Promoting New Perspectives
Napoleon 200 tells the lesser-known story of Napoleon's imprisonment on Saint Helena through the eyes of those who were there
Within that story, and the differing perspective of those on the island in his final years, can be found the fault lines of history which are still felt today.
On 15th October 1815, Napoleon arrived at Saint Helena on the HMS Northumberland and displayed no outward emotion on deck. To one of his retinue however he is supposed to have declared;
“It seems no charming place to live in. I should have done better to stay in Egypt. I should now have been Emperor of the whole Orient.”
After one night in Jamestown, Napoleon was moved to the Briars, the house of the Balcombe family. At the Briars, Napoleon was relatively content, and formed a close friendship with the family’s daughter, Betsy, which has inspired writers ever since.
He also is supposed to have struck up a friendship with Toby, one of the Balcombe's slaves, and offered to buy his freedom.
On Sunday 10th December 1815 Napoleon moved to Longwood House which had been adapted and extended for his retinue of twenty or so people. Here, Napoleon spent his time taking long baths, dictating his memoirs, entertaining guests, and walking and riding within the permitted areas of the island.
The climate at the house was - and still is - damp, and Napoleon was irritated by the restrictions placed upon him by the new Governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, with whom he very quickly developed a fractious relationship. Napoleon’s health gradually deteriorated, and he died on 5th May 1821.