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All The King's Horses

U.L. from an internal courtyard

View back from Great St Mary's to the U.L.

Napoleon landed at Golfe Juan in 1815. He headed without delay for Paris. He had not gone far when a surprised Prince of Monaco, heading home, met the Emperor on the road.


Author: Paul Gruyer
Published in English translation by William Heinemann, London
and J.P. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia. 1906.


This is a book you are rather unlikely to read.

I found it on the shelves of the University Library, Cambridge (U.L.) in late 1999 when I was making a private documentary, The Buildings of the University Library, Cambridge at the End of the Millennium, with its pages still uncut, never having been borrowed.

This fact might possibly be ascribed to a copy of the original in French being in the possession of the U.L. (but not available outside the Reading Room) but I was still amazed that a book on a topic of as much curiosity that was published in at least four countries - France, Britain, America and Sweden - should have escaped scholarly perusal for nearly a century since its acquisition by the U.L. in 1906.

2019: Slightly off axis from the sixth floor. If you go to the top of the tower, which is used for book storage, you can easily see the axis through Clare College's Memorial Court to Great St Mary's from it. In 1999 the building that fills the centre of Memorial Court was not there. King's College Chapel is to the right.

This wonderful book itself gives an account of events that took place nearly a century before it was written, in 1814-1815.

Thus it is an interesting social commentary on how Elba and continental European perceptions of war, politics and tourism had changed in a century.

A further century on, at the commencement of 2002, it is evident that Elba cannot offer the same uncrowded touristic experience (with 130,000 visitors now each year to the two Napoleonic residences combined alone) it afforded Paul Gruyer. He could still see Porto Ferraio much as it was in Napoleon's time.

As you are unlikely to be able read it for yourself, I have decided that generous quotation from the text is the best way to do it justice, with the reviewer adding only the critical commentary of a few parallels with his own time to extend the historical perspectives a further century.


Paul Gruyer's preface sets the scene of the Emperor's departure from Fontainebleau on 20 April 1814 and the hostility he encountered in southern France on his passage to St Raphael where he embarked for Elba on board the English frigate, Undaunted, on the 29th.

He observes that historians of his time show little interest in the events on Elba. This observation remains true of today's historians despite the great romance of the Elban story.

He outlines his task:

What manner of place was this Island of Elba, and what was the Emperor's life during his ten month's of residence there? How did the man live, he who stood only yesterday on the summit of the Western World, and who now was merely the ruler of this infinitesimal corner of it? Hardly a thought has been given to this period, and from Napoleonic history it has almost disappeared; not, however, from lack of documents...

But public interest seems now, as it seemed then, to be aroused only by what happened in France. The great man is allowed to rest in his island, to be taken up again only when he leaves it, from the Hundred Days to Waterloo.

He records his own reaction to arriving on Elba by steamer and encountering an island still physically little altered from the time of the departure of its Imperial ruler:

Moreover, this little island, half forgotten in the sea, has remained almost precisely what it was a century ago. The modern life that has penetrated so far has not altered either its natural aspect nor its villages or towns. The Vandalism of modern improvement has spared the strange buildings and left the old walls intact. The very same houses, roads, even stones on the paths, have seen the Emperor pass. I find all the places spoken of in the memoirs of his time; every fact, every event, falls into place in public functions and private life; there are the same names and the same families...

I can see them all as if they exist to-day; the Emperor, ageing a little but always alert; inscrutable Madame Mere, the venerable Corsican; Pauline, the sweet and beautiful "Venus"; the fair Polish lady, Walewska; the old devoted but grumbling Bertrand, the wise Drouot, the watch-dog Cambronne, making up the little Court of a day, where, under the veil of comedy, is gathering the thunder-cloud of the Return.


Gruyer recounts his passage from Piombino in Italy the twelve and a half miles by steamer to Porto Ferraio. A century on the capital of Elba can no longer want for tourists to inveigle into its history.

