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Byline: Steve Dennis

DUKE OF MARMALADE, he who has a favourite's chance in next week's Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, was born of noble stock. A son of supersire Danehill, his family tree stretches back 300 years and not a branch of it has failed to bear fruit.

The other Duke of Marmalade, he whose name inspired Sue Magnier to endow her strapping four-year-old thus, was a slave. And a duke. You could be anything you wanted in those days.

The hinge upon which this story swings is Henri Christophe (1767-1820), who also began his days as a slave but, by a rarely trodden career path, became King of Haiti via life as a cook and as an army officer.

Christophe made his name in the glorious Haitian Revolution of 1791 and steadily made his way through the ranks to that of general.

However, one fine day the Emperor of Haiti was assassinated. After the smoke cleared, Christophe was elected a puppet president, holding office but without any real power. A few years later, in a move evidently designed to ensure that all the people who wanted a title could have one, he was made president of the north half of Haiti while one Alexandre Petion took the seals of office as president of the south half of Haiti.

In 1811, Christophe, the man who would be king, woke up one morning and declared himself one. He was now King of Haiti. You try that today and someone will try to stop you - in 1811, no-one blinked an eye. As is customary with these power-crazed dictators, the first thing the new king did was to raise all his mates to the peerage. In no time at all, the previously kingless Haiti had a king, four princes, seven dukes, 22 counts and 40 barons.

One of the new peers was the Duke of Marmalade (you knew we'd get there in the end - Ed). The duke, a former slave, took his name from the estate on which he had formerly slaved and held the rank of Commander in Chief in the king's slightly bonkers and highly unmeritocratic retinue. There was also a Comte de Limonade.

The Puerto Rican poet Luis Pales Matos immortalised him in verse, the poem including the lines . . .

Oh my fine, my honey-coloured Duke of Marmalade; No longer will you eat the succulent roast of child, nor will your familiar monkey kill your lice at siesta time.

If you see Sue Magnier at Royal Ascot, ask her if she's read it.


There aren't any photographs of the Haitian Commander in Chief
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2008
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