The Tragedy of King Christophe

by Aimé Césaire

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Henri Christophe, who fought with Toussaint-Louverture, becomes the king of Haiti. While enslaved, he worked as a cook. He rises to general and then commander in the North. He chooses to become king of the Northern province after being offered the presidency. Henri Christophe’s splendid court is based on that of France’s Louis XIV. His kingdom lasts for 14 years before it collapses; he then takes his own life.

Pétion becomes President after Christophe refuses; the island’s other half is organized into a republic. When Christophe proposes reunification, he refuses and sends troops to combat him.

Hugonin is Christophe’s agent who acts the buffoon at court. He supports the king’s authority and the system of nobility. As minister of public morality, one of his roles is enforcing the new state marriage requirements. After Christophe’s death, he joins the republic.

The European Master of Ceremonies oversees court protocol, including dress, comportment, and dance.

As Archbishop, Corneille Brelle conducts the ceremony to make King Christophe the New World’s first crowned monarch. Christophe later turns against him and has him walled up alive.

Metellus conspires against both Christophe and Pétion, aiming to continue the revolution and achieve a new, just state.

Madame Christophe, the queen, had once been a servant. Her counsel against the king’s tyrannical ways goes unheeded.

Martial Besse, an engineer, is contracted to supervise the construction of the great citadel, which Christophe plans as a monument to his glory.

Count Richard of the Northern Marches displeases Christopher at a court dance and is banished to Thomasico

Franco de Medina is a French diplomat. When he brings the French king’s offer to Christophe, the Haitian king has him executed.

Juan de Dios becomes Archbishop after Corneille Brelle is killed. Anxious to please the king, he celebrates Assumption at the church closest to Christophe’s palace. During the Mass Christophe has a vision of Brelle’s ghost.

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