Jamestown, the capital of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, is also the historic main settlement of Saint Helena Island in a v-shaped valley on its north-western coast; it is the island’s only port and the center of the island’s road and communications network
“Imagine Napoléon’s dismay when he realised he was not being banished to America as he anticipated, but to the remote island of St Helena in the mid-Atlantic instead. Located 1,200 miles from the nearest landmass off the west coast of Africa, St Helena was the ideal choice for Napoléon’s exile… after all, the last thing the British wanted was a repeat of Elba!
“Napoléon arrived in St Helena on 15th October 1815, after ten weeks at sea on board the HMS Northumberland. William Balcombe, employee of the East India Company and one-time family friend of the French emperor, put Napoléon up at Briars Pavilion when he first arrived on the island. However a few months later in December 1815, the emperor was moved to nearby Longwood House, a property said to have been particularly cold, uninviting and infested with rats.
“During Napoléon’s time on the island, Sir Hudson Lowe was appointed Governor of St Helena. Lowe’s main duty was to ensure that he didn’t escape but also to provide supplies for Napoléon and his entourage. While they only met six times, their relationship is well documented as being tense and acrimonious. Their main point of contention was that Lowe refused to address Napoléon as Emperor of the French. However five years later Napoléon finally won Lowe over, and persuaded him to build a new Longwood House. However he died just before it was completed, after six years in exile on the island. After World War II the new Longwood House was demolished to make room for a dairy.
Napoléon (in exile) landed at the “wharf” in Jamestown, Saint Helena Island, in October 1815, in a small boat dispatched from the HMS Northumberland after ten weeks at sea, Saint Helena Island
After spending one night in Jamestown in a building that no longer survives, Napoléon visited his future home in exile, The Longwood House, which was ordered to be remodeled to make it suitable for the ex-Emperor – during the interim two months, he lived in the green valley of the Briars at the “Briars Pavilion” (pictured in the upper left, partially hidden by a tall tree), Saint Helena Island
A close-up of the Briars Pavilion in the green valley of the Briars, just east of Jamestown, Saint Helena Island
A view of the interior island terrain of Saint Helena Island as we drove up from the Briars valley to the Longwood district where Napoleon lived out the rest of his life in exile at the Longwood House
Now a museum owned by the French government, Longwood House was the final residence of Napoléon, who lived there during his exile from December 1815 until his death in May 1821, Saint Helena Island
“Today Longwood House is considered to be the most poignant and atmospheric of all the Napoléonic Museums, as it is preserved with its original furniture from 1821, complemented by over 900 artifacts. Thanks to the island’s Honorary French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, with the support of the Fondation Napoléon and over 2000 donators, visitors to Longwood House can now also view an exact replica of the room where Napoléon died on 5th May 1821…
Longwood House is surrounded by gardens and offers attractive island views from its location on an elevated plain, Saint Helena Island
We had an extensive tour of Longwood House (no photography permitted) where we explored (with an excellent audio guide) Napoléon’s private suite, the dining room, and the billiard room, where the large billiard table was used for reviewing maps and documents and where Napoléon dictated his memoirs (to three secretaries, simultaneous, rotating from one-to-another with different content), Saint Helena Island
Farms and homes on the ridges on Saint Helena Island
Napoléon died on 5 May, 1821, and was buried according to his last wishes on 9 May near a source in the Geranium Valley, called the Valley of the Tomb ever since. A winding footpath leads the visitor to Napoléon ‘s tomb that is surrounded by railings topped by spear-heads. The tombstone is large and white and bears no inscription. It is surrounded by several trees, among which are 12 cypress trees planted in 1840 in memory of Napoléon ‘s twelve great victories.
Although Napoléon’s body is no longer here (it was collected in 1840 and returned to France), the Tombe de Napoléon (the tomb of Napoléon) is a quiet place where visitors go to reflect on his life; from the main road a winding 750 yard (686 meters) long footpath leads to the serene spot surrounded by pine trees and shrubs, Saint Helena Island
“Napoléon was initially buried at the Sane Valley, his second choice of burial site, until the French were given permission to have his corpse returned to France, nineteen years after his death. Napoléon’s remains are now buried in Les Invalides in Paris, however visitors to St Helena can visit his empty tomb, which is enclosed with a fence and surrounded by an abundance of flowers and pines.
“The circumstances surrounding Napoléon’s death remain controversial. There is still speculation as to whether he was poisoned or simply died of boredom. There is also evidence from an autopsy to suggest that he had ulcers, which affected his liver and intestines.
The landscape of Saint Helena Island is quite varied, from the arid and rocky cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean to the fertile interior valleys where New Zealand flax plants (pictured in the foreground) have proliferated profusely (until the mid-20th century, they were harvested for making twine, the primary industry on the remote island)
A close-up of some of the cliffs, Saint Helena Island
The historic, Georgian stone Plantation House is the permanent residence of St. Helena’s governor, Saint Helena Island, having been built in 1792 by the East India Company as a country residence for its local general managers
“Napoléon’s presence can still be felt today across the island. The Governor of St Helena’s official residence at Plantation House still retains one of Napoléon’s chandeliers, whilst one of the island’s small hotels, Farm Lodge, claims to have a chaise longue from Longwood House.
Several giant tortoises roam the grounds of the Plantation House, including the oldest living inhabitant on Saint Helena Island, Jonathan (age estimated to be around 185 years old!), a Seychelles Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantean hololissa) – making him the oldest know land vertebrate in the world
At the Historic Plantation House we toured the ground floor rooms — including the dining room (the largest of the house’s 35 rooms), sitting room, library, and other spaces, Saint Helena Island; this is the sitting room
The library at the Plantation House has leather-bound volumes dating back to the mid-1700s, Saint Helena Island
“Today, all of St Helena’s Napoléonic attractions, including Longwood House, Briars Pavilion and Napoléon’s Tomb, are owned by the French Government.” — /www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Napoleons-Exile-on-St-Helena/
To celebrate our last night at Saint Helena Island, our expedition team organized a sunset Zodiac cruise and the beverage team visited each group on a Zodiac with glasses of Champagne to celebrate the end of a wonderful journey exploring the mid-Atlantic islands
Sunset viewed just off Saint Helena Island
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