Porto Ferraio is an extraordinary town. Many streets are nothing but staircases, and the place is full of arches, tunnels and ramparts covered with the sword-like aloe leaves and cactuses. Imagination takes one back to Carthage...

But at this point a man, most unlike a Carthiginian ran up to me crying "Signor, la teste di Napoleone." (The head of Napoleon.) "Come and see, Signor. The head with his coffin." "He takes me for a fool," I thought, "and thinks I do not know whether Napoleon died at Elba or St Helena." I shook my head, and walked on quickly, to escape from his "Nobilissime Signor" and his excited gestures. But the Italian cicerone is not got rid of so easily, and the man followed me repeating, "Si, si, la teste l'empereur Napoleone," and as we passed a church he pointed to the door, "Here, Signor, here!" I felt curious, and went into the church, thinking that in any case I should be rid of him.

But he had already spoken to the sexton, and came to me with the sacristy key. There on entering I saw an ebony coffin, black and polished, with the initial N. Four candles in silver candlesticks burned at the corners. I stood wondering, when the sexton, opening the cover of the coffin, disclosed the head of the Emperor - rigid, the eyes shut. My cicerone hastened to explain that the head was bronze, and tapped it lightly as he spoke. The impression was none the less striking, so little did I expect to see this tragic mask - a reproduction of the mould taken after his death at St. Helena by Dr. Antommarchi.


With great colour Gruyer sets the scene for Bonaparte's landing, the latter most anxious to use those around him to immediately establish him as sovereign, experience that would come in useful when he would return to France ten months later.

In the meantime the frigate was sailing quietly over the calm blue waters, in the golden sunlight, and gradually approaching the island. Although she presented a friendly appearance, General Dalesme still feared being taken by surprise, and when she was a short distance from the shore he sent a despatch-boat to warn her that if she came any nearer, he would open fire. For answer, she ran up a flag of truce, took in her sails, and cast anchor. It was then two o'clock in the afternoon. The frigate was none other than the Undaunted, with the Emperor on board, and by reason of contrary winds had taken four and a half days in crossing from Frejus to Elba...

He had asked the English Commissioner at Frejus if he might rely on 100 soldiers from the Undaunted as a protection during his first days in the island, until the arrival of 400 men from the Guard allotted him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau (Article XVII of the Treaty)"...

Moreover, he had no wish to enter the island furtively, as a fugitive, or even as an ordinary individual. He was Napoleon the King, and he would be royally received.

The island is yielded peacefully with the substantially impoverished population agog that the great Emperor should be coming to live amongst them as their sovereign.

Still on board, Napoleon chose a flag, which had no martial overtones and suggested industrious contentment, misleading already as to his future intentions (and which is embossed in silver and gold on the front of the book):

All the morning, officers were coming and going with instructions from the Emperor, who chose a flag for himself designed from an engraving of old armorial bearings of the time of Cosima de' Medici - a white ground with a diagonal stripe of reddish-orange, bearing three bees.

Always a master of transitions, a service was quickly arranged to mark his landing and assumption of power.

The new flag made hastily out of sail-cloth, was run up at Porto Ferraio, and the English frigate replied with twenty-one guns. The Emperor went on board the Admiral's barge, while the English sailors, mounted on the yards, gave three cheers, and the Elbans broke into frantic applause...

As the Emperor landed, his face fell, and the reality of the situation dawned on him. This country where he was setting foot suddenly appeared in its true light - a prison...

These strange people from their mountain villages with their rough voices and cut-throat expressions were his subjects! Those who were nearest to him noticed the look of surprise and disgust on his face. But he regained his self-possession at once, and came forward smiling to the authorities waiting for him.

At times events bordered on farce, or to a Frenchman like Gruyer, noble Comedy:

The mayor, Traditi, was the first, as with a deep bow, he presented the keys of the city on a silver salver. He had a speech ready, which he had written out, but was unable to read a word. The Vicar-General advanced with a canopy, covered with tinsel and festooned with paper roses. Under this the Emperor took his place, and they proceeded to the parish church, where a feeble little bell was ringing to its utmost capacity...

The swaying canopy at last arrived at the church door, where a prie-Dieu was placed, covered with the least shabby piece of drapery which could be found. Two hastily appointed attendants, ignorant of their functions, and paralysed with fear, conducted the Emperor, and remained at his side, imitating all he did, and even being prompted by him as to their movements...

A suitable residence was quickly needed and for what became known as the Mulini Palace,

The Emperor was his own architect, drew the plans for the masons and carpenters himself, and moved into the building while the plaster and paint were still wet.

In acquiring furnishings, Napoleon demonstrated no loss of his instinct for annexation:

Furniture was necessary, and the Emperor possessed none, but the palace of Piombino, belonging formerly to his sister Elisa, was full of it. The Emperor had no scruples, and although the palace was now annexed by Austria, he sent over a ship to take possession of its contents. This was accomplished successfully, and the quarter-master in charge of the expedition gave the Austrian Commissioner (who protested in vain) by way of payment "a precise inventory of all he had taken for the use of the Emperor." Everything was carried off, even to the venetian blinds and parquet flooring.

Napoleon was said to always forgive everything in his marshals except want of success and lack of luck. His fortune rarely failed him and, by chance, his other sister, the celebrated beauty Pauline, also found herself furnishing the Mulini:

A propitious storm provided what was lacking. Prince Borghese, Pauline's husband, who was obliged, for political reasons, to leave Turin, had sent some of his furniture to Rome by a Ligurian boat. This boat, owing to stress of weather, had to take shelter off the island of Elba. The Emperor thereupon seized all the furniture saying: "It must not go out of the family." An inventory was made, however, of all he took, and Prince Borghese had the satisfaction of receiving a complete list in lieu of his possessions.

Napoleon devoted great energy to ensuring that his military forces and defences were well organized and deployed and also much effort on establishing sound but very modest public finances.

The budget for the war department absorbed the greater part, and for the last seven months of the year attained the sum of 689,317 francs. The new King of Elba with his army of 1,592 men could hardly be in a position to declare war on anyone, but he felt it necessary to be ready should a blow be struck on him first. Having been till now the object of so much hatred and so much fear, it would be unwise in the extreme to feel quite secure.

The coasts of the island were bristling with forts built by its various conquerors. The garrisons of these forts were now strengthened; their weak places repaired, and guns and engineers were stationed in them, from the Guards and the Polish regiments...

In civil matters fresh orders and arrangements did not lag behind. The island was to be endowed with roads, with a quarantine hospital to receive doubtful ships and their merchandise, with wells, fountains, with new cultivation, especially corn, which had hitherto all been imported, making the price of bread very high. Porto Ferraio was to have a fire brigade, and an avenue planted with new trees "like the Champs Elysees," where the citizens could walk on Sundays.

Crucially, the Emperor only had one vessel that could truly be described as a small warship:

The brig Inconstant, of 16 guns, became the flagship, and was commanded by Lieutenant Taillade. She was used for important missions, for any small sea voyage the Emperor wished to make, or for communications with foreign countries. She was destined finally to take the Emperor back to France.

Napoleon's mother, Madame Mere, came to live on the island and Pauline, Princess Paula to her intimates, came to visit.

As to the Empress Marie Louise, who had been separated from her husband so sorely against her will, the Emperor continually declared that she was on her way. To convince his hearers, a suite of rooms were prepared for her and the little King of Rome, at the Mulini...

The Elbans' curiosity was stimulated by these promises, seeing in them a vista of future fetes, and a proof that their beloved sovereign would remain indefinitely on the island...

There was only one blot on the canvas.

One form moved in this miniature court, with a piercing eye, an artificial smile, a watchful ear, a scarred brow, artistically concealed by a silk handkerchief. This was the official spy, Colonel Campbell, who with his faultless uniform, and his elegantly correct British manners, followed the Emperor's footsteps, and as if by accident was present everywhere. The Austrian Commissioner, Koller, had left on 9th May. Only Colonel Campbell remained to see what the formidable captive might have in his mind to do. It seemed wise to be a little afraid of him...

Indispensable he certainly was, as failing his presence the Emperor was unattached by any tie to European Governments. He was an exile on his island, cut off from any other community, and counted as a cipher : a prey to any future destiny, he might be insulted, carried away prisoner, his island pillaged and bombarded, in spite of his poor army and his brig of sixteen guns, without a single protector to utter a protest. The presence of Campbell, however, was a defence, a guarantee from the Powers, almost an embassy, giving an air of reality to this poor apology for a kingdom. It was Campbell who carried out the Emperor's desire to have the flag of Elba recognized at Algiers, and through the person of His Britannic Majesty's Consul to inform the Dey, whose corsairs he dreaded, "that the Allied Powers have engaged among themselves to have the flag respected, and that it must be treated upon an equality with that of France."

Espionage, secret and police agents were very common in Napoleonic times and Bonaparte, who had obsessions with knowing what was said of him and for restricting press liberty, was as well informed in both France and Elba as any modern ruler today:

The Emperor, on his side, had his secret agents, and Campbell could never feel certain that his own servant was not a spy. The information obtained was reported to the Emperor only. Poggi, the judge, was commissioned to "explorer les familles," and to report any gossip he might hear in the social life of the town. He had the gift of making people talk, and by his pleasant manners, with occasional carefully lapses of ill-humour, of giving precisely the opposite impression to what he really intended. He collected information while carrying on a constant deception.


Eight miles off Elba lay the small island of Pianosa, abandoned only to wild goats. Napoleon's true nature quickly expressed itself in relation to this island:

When the Emperor heard of the existence of this island, he declared that as it seemed to belong to no one else it was his, and after sailing over to it on board the Inconstant, announced his military occupation and colonisation.

This expedition was carried out with immense difficulty. The troops consisted of forty men, viz., twenty gunners and sappers of the Guards, and as many from the Corsican battalion.

We must speculate as to the Emperor's true intention in occupying this island of little military or economic value. Surely the prospect of escaping from the island by sea was already in his mind when he signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau and the pretext of departing to visit Pianoso was quite possibly one that went through his mind when he decided upon its annexation.

The inhospitable rock of Palmaiola, was like Pianosa, also occupied, and provided with a battery.

Colonel Campbell at first paid no attention to what he laughingly described as the Emperor's "conquests." He had accompanied him as if for a day's amusement on his taking possession of Pianosa. "The Emperor is doing all this for the English," he said, "one day we shall take his place here." When Pianosa was fortified as a strategic position, however, he grew uneasy, and exclaimed that the island had not been mentioned in the Treaty of Fontainebleau. But the Emperor took no notice of his objections.

He stayed at the hermitage of La Madone above Marciana Alta, a village in which Madame Mere had temporarily taken up residence, in late August and on into September. This was the closest he got to what we would call a romantic summer holiday.

No doubt the presence of Monte Giove fascinated him (as well as the expectation of a visitor), and also the rugged village of Marciana, which apparently had the same attraction for Madame Mere. Both mother and son here found an echo of Corsica.

In the grim forbidding-looking houses, the intoxicating air, the pure beauty of mountain tops, in the fragrance of the maquis, the long distant past seemed to live again for them both. From the rock where, with his feet in the heather, he sat only to rest, his gun between his knees, not only did he breathe this native perfume, which at St. Helena recalled Corsica to him "with his eyes closed," but he could actually see it on the horizon, in the flame of the setting sun. What were his feelings as he looked at his native land over the sea at the close of day, and the close of his own life? Corsica and Elba! The opposite extremities of his glory! There, it had not begun, here, it was nearly over. All his life lay between these two summits...

The news of Josephine's death had reached him at the Mulini, causing him real sorrow, and his other wife, the Empress was absent, he knew not where.

Marie Louise still delayed her coming. Her rooms at Porto Ferraio waited for her in vain. In vain the doves on the ceiling at San Martino began, under the painter's brush, to tie the lovers' knot. The symbol became day by day more bitterly ironic.

The Emperor did not try to conceal his vexation and disappointment. In his own way he loved Marie Louise. He loved her from a sense of duty, because he had married her, and his whole being, even in his heart, went by rule. Already a mature man, he had been sensually attracted to the timid child; she had learned life through him, and had been dazzled by the diamonds he had showered on her.

Whilst at the hermitage he had a mysterious visitor:

On September 1 or 2, at nightfall, a vessel entered the harbour of Porto Ferraio, and without being stopped by the coastguards, instead of resting at the quay, headed towards the end of the bay, and anchored at San Giovanni.

A lady and a child were on the deck, accompanied by another lady and a tall man in uniform wearing gold-rimmed spectacles. The lady asked for the Emperor and Marshal Bertrand talked to her, his head uncovered.

The sailors on board the vessel reported that, during the crossing, the lady, who had come on board on the Italian coast, sometimes called the child "my son," and sometimes the "Emperor's son." The conclusion that she was the Empress was therefore safe...

But the lady was not Marie Louise; she was the Countess Walewska.

The Emperor had said of his son that "the infant of Wagram will one day be King of Poland". It was not to be. Count Alexandre Walewski later married Lady Caroline Montagu and became Napoleon III's French ambassador in London and a minister in Paris.

It was this son by Marie Walewska, his favourite mistress, that convinced him he could father a child and led to his divorce from Josephine and his marriage to Marie Louise.

The very few who were in the Emperor's confidence in this attachment called her his "La Valliere." She was blonde, with blue eyes and a fair complexion, small and well made, in temperament both gay and melancholy...

"All my thoughts and inspirations come from him," she said. "He is my future, my life." It is said that she gave him a hollow gold ring, with a lock of her hair inside, and with these words engraved "Quand tu cesserais de m'aimer, n'oublie pas que je t'aime."...

She asked for permission to come, giving as a pretext the necessity of arranging for her future, and that of her child. The Emperor consented, and she came.

She came, rejoicing in her pride as woman and mistress. The lawful wife had denied her duties, but she was faithful, and not only was she in a morally superior position to her crowned rival, but in the sole possession of his love.

The Emperor was much annoyed, however, to hear from Porto Ferraio that she had been taken for Marie Louise...

But when Caesar's anger had passed away the man conquered the Emperor, and fell into the arms held out to him. When she reproached him for having repulsed her at Fontainebleau, for refusing to be comforted by her tenderness, he replied, touching his forehead, "I had so many things here."

They stayed for two days in his tent, lulled by the breeze, and the distant murmur of the sea. They played with the child, taken care of by Walewska's sister, in the hermit's little house, where they all slept at night...

On the evening of the second day, he said that they must part...

She had hoped to stay longer - perhaps for always - and for the Emperor it was another wrench. Love was departing, like everything else.

They part in a storm:

As soon as the Emperor reached the Hermitage, he was alarmed by the fury of the wind, and sent his second orderly officer to Marciana, to postpone the departure. When he arrived, Walewska was already on the way to Porto Longone. The officer sheltered and went no further...

The authorities at the harbour refused to let them go, seeing the state of the sea. Walewska persisted, saying the Emperor had commanded it. They dare not disobey or show less courage than a woman. She embarked in a little neighbouring bay, at Mola, and the vessel, braving the storm, bore her away.

The Emperor endured tortures, and only felt relieved when he heard of her safety.

Impending misfortune was to come otherwise...

Marie Louise wrote no more, and the Emperor gradually ceased to talk to her, understanding that only on the day when he recovered his crown would he see her again.

The Elbans made up their minds that they would not see their true Empress on the island, although they were never quite persuaded that she had not paid a visit incognito to Marciana.


Napoleon was not to see the Empress or their son, the King of Rome, again.

Pauline's return, and the pleasure of admiring this illustrious beauty at close quarters, consoled the Elbans for the absence of Marie Louise, whose apartments on the first storey of the Mulini were occupied by the Princess.

At the Congress of Vienna which opened on 1st November, Talleyrand had proposed the capture and deportation of the Emperor to a more secure place than Elba. Much as the modern day NATO alliance saw political dangers in leaving former president Slobodan Milosevic in place in Yugoslavia professing his intention to head the opposition so the wily but wise Talleyrand saw the dangers of a potential restoration or new adventure whilst Napoleon was still so close to Italy and France, both of whose crowns had sat upon his head.

News of this soon reached Bonaparte and must have quickly strengthened his resolve to act preemptively.

Gruyer speculates that the task of abduction would be left to proxies, the Barbary corsairs.

The visit of a corsair ship from Tunis, whose captain wished to pay respects to "the Great Lord of the Earth," however, played into Napoleon's hands as he then did nothing to discourage rumours that he was in alliance with the Moors.

When news of this episode spread to Genoa, Livorno, Piombino, Civita Vecchia, and Naples, the merchant vessels of these ports craved permission of the Emperor to fly the Elban flag, as protection against the Algerines, and more fame accrued in consequence to the Sovereign of Elba.

The most entertaining aspect of this adventure was, that Campbell, who was duly informed of the incident, took it into his head that the Barbary corsairs (suspected at Elba of being in the pay of the Congress of Vienna or of Louis XVIII) were in amicable relations with Napoleon, and brought him secret messages....transmitting his to Genoa and Corsica, as well as to Murat at Naples; and that he communicated through them with unknown conspirators, the island of Pianosa being the rendez-vous...

It was obvious that any plan adopted for the abduction of the Emperor would be difficult to carry into execution, and would encounter desperate resistance. Napoleon impressed this upon Campbell, in order that he might repeat it to all concerned.

The Elban army was also soon bristling to defend the Emperor from assassins.

On another occasion, an ex-Chouon, on his way to Corsica to take service with Bruslart, with a big white cockade in his hat, and a coat embroidered with a crop of fleur-de-lys, who had been forced by contrary winds to put into Porto Ferraio, created such a scandal by walking about the town in this costume that Drouot was obliged to give him an officer for his protection. The whole garrison wanted to buffet him, and provoke a duel. The old Vendean watched the guard defiling to parade, to the sound of the Marseillaise, each morning, and said to the officer who accompanied him, "But you are living in '93. Porto Ferraio is a dreadful place." He re-embarked as the winds permitted, vowing not to come back there.

Tourists flocked to see the ex-Emperor and found the ruler putting on a show of domestic contentment, happy with his lot.

Instead, what did they find? A thick-set, corpulent little man, with the profile of an Italian Polichinello, and nostrils stained with snuff, sharing a bouillabaisse cooked in their saucepans on the beach with the tunny-fishers, and apparently enjoying it. Or they espied him in his garden-plot at San Martino, absorbed in quoits with the worthy dames of the Elban bourgeoisie, badly-dressed and unintellectual provincials...his mistresses, doubtless, to whose noisy chatter he listened complacently. The lorgnettes of the astounded tourists discovered the Emperor running after his fowls in the vineyard, or playing innocent games in a field with the same good ladies and their daughters...

What advantage was there, under these conditions, in risking an undignified violation of treaties and abuse of the rights of man, and all the perils of forcible abduction, when Napoleon was already assailed by dementia, and launched on the road to speedy self-destruction?

Disaster nearly befell Napoleon when the Inconstant was run aground in a storm.

The Inconstant was the sole link between Elba and the mainland, the only vessel that was really equipped on which the Emperor might attempt to escape from his prison with any prospect of success. And it was upon this very ship that he embarked for France a month later - so slender are the threads on which history hangs...

Nothing in the behaviour, words, or orders of Napoleon, which all referred to defensive precaution, and not to plans for a sortie from the island, and attack, gave ground for supposing that he was thinking of it, repeating "The Emperor is dead. I am a dead man. I am worth nothing now!"...

