by john van der linde
We are fortunate to live in a suburb with many interesting historical associations – a truly rich Heritage Area. La Cases Road, together with Swansea, connects Upper Wheelan (on Newlands Avenue) with lower Wheelan (in the Barristers Grill area). It runs through the Village, parallel to Kildare Road. Now where does that name, which was first listed in the 1941 Street Directory, come from?
The Count de las Cases, Emmanuel to his friends, arrived at the Cape in January 1817 from St. Helena, where he had voluntarily joined the deposed Emperor Napoleon as his secretary and right-hand man. He was caught trying to send secret letters to Europe, was put under house arrest and given a choice: stay at Napoleon’s side, but now also as a prisoner, or leave immediately for Europe. The good Count decided to return to Europe, possibly on specific instructions from Napoleon. Certainly, on his eventual return to Europe, he never ceased to champion Napoleon’s cause.
The first British naval vessel to arrive at St. Helena was not heading for Europe, but for the Cape. The Governor of the island was keen to get rid of this “dangerous meddler” as soon as possible, and as Las Cases didn’t seem to object, he was sent to the Cape, en route for Europe, one presumes.
He was kept a virtual prisoner at the Castle in Cape Town until he, and his young son who had accompanied him, were sent to Newlands House, Lord Charles Somerset’s “country residence”. There they were free to wander the large grounds at will, and soon a steady stream of visitors came to see the interesting exiles. La Cases Road was presumably named for the Count’s association with our suburb at that time.
Because Newlands House was needed for other visitors, they were moved to the farm “Atydgedacht” in the Tygerberg – “removed to the very extremity of the civilized world”, to use his own words.
Eventually, father and son were allowed to return to Europe.They set sail on 20th August 1817, after a stay at the Cape of some 7 months. How many other former residents of Newlands rate several paragraphs in “Britannica”?
By the way, during their stay, they were treated and befriended by a young doctor who looked, according to the Count, “like a boy of eighteen, with the form, the manners and the voice of a woman.” Any guesses who that was?