After his second abdication, Napoléon surrendered to the English, hoping that he could retire to the English countryside. However, his captors were taking no chances that their prisoner would once again return to his throne. They exiled him to St. Helena, a remote and barren island in the South Atlantic. A small party of the most loyal members of his staff and of the Imperial Court, including General Henri-Gratien Bertrand, accompanied him to this dismal outpost, a hell on earth for men who were “addicts of action.” The island's celebrated prisoner chaffed under the authority of English Governor Hudson Lowe, a situation made even more unpleasant by their mutual dislike for each other. The fallen Emperor spent his time reading, gardening, dictating his memoirs and ruminating on the remarkable events that had led him to St. Helena.
“The Last Stage”James Sant - c. 1900
This portrait was commissioned for the historical monograph Napoléon: The Last Phase, one of several histories written by Lord Rosebery, Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister in 1894-95. It eloquently testifies to how much the years of struggle and ill health had affected Napoléon by the time he arrived at St. Helena.
Historical Provenance - Private collection, England
Oil on canvas