St Helena has had many famous visitors over the years including Charles Darwin, Edmund Halley, Vice Admiral William Bligh, Captain James Cook, TheRamblingWombat, the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte.
All of these visitors except one had two things in common – they came of their own volition and they saw something that the odd one out never saw — the ghostly volcanic rocks of St. Helena receding into the horizon as they sailed away and bade the island farewell
The odd man out is Napoleon.
Napoleon was exiled to St Helena in 1815 following his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo, or more precisely, after he demanded political asylum from the British Captain Frederick Maitland on HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815 following his failed attempt to flee France for the United States.
Napoleon travelled to St. Helena aboard the HMS Northumberland and remained on the island for the remainder of his life, dying there in 1821.
Contrary to popular opinion, it was not the Duke of Wellington, who had visited St Helena in 1805, that chose St Helena as Napoleon’s place of exile but rather a London civil servant tasked with choosing a location from which he would not escape as he had done from an earlier exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. Authorities wrote to advise Napoleon that he was being confined on St Helena to prevent him “from disturbing the repose of Europe.”
As my reviews on this blog relate to St Helena I will not refer to aspects of Napoleon’s life apart from those related to his time on the island. This I will do though three reviews on the Island sites related to Napoleon which today’s traveller can visit. Indeed the Napoleonic sites on St Helena are the primary focus of the Island’s tourist industry and many people come here solely to visit them.
One thing you will note on visiting these sites it that all three stand under the fluttering tricolour flag of France and are, in fact, French territory on this otherwise very British island. Queen Victoria transferred Longwood House and the land around the Tomb in Geranium Valley to French rule in 1858 while Briar’s Pavilion was deeded to France in 1959 by Dame Mabel Brooks, an Australian descendant of the Balcombe family which owned to property.
Since 2004, the French possessions on Saint Helena have been administratively under the French consulate in Cape Town and are administered locally by a curator who is also honorary consul of France.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to St Helena. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Briar’s Pavilion – Napoleon’s Bedsit – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my St Helena Introduction entry.