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Christine de Montalk, Garibaldi and a brush with the Guillotine!

Giuseppe Garibaldi 1807-1882, Italian general, politician and nationalist who played a pivotal role in the unification of Italy in his trademark poncho and brimless cap c.1864 Source : Wikipedia

Garibaldi at the Crystal Palace. Published in the Illustrated London News, 23 April 1864.

Source : Look and Learn / Bernard Platman Antiquarian

From the moment Garibaldi landed at Southampton the country was seized by what we would now call ‘Garibaldi-mania’. On April 16, 1864, The Spectator reported on its front page that: ‘General Garibaldi arrived in London… and was welcomed by a concourse of people as large as that which witnessed the entrance of the Princess of Wales'

Giuseppe Garibaldi was born in Nice in 1807 of modest origins, by 1836 he was fighting as a revolutionary in South America. In 1848 with his famed 'Red Shirts' he joined the Risorgimento - Italian for 'Rising Again' ( 19th century movement for Italian unification). In 1860 Garibaldi captured Sicily and Naples in the hope of uniting Italy under Victor Emmanuel 11, then the king of Piedmont-Sardinia. Heading private expeditions against papal Rome in 1862 and 1867 he fought on the French side during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Rome was declared capital of the Italian kingdom in 1870. Garibaldi by now immobilised with rheumatism and battle injuries died in 1882, secure in his legacy as the greatest military leader of the Risorgimento.

Located aside one of the pathways close to Brockley road is to be found the lumbering remnant of the de Montalk/Duault family headstone. Christine Wilhelmine de Montalk was born in Milan in 1863 to Joseph Wladislas Edmond de Montalk d.1901 and Marie Duault d.1863. Extant records indicate that after her mother's death, her father emigrated to New Zealand with his children. Christine trained as a hospital nurse in Auckland, New Zealand and later appears on the pioneering nurses listings at King's College, London. Fuller biographical details on her life are regrettably scant but her brother Paul Joseph died in 1912 in Queensland, Australia and their were numerous half brothers and sisters arising from her father's remarriage in 1869. Christine died a spinster in Worthing , West Sussex and was interred in Brockley cemetery on the 15th March 1940.

Also buried alongside Christine is her uncle, Lieutenant-Colonel Armand Francois Maurice Georges Duault d.1926 in Sydenham, who was an Artillery officer in the French Army stationed in Nice, France. He was married to a Gertrude Chance, daughter of Frank Chance d 1897 (buried in an adjoining grave) a physician and Hebrew scholar who corresponded with Charles Darwin. His father was Robert Lucas Chance a famous English glass merchant and manufacturer in Birmingham. Amand's sister Eugenie's family once offered hospitality to the Polish National hero Tadeusz Kościuszko d 1817 when he lived in Switzerland.

Amand's father Francois, a man with literary aspirations was living in Saint Malo during the Reign of Terror in 1793 at the height of the French Revolution and narrowly avoided the fate of many at the time, a date with the guillotine. He attempted suicide to escape the executioner's blade. He failed in his desperate bid, but lost an eye and somehow managed to gained his freedom. He was later decorated with the Legion d' honneur and died in Paris in 1833. During the First World War, Armand became a pen pal of John Bradstreet Perry Robinson, son of Sir Harry Perry Robinson, journalist, author, naturalist, and photographer, who in 1915 was chosen by the British government to be the official war correspondent for The Times and the Daily News.

Joseph Wladislas Edmond Potocki de Montalk-1836-1901. Source : Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1993) - Image : Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.

A Polish émigré of noble descent Joseph de Montalk was educated at the University of Paris. After his studies he arrived in London where he raised funds for Garibaldi's campaign, and in 1859 went to Italy to join his army. where he was wounded in action, and decorated. He moved to Auckland in 1891, and in 1894 took up an appointment as a lecturer at Auckland University College. He lectured in French and German and founded the Auckland branch of the Alliance française. He died in 1901.

His grandson from his second marriage , Count Geoffrey Wladislas Potocki de Montalk d.1997 was an eccentric New Zealander, private publisher, pamphleteer, pagan, and pretender to the Polish throne.

A short biographical link to this controversial figure is appended for interested readers :

The Bizarre Story Of The Poet Who Claimed To Be King Of Poland - Grunge

The much faded headstone of Christine Wilhelmene de Montalk / Duault family in Brockley cemetery. Source : Find a Grave.