Sunday, November 6, 2011

Napoleon at Elba

My knowledge of 19th century European history is rudimentary at best.  For the longest time, I thought that Napoleon had spent the end of his days in exile on the island Elba.   While he did spend time exiled on Elba, it was for a short amount of time and before his defeat at Waterloo.  His end days were spent in exile on another, far more remote, island named St. Helena.

Napoleon went to Elba after his loss in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 and abdicated from his title of Emperor of France.  Elba appears to be a beautiful place. If I were exiled, it would nice place to spend my time.  It is in the Mediterranean not too far from his native Corsica.   He lived in a villa, no prison cell.  He was given an escort of a 1000 men and the title of Emperor of Elba.  In the nine months he was there he formed an army and navy, he ruled over the 110,000 people, developed the iron mines and resided over the island's social calendar.

After he escaped from Elba, he returned to Paris and was greeted by the people with cheer and was reinstated as Emperor.  He then took up arms again and returned to the battlefield and met his biggest defeat at Waterloo in what is now Belgium.  When he was sent to exile this time, it was not a cushy exile.  No one wanted to ever see him again.  He was sent to St. Helena because it was the one of the most remote islands in the British Empire.   It was damp, windswept and mostly desolate.  He spent the last five or so years of his life depressed and sickly.

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