TRAVEL BOOK – LOUIS-BARTHÉLÉMY
THE TRUE STORY OF THE LAST ST.MALO-BORN PRINCE OF BALUSCHISTAN
« Be careful !» my father yelled as I played roughly with the big and mysterious teakwood spoon, whose handle was decorated with 10 centimeter-tall characters - a couple of horses, a strange-looking trunk, and a man seated on a throne. «You little brat! Don’t you know that this belonged to our ancestor Louis-Barthélémy, the Prince of Baluschistan ? » he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Unable to remember this unpronounceable name, I did not dare to ask Dad where this kingdom was and what its people were like.
Thus in my dream, I imagined an idyllic country somewhere between the Siam kingdom in the movie « Anna and the King » and the desert sand dunes crossed by Lawrence of Arabia on his camels.
I regularly demanded visiting the zoo to feed my fancy
Merry and colorful, people were dressed in bright, multicolored and gold-studded clothing that sparkled in the sun. For every dress-up party I did my best to find a red skirt, a gleaming belt and a corset embroided with glaring sequins to look alike the Princesse of Belouchistan I was.
During the 80s, by chance, I read a description of the country in a geography book from the beginning of the century, and thus discovered the true face of my ancestor’s kingdom.
«This is a country with many unexplored areas - unexplored not because of inaccessibility to curious travelers, but because of its indomitable, rugged population and endless, monotonous stretches of sand and rocks.»
So… I had to rethink my mental image of this middle east’s countrv, not the least because of all the talk about the Taliban and of burkas.
I began to suspect that it wasn’t appropriate to claim lordship over my kingdom located in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Still, I knew that this kingdom, though wild and sparse, was the birthplace of Massoud - the rebel with the beautiful eyes, killed just before 9/11 - and I was aware as well of Afghan seamstresses’ great talent for creating the thousands of small folds in their blue burkas…but I had to let go of this childhood dream…
Having given up my dream of reconquest, and entering adulthood, an important question arose : From where does the title « Prince of Baluchistan » - given in the 19th century to my ancestor Louis-Barthélémy Morin, Saint-Malo native, long distance captain - come ?
I imagined him tall and thin, with blue eyes and brown hair, dressed in his sailor’s uniform, looking out at the sea from the walls of Saint-Malo. He was brilliant and seductive, and madly in love with his wife Rose, who waited at the port for his return from his naval campaigns.
I began re-reading his and his son’s personal notes, as well as my father’s - his grandson - to really get to know him.
Reality soon exceeded my expectations when I discovered that, on top of everything else, he was « Royal Prince of Burma » and admiral of this landlocked country’s fleet, had commanded the personal boat of Ismaïl Pascha, Khédive of Egypt, and had - amazingly - sank in the China sea after going through the two biggest typhoons the earth had ever known.