On This Day in Napoleonic History – 15 July 1815

15Napoleon boards the HMS Bellerophon

Although Napoleon didn’t know it yet, it was to be the first step on his fated journey to Saint Helena. The ship of the line was to take the deposed Emperor to the shores of England. A member of Napoleon’s entourage remembered, ‘The deepest sadness showed on every face and when the British gig arrived to take the Emperor on board, the most heart-rending cries were heard from officers and sailors alike who shouted ‘Vive l’Empereur!’ across the water until he reached Bellerophon. Some trampled on their hats in despair.’

Napoleon didn’t receive a salute, unlike his departure for Elba the previous year. The excuse of the Royal Navy regulations, which stated that it was too early in the day for a salute, was used to avoid giving him one.

‘I come on board your ship to place myself under the protection of the laws of England,’ he said to Captain Frederic Maitland. At dinner the following night Napoleon told the Captain, ‘If it would not have been for you English, I should have been Emperor of the East. But wherever there is water to float a ship, we are sure to find you in our way.’

As Napoleon was about to embark for his final destination, the faraway and isolated island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were finally over.

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