Bordentown, the town that took in exiled Napoleon’s brother
Bordentown, USA, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- Joseph I of Spain found in Bordentown, USA, a refuge after he was forced into exile following his younger brother Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.
He also conquered the love of a people that endures to this day, a feat he never achieved in the ill-fated years when he tried to impose his crown on the Spanish population.
On a hill where Crosswicks Creek surrenders to the current of the mighty Delaware, immortalized by landscape painters of the era, Joseph I built his sumptuous mansion, which came to contain the largest library in the still nascent United States, as Peter Tucci, who for 25 years has been studying the life of Joseph I in New Jersey, tells Efe.
“He had the largest bookstore in the country with 8,000 volumes and he also brought European culture to the United States,” Tucci explains to Efe.
Part of that culture was an exquisite collection of more than 200 canvases by Spanish, Italian and, above all, French master painters, as well as sculptures and decorative objects that he displayed to his guests and, on occasion, lent out to the Philadelphia School of Fine Arts.
The strategic location of Bordentown, between Philadelphia and New York, was undoubtedly one of the main reasons that led the Count of Survilliers to settle and stay there between 1816 and 1832 and between 1837 and 1839, when he returned to Europe, where he would die five years later.
The remains of the artificial lake, for which Joseph I imported swans from Europe, the lake house, where his daughters Charlotte and Zenaide stayed, and the new mansion he erected over the old stable when his first home went up in flames in a fire in 1820, are now mere memories that live on in the images shown by Tucci.
A walk along the newly cleared paths also reveals intact stairways leading down to the lake and several tunnel entrances, which connected the houses to each other and to the river, an important means of transportation at the time.
The tunnels have inspired local tales of the former Spanish monarch hiding lovers or preparing to escape from imminent danger.