The Napoleonic Wars had been raging since 1799 but by 1814, the French troops were in full retreat. The armies of the Coalition (Austria, Russia, Spain and United Kingdom) had entered France and were on the march to Paris. The disastrous invasion of Russia had ruined the French Emperor’s stock and he went from the master of Europe to exile.
First exile: Elba
With Paris under threat, Napoleon was forced to abdicate. The victors drew up the Treaty of Fontainebleau as the former Emperor was sent packing to an island off the coast of Tuscany on 11 April 1814. Instead of being completely stripped of his power and titles, Napoleon was (in what now seems like a bizarre punishment) allowed to have control over the island. On Elba, the Emperor revolutionised both its society and economy in his 300 days on the island. He was even allowed to keep a small army, navy and personal guard!
On 26 February 1815, after less than a year on the island, Napoleon decided that the time was right to make his triumphant return to France. In an event that is still shrouded with some mystery, he slipped past the British guards unnoticed and set sail for France.
Napoleon’s hundred days
Back on French soil, Napoleon was given a hero’s welcome as he assumed control of Paris once more. There was only one thing on his mind, retribution.
The French army took a hundred days to mobilise and ready itself once again for war. In response, the Seventh Coalition was formed to do battle with Napoleon once again.
Napoleon was defeated for a second and final time time at Waterloo on 18 June 2015.
Second exile: Saint Helena
This time, the major European powers had learnt their lesson. Napoleon was sent far away to the shores of West Africa on a remote British controlled island called Saint Helena. He was kept under constant watch by the British guards and was actually treated rather well. He resided in a large house and was fed good food but as any man feels after a fall from grace, he was deeply depressed.
This time there would be no escape and the once great military leader would die five and a half years later in isolation on May 1821.