How did a Caribbean child, born into plantation slavery, come to defeat Napoleon's armies in battle and crown himself king of the first free black nation in the Americas? This is the story of Henry Christophe: one of the most remarkable, yet least known, figures from the Age of Revolution.
Christophe fought as a child soldier in the American War of Independence, before rising to prominence during the Haitian Revolution as one of Toussaint Louverture's top generals, commanding troops against Bonaparte's invasion. Following Haitian independence, Christophe's ambition for rule helped plunge the country into civil war. He crowned himself King Henry I of Haiti, and his attempts to build a modern black state won the support of leading British abolitionists.
Christophe saw himself as an Enlightenment ruler, and his kingdom produced great literary works, epic fortresses and opulent palaces. But while he was a proud anti-imperialist and fought off French plots against him, the Haitian people chafed under his rule. After ten years on the throne, he committed suicide rather than face being overthrown. Christophe's mountaintop Citadelle still stands, as Haiti's sole World Heritage site-a monument to a revolutionary black monarchy, in a world of empire and slavery.