Where Did Napoleon Go after Waterloo?
On July 15, 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon surrendered to the British and was exiled to the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, 1,870 km (1,162 miles) off the African west coast. The actual surrender was made to Captain Maitland of the British frigate Bellerophon. Napoleon was transferred to the Northumberland and then taken to St Helena.
This island is only 10½ miles long and 6½ miles wide. Napoleon had no force at his disposal, as he did on the Mediterranean island of Elba, where he was given sovereignty during his first exile. He was to spend six years on the island before his death.
Napoleon was moved to Longwood House there in December 1815; it had fallen into disrepair, and the location was damp, windswept and unhealthy. The Times published articles insinuating the British government was trying to hasten his death, and he often complained of the living conditions in letters to the governor and his custodian, Hudson Lowe.
He frequently quarreled with Sir Hudson Lowe, the Governor, who was very conscientious at thwarting all Napoleon’s hopes of escape. He never gave up these attempts, but he also found time to write his memoirs. With a small cadre of followers, Napoleon dictated his memoirs and grumbled about conditions. Lowe cut Napoleon’s expenditure, ruled that no gifts were allowed if they mentioned his imperial status, and made his supporters sign a guarantee they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely.
There were rumors of plots and even of his escape, but in reality no serious attempts were made. For English poet Lord Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely, and flawed genius. He died on May 5, 1821. There were rumors that he had been poisoned, but modern historians and doctors believe it is far more likely that he had cancer of the stomach.