BBC Music Magazine
Also in May 1809
5th: US president James Madison signs Mary Dixon Kies’s patent for a method of weaving straw with silk and thread to make hats. Kies’s patent – which is probably the first to be awarded to a woman in the US – delights the president’s wife Dolley, who sends her a letter congratulating her in person.
8th: The sculptor Augustin Pajou dies in Paris, aged 78. A winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome while still in his teens, Pajou’s most famous work includes busts of the scientist Georges-louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, and a statue of the theologian Jacques-bénigne Bossuet. His son, Jacques, is a well-known painter.
17th: Napoleon issues a decree announcing that the Papal States are to be annexed by the French Empire, with the Pope, Pius VII, receiving two million francs per year in compensation. The Pope retaliates by excommunicating Napoleon but, as relations continue to deteriorate, he is then kidnapped by one of the Emperor’s officers. Napoleon does little to secure his release.
24th: Designed by Daniel Asher Alexander and built by local labourers over the course of three years, Dartmoor Prison opens in Devon. It is primarily intended to house French soldiers captured during the Napoleonic wars, but will also later hold American prisoners of war. Its facilities include a theatre and a gambling room.
25th: A popular uprising in Chuquisaca (modern-day Sucré, Bolivia) leads to the disposition of the Spanish governor, Ramón García León de Pizarro. A new ruling junta is formed by the Real Audiencia of Charcas (the local law court), supported by the University of Saint Francis Xavier. Though the revolution leads to similar uprisings elsewhere in South America, the junta is soon defeated by Spanish forces.