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Journey to Exile: Napoleon’s Arrival on St Helena

1. Introduction: Napoleon’s Exile on St. Helena

Napoleon Bonaparte, one of history’s most famous military and political leaders, was exiled to the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This marked the end of his ambitious and eventful career, as he was forced to spend the remaining years of his life in isolation on this remote British territory. Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena has since become a subject of fascination and intrigue, attracting visitors and historians alike to explore the details of this extraordinary chapter in his life.

2. The Journey to St. Helena

After surrendering to the British, Napoleon was first sent to the island of Elba off the coast of Italy, where he ruled as sovereign until his escape in 1815. After his defeat at Waterloo, the British government decided to exile him to a more distant and secure location. In October 1815, Napoleon was transported to his final destination, St. Helena, aboard HMS Northumberland, a 74-gun ship of the Royal Navy. The voyage took about two months as the ship made its way across the Atlantic Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope before reaching the island in December.

Upon arrival in St. Helena, Napoleon was transferred to Longwood House, a residence located in a secluded valley on the eastern side of the island. The British government provided him with a small retinue of servants and guards, and strict measures were taken to ensure his confinement. Napoleon’s presence on the island had a significant impact on St. Helena itself, as the British authorities had to make arrangements to accommodate his entourage and maintain security.

3. Life in Exile on St. Helena

Napoleon’s life on St. Helena was a far cry from the grandeur and power he had once enjoyed. Confined to the confines of Longwood House, he faced many challenges, including isolation, boredom, and failing health. Despite these hardships, Napoleon tried to maintain a semblance of the courtly life to which he was accustomed. He surrounded himself with loyal followers and continued to engage in intellectual pursuits, such as writing his memoirs and discussing military and political matters.

The relationship between Napoleon and the British authorities on St. Helena was often strained. There were frequent disputes over the conditions of his imprisonment, including the quality of his accommodations, access to medical care, and the behavior of his guards. These tensions, coupled with Napoleon’s declining health, added to the difficulties he faced during his time on the island.

4. Legacy and Impact

Napoleon’s presence on St. Helena had a lasting impact on the island and its people. The British government invested in improving St. Helena’s infrastructure, including the construction of roads, fortifications, and the development of Jamestown, the island’s capital. The increased military presence and flow of supplies to support Napoleon’s imprisonment brought economic benefits to the local population.

In addition, Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena brought international attention to the island. Visitors from Europe and beyond flocked to St. Helena, hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary figure who had once ruled the European continent. This influx of visitors provided a boost to the island’s tourism industry, as well as opportunities for trade and cultural exchange.

5. The death and return of Napoleon

Napoleon’s health deteriorated rapidly during his time on St. Helena. He suffered from various ailments, including stomach ulcers and respiratory problems. On May 5, 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte died at Longwood House at the age of 51. His death sparked controversy and conspiracy theories, with some suggesting that he was poisoned.

In 1840, Napoleon’s remains were returned to France under the reign of King Louis-Philippe. They were placed in a large tomb at Les Invalides in Paris, where they rest to this day. The repatriation of Napoleon’s remains marked the end of his exile on Saint Helena and the beginning of a new chapter in his legacy.

In conclusion, Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena was a significant event in his life and left an indelible mark on the island itself. It is a testament to the enduring fascination with his life and legacy that visitors continue to travel to St. Helena to explore the remnants of his exile and the impact he had on this remote and isolated British territory.


When did Napoleon go to St Helena?

Napoleon Bonaparte went to St Helena on October 15, 1815.

Why was Napoleon sent to St Helena?

Napoleon was sent to St Helena as a prisoner following his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo and his subsequent abdication as Emperor of the French. The British government wanted to ensure that he would not be able to escape or pose a threat to their allies or their own interests.

How long did Napoleon stay in St Helena?

Napoleon stayed in St Helena for approximately six years. He arrived on the island on October 15, 1815, and remained there until his death on May 5, 1821.

What were the conditions of Napoleon’s exile in St Helena?

Napoleon’s exile in St Helena was marked by strict confinement and surveillance. He was initially housed at Longwood House, a residence provided by the British government. However, the conditions were difficult, with limited freedom of movement and constant monitoring by British officials. Over time, his living conditions and treatment improved slightly, but he remained a captive on the island.

How did Napoleon die in St Helena?

Napoleon Bonaparte died on St Helena on May 5, 1821. The exact cause of his death is still a subject of debate among historians. The official cause of death stated on his death certificate was stomach cancer, but some theories suggest that he may have been poisoned. Despite his death, his legacy as one of history’s most influential military and political figures continues to endure.