|Daniel O'Leary, a soldier from Ireland |
who also preserved Simon Bolivar's personal
documents for history.
Of course, that's probably an exaggeration. But I thought about it while looking at some English miniatures now on display in the National Museum in Bogotá.
The technique of creating miniatures probably came to Colombia with the Royal Botanical Expedition of 1783 to 2016, led by Celestino Mutis, which created miniatures to record plants encountered during the travels. After the expedition's end, artists sought other ways to earn money, such as making portraits of the wealthy.
One of the tiny portraits on display shows Irishman Daniel Florence O'Leary. He was an aide-de-camp under Simon Bolivar and perhaps the most famous member of the British Legion, a volunteer force which fought alongside Bolivar against the Spanish empire. The British effort was not altruistic, of course: they wanted to weaken a rival empire and rule the world - which they eventually accomplished.
|England's King George IV: A dissolute, |
unprincipled man, but nevertheless
admired by Colombians.
Even after the colonies had broken away from Spain's rule, their real independence wasn't assured. France, which practically controlled Spain, considered trying to reconquer the colonies. And a coalition of Europe's conservative monarchies talked of sending members of European royal families across the ocean to rule the New World. (The only place where this was actually tried was Mexico, where the French installed the Austrian Maximilian I. Maximilian lasted only three years, however, before being overthrown and executed by Benito Juarez.)
|An unidentified member of the British Legion.|
|British Foreign Secretary George Canning, |
whose recogintion of the nations of
Latin America made their independence certain.
"I resolved that if France had Spain it should not be Spain with the Indies," Canning explained the next year. "I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old."
|The British Cemetery in Bogotá, |
created for the British Legion veterans.
|A plaque on Plaza Bolivar in Bogotá |
comemorating the British Legion.
Previously, the United States had recognized Colombia in 1822 and the next year U.S. Pres. James Monroe issued his famous doctrine opposing further European colonization or interference in the Americas. But the U.S. was a weak nation: It was Britain that mattered.
|A tomb in Bogotá's Central Cemetery carries the surname O'Leary - possibly a descendent of revolutionary hero Daniel O'Leary, who is buried in Caracas, Venezuela?|
|A plaque in the British Cemetery says that a fence was built from the British Legion's muskets.|
Related post: A Patch of England in Bogotá.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours