Death of Napoleon
The 5th of May 1821 AD
Napoleon Bonaparte returned from Elba to challenge the established order again during his last desperate gamble in 1815, but lost to Wellington at Waterloo , and characteristically abandoned his defeated forces to return to Paris. Abdication swiftly followed, the ex-Emperorís avoidance of a death sentence largely thanks to his recent nemesis.
St Helena in the Southern Atlantic was chosen as Napoleonís prison-island, where he lived out his last years in relative comfort surrounded by a select few slavish admirers, re-writing history in an almost peevish fashion, finding fault with many of his marshals, defaming Wellington as a bad general, and turning Ďif onlyí thoughts into an art form. He even blamed Wellington for the choice of St Helena, knowing the latter had visited it in 1805, though the idea actually came from a civil servant in the admiralty, John Barrow, a noted geographer well aware of its remoteness, the idea quickly accepted by Prime Minister Lord Liverpool.
For the first years of his second exile Napoleonís worst punishment was the islandís governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, petty, pedantic, mean-spirited and constantly suspicious. But eventually illness in the form of stomach cancer became a greater source of pain (though some attribute his death to kidney failure, and deliberate or accidental arsenic poisoning are also regular suggestions). He died at 5.49pm on Saturday May 5 1821, as a cannon marked the setting of the sun. He was only 51.
More famous dates here
5629 views since 11th January 2011
On this day: