When the British finally defeated a resurgent Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, they were taking no chances. He was put on the HMS Northumberland and shipped 5,000 miles away to one of the most isolated spots in the world.
Disembarking on the volcanic island of St. Helena, about 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa, the scourge of Europe flirted with 13-year-old Betsy Balcombe, wrote his memoirs, gardened and bore up under the insults of his custodian, who addressed him as General Bonaparte, rather than the imperial “Napoleon.”
He also dreamed of escaping to America, but freedom was ever an illusion. On the 47-square-mile isle, with a population of about 5,000, the British had stationed 2,000 troops, put guns on every cliff top and barricaded every cove. Much as he longed to, Napoleon could not repeat his escape from Elba and died on St. Helena of stomach cancer in 1821.
Today, reachable only by boat, the island is largely unchanged, boasting a perfect miniature castle, a tiny church, a town square with a big shade tree brought from India, and rows of Regency houses with iron trelliswork and sash windows. Policemen have so little to do, they are called “the toys,” and the rare prisoner is let out each afternoon for a refreshing dip in the sea.
1. Israel Born in Atlantic
2. Humans Reach the Sea
3. Phoenicians Profit
4. From Fear to Disdain
5. Unique St. Helena
To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.