief Economist); the Fondation Napoléon (represented by Thierry Lentz, Director). The company’s accounts will be certified and published each year.

This company is responsible for the ongoing management of the three places constituting the French Domains of St Helena: Longwood, the Valley of the Tomb and the Briars.

 Responsibility for the management of both the property and the use of the French Domains has been delegated to Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd.

Via the contract that it has signed with the French Republic, Saint Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd is now responsible for the ongoing operation of the Domains, with the aim, firstly, of gradually reducing the costs to the French state, for example by the gradual transfer of local staff to within the company and, secondly, to maintain a high-quality level of maintenance and also to offer services. French government funding will be gradually reduced until the company’s own resources are able to cover its ongoing costs and any small investments that may be required. The contract signed between the French State and the company includes the list of tasks for which the company will take immediate responsibility.

The annual aims of the company will be decided by the Director of the French Domains of St Helena. Immediately following the signing of the contract, the company is to put in place a structure enabling the collection of entrance fees, the offering of the various spaces for private rental and the sale of souvenirs at the Domain gift shop. The residue of the fundraising appeal “Saving Napoleon’s House in St Helena” will be made available to the company for initial expenses. Note that the aim of the company is not to generate profit and that all financial gains will be used for the maintenance of the buildings and the grounds, the development of the collection and other small investments.

The French State remains the owner of the property of the French Domains of St Helena as well as of the artworks of Longwood Museum.

The signing of these contracts does not affect the ownership of the French Domains which remains that of the French State. The Domains Director continues to be the guarantor of the proper use, the conservation and the proper functioning of everything within the area.

The same goes for the ownership and the conservation of objects and artworks submitted by various institutions which form the Museum of Longwood. Nothing has changed with regard to these issues, and these artworks are in no way affected by the agreements signed on 14 October.

Greater flexibility whilst remaining within conservation guidelines

Thanks to the contracts signed on 14 October, the French Domains now enjoy a greater flexibility of management. In particular, they will be able to run on their own resources. The partners have also promised their continued support. This means for example, that the Government of St Helena will continue to maintain security in the area, the Fondation Napoléon will remain the historical partner of choice for the Domains; and the French State and its representative on site will remain competent in matters of conservation.

This modernisation of the management of the Domains will allow them to function better and to be freer in their movements.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact Thierry Lentz, director of the Fondation Napoléon.