My life, what a novel! Napoleon Bonaparte was bored on Elba. The sequence is very fast, more for its time. An eleven-month reign on an island, recovery of power in France, battle of Waterloo, One Hundred Days, abdication, flight and surrender. This frenzy was History, from one man to reverberate throughout Europe, and with it the world. If you have read it, it is impossible not to remember the beginning of Stendhal’s ‘The Charterhouse of Parma’ and to notice that confusion on the periphery of the last combat, beings devoted to war infected with adrenaline and steeped in greatness. Your hero, after giving up the empire forever, thought of fleeing to the United States from Rochefort, on the Atlantic coast. The British Navy blocked the port, and on July 15, 1815, he appeared to be captured in HMS Bellerophon, but not before writing his letter of surrender to the Prince Regent, the future George IV of the United Kingdom.
The Corsican waited some benevolence. He had dreamed of helping the fight for the independence of the South American colonies, indefatigable in warfare, but now he only had to be exiled and before knowing his destiny he continued with the incredible of any detail of his existence, when in Plymouth without setting foot grounded unprecedented passions, with the hysterical populace to see the most famous man on the entire planet. On July 31 they informed him of his definitive course, the island of Saint Helena where he arrived on October 16 after two months and a week of crossing in Northumberland.
The goal was not to see peace disturbed again because of the youngest general in the Old World, myth of Romanticism
Elba’s fiasco was key to the election of an impossible place, an island of one hundred and twenty-two square kilometers in the heart of the South Atlantic, almost three thousand kilometers from South America and one thousand nine hundred and fifty from the southwest coast of Africa. The objective was not to see peace disturbed again by the fault of the youngest general in the Old World, a myth that caused a certain part of Romanticism. His absence brought forth nostalgia for so much epic, something aggravated by the eruption in April 1815 of Mount Tambora, the year without a summer and, above all, the transition to a paradigm where, from conquering capitals with weapons, one happened to have them in the safe.
Confinement is a ‘matrioshka’
For two months Napoleon settled in the Le Briars pavilion, to move to Longwood in December, a mansion unsuitable for the detention of his illustrious, rather sordid, guest with the wind like a hammer on the outside and a very poor interior, six kilometers from Jamestown, the main town of Saint Helena, infinity when one acclimatizes to the spatial conception of the inhabitants, and in this sense the prisoner used irony to cross the compromised limit of his movements, bypassing the garrison English composed of two thousand seven hundred eighty-four soldiers.
The act had a bit of a laughter challenge. Today the prisoners on the island can walk it without any kind of obstacle, because by itself it is a border. The sea and distances were physical and psychological obstacles. Within the investigations on this agony of the winner of Austerlitz, a solid thesis cannot yet be articulated on whether he contemplated escaping. The facts demonstrate the opposite, and to confirm this unbreakable imprisonment, Saint Helena was the perfect dungeon, all that remained was to turn to the legendary past, something even more propelled if possible by the retinue of the faithful, who took that voluntary exile along with their idol, not as a punishment, but as an opportunity to write history.
To this, in this increasingly decrepit grotesque court, the apostles, Emmanuel Las Cases, author of the ‘Memorial, Bible of Captivity and Myth’, Gaspar Gourgaud, Henri Gatien Bertrand and the Marquis of Montholon, famous in the cast for his hypothetical participation, as a material author, in the murder of Napoleon, whose hair contained arsenic dropper during confinement, for more than a century being confused with a stomach ulcer.
Montholon, from these premises, was the executor of a conspiracy directed from the upper echelons of the Bourbon Restoration, fearful of a Napoleonic return, not so much for that reason that the third is defeated, but rather for not ignoring the persistence of his charism among the popular classes and in the soldiers of the Grande Armée. The yearned for should not have been oblivious to the imprint deposited in the Hexagon, yet he was so imprisoned by the past as to neglect any hint of the present. The water, the lengths and the memorialism enclosed him even more, with the cherry always in the vicinity.
It was called Hudson Lowe and he was the governor of Saint Helena, Boney’s jailer. The Duke of Wellington judged him as a very bad option for this task as he was poor in education, stupid without a world and, like all his ilk, suspicious and envious. These defects made him ideal to get his nemesis out of his boxes, with whom he had dialogues with those with the air cutting with a knife.
When he was deported, he was not yet fifty years old and felt a certain energy
These four elements closed the circle of his hell. The distraction of collecting information about his journey must have remedied many headaches and raised others equally serious. When he was deported he was not yet fifty years old and felt a certain energy; not being able to deploy it in his arena, he could spend hours analyzing errors in Waterloo, his torment, collected by his acolytes, little by little embarked for Gaul at the whim and wickedness of Lowe who, not content with tightening the fence, stripped him of his only assets, with the departure of Las Cases, the only intelligent of the procession, plunging him into the most absolute helplessness, and that goodbye would not be the only pearl in the deranged series of catastrophic misfortunes.
Napoleon used to say have everything, less time. Here he had plenty, and drowsiness turned into depression. He did not go out, he hated the crazy weather and he felt himself getting progressively worse, getting fat as if he were a barrel of three feet. The forces abandoned him and after the departure of the Irish doctor Barry O’Meara he felt evicted, persistent in predicting a time marked for his death, which occurred on Saturday, May 5, 1821, at 5:40 in the afternoon.
The return of the ashes
Hudson Lowe’s ungodliness with his prey was almost immoral. The deceased’s last wish was to be buried by the Seine to be entertained before resting underground. Until 1840, a small tomb, today accessible and empty, was its delay. Meanwhile in France and Europe events were beginning to turn towards a slow decline of the absolutist model reborn in the Congress of Vienna. The Corsican acolytes no longer exhibited it only with naive drawings, the paintings of Épinal, a phenomenon of that time to remember an unrecoverable time, but also through a bourgeois spirit, melancholic as it suffered from lost strength with Bourbon mediocrity. From this perspective, the reign of Luis Felipe de Orleans, raised to the throne after the three glorious days of July 1830, has a collective imagination and a cultural production where the great names of the letters, from Stendhal to Balzac, refined the genres. and embodied the Napoleonic without almost any negativity.
That France in the process of expanding and being a colonial power with capitalism as its flag, in keeping with the fluctuations of time, missed the imperial patina and therefore Thiers, one of those fundamental beings and involved in a certain amnesia, opted for a prestigious operation for the crown and positive for that reason of infusing a tremendous state of mind to a nation very loving of this type of ritual.
In Santa Helena, Bertrand, one of the last to stay with the genius, returned to repatriate him and see an almost intact corpse, proper, and necessary for the story, of a saint. The return of the ashes culminated in the lavish burial at the Invalides, in a Finnish red quartzite sarcophagus on a green granite plinth from the Vosges. Napoleon sleeps that eternal dream protected by six coffinsThe innermost one is made of a tin-covered sheet of steel, the second of mahogany, the next two of lead, the fifth of ebony wood and the last of oak. Another confinement to the list, as if, on this occasion, they wanted to prevent his departure in panic if he could not show it off. With his funeral, his influence, that ancestry of the invisible, always omnipresent, was consolidated, from Saint Helena to a sanctuary, from antichrist to divinity. Eight years later, his nephew Louis Napoleon He won the presidential elections of the newly constituted Second Republic and from those heights gave a coup on December 2, 1851, the anniversary of Austerlitz and the coronation of his uncle. Just a year later he became emperor of the French.