Following Napoleon’s defeat at the battle of Waterloo in 1815, he was captured and exiled to St Helena – one of the most inaccessible and easily defendable places on earth. Following Napoleon’s earlier escape from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, the British were determined that this time Napoleon would have no chance of escape. Remote St Helena was the perfect prison.
Today, there a number of Napoleonic sites on St Helena that can be visited:
Napoleon spent his first two months of exile on St Helena, from October to December 1815, in this one-roomed summerhouse pavilion on the estate of William Balcombe, a purveyor of the East India Company.
After leaving Briars Pavilion, Napoleon spent the rest of his time on St Helena under house arrest at Longwood House, until his death on May 5th 1821 at the age of 51. It has been maintained by the French government ever since 1858, when the house and surrounding land was gifted to France by Queen Victoria. – Located on an exposed plateau 1800 feet above sea level, Longwood House has a significantly worse climate than Jamestown, open to the trade winds, and was often damp and blanketed with mist, which depressed Napoleon.
Accompanied by a small retinue of courtiers and servants, a far cry from his glory days as the Emperor of most of Europe, Napoleon constantly complained about his life here, the damp, the mould on the walls, and the rats scurrying under the floorboards.
A short distance from Longwood House, in a beautiful valley, shaded by trees, where Napoleon like to go to picnic, is the tomb where he was buried in 1821.
– A peculiarity of Napoleon’s tomb is that there is no name inscribed on it. This is because Napoleon had wanted just his first name on it, Napoleon, which was customary for royalty. The British refused, as they didn’t want to acknowledge that he was an emperor, and said we’ll print your full name, Napoleon Bonaparte, just like an ordinary person. Napoleon thought this was beneath his dignity and so a compromise had to be reached, the result being no name at all.
– Today, Napoleon’s body is no longer in the tomb. At the request of the French government, his body was disinterred in 1840 and returned to France, where he was reburied with great pomp and ceremony at Les Invalides in Paris.