On February 16, the day that Campbell left for Florence, the Emperor, at the very moment of ordering the Army Estimates for 1815 to be prepared, wrote to Drouot: "Give orders for the brig to be careened, overhaul her copper, stop the leaks, see to the caulking, and do whatever is required to make her seaworthy. Let her be painted like an English brig.

Many discreet preparations were then put in place for departure.

The preparations had reached this point when, on the 24th, at 10 A.M., the English sloop which had taken Campbell to Livorno a week before, and was to await him there to bring him back to Elba, appeared upon the horizon. A general alarm ensued...

Campbell was not on the sloop. She brought six English tourists...

Hardly had the ship reached the open "than Napoleon resumed his embarkation of artillery, shells and provisions."

On the 25th, the Emperor feigned indisposition to avoid awkward questions. After dinner, Madame Mere followed him into the garden, and was told he was leaving for Paris the next night.

"If you must die, my son, she said at length, "I trust that heaven, who would not sanction this in a repose unworthy of you, will suffer it not to be by poison, but with your sword in your hand." And that was all.

The next day he announced at the Emperor's levee, to the astonishment of the civil and military authorities, that he was leaving that night, no light being shed on the destination.

The embargo of the day before was doubled. No vessel was to be allowed to touch the island, or to leave it, on pain of being fired on with red-hot cannon-balls from the forts, and sunk...

None of those who were leaving with the Emperor (except Bertrand and Drouot, who would have been insulted if there had been any further mystery) knew where he was taking them...

The Emperor descended from the Mulini to the port, with Bertrand, in the little open carriage, drawn by two ponies, that belonged to Princess Borghese. He embarked in his barge, which was manned by the Marines of the Guard, to the strains of the Marseillaise, sung by the soldiers and taken up by the assembled populace.

Every heart beat fast when the Imperial barge left the shore. The Mayor, Traditi, was sobbing. The crowd clapped hands, with shouts of "Evviva!" in which, despite the outbursts of enthusiasm, a strain of indescribable melancholy was mingled.

Not all went well. The flotilla was becalmed.

If the convoy had not progressed sufficiently far before dawn, which fortunately came late at this season, they would meet the English sloop returning from Livorno with Campbell on board, and fall an easy prey to her superior speed and big guns. The French squadron would hasten to the scene at the sound of firing, and the only possible sequel would be to sell their lives dearly.

The Emperor said not a word. He paced up and down the quarter-deck on the Inconstant, in his grey overcoat, and waited, like the rest. The sails hung from the yards, and lapped the masts, in sullen inactivity.

Four mortal hours went by. At last, towards midnight, a slight breeze ruffled the waves. The sails filled. The watcher at the semaphore, and the fishermen sent out to reconnoitre, announced that the south wind, damped by the circle of mountains round the Gulf, was blowing strong outside. Wind from this quarter brought salvation. It blew the expedition along with the following gale, and held the English frigate stationary at Livorno. The crews and soldiers took oars to get out of the Gulf, and the flotilla, rallying round the lantern suspended from the mainmast of the brig, moved silently away in the moonlight...

Owing to the moonlight, the flotilla could not count on slipping away unseen, under cover of darkness, from Elba. Accordingly there was no need to put out the fires, which, moreover, would have crowned the suspicions of the French squadron or English cruisers if they encountered them. It was the safest course to pass as a simple convoy of merchant boats escorted by the Inconstant as often happened. The vessels kept together till the next morning. After doubling Capraia, the Inconstant, which sailed faster, forged ahead, leaving the others behind till they caught her up in Golfe Jouan.


Napoleon well understood the politics of his situation and the limitations of the rival Bourbon dynasty. Populations crave competent alternative rulers and may forget many of their former faults. He believed his day would come again.

He had said it to Campbell, then reiterated it in retrospect on St Helena:

"The Bourbons, pauvres diables" he went on to say, "are like great nobles, content as long as they enjoy their states and their mansions. But if the people of France become dissatisfied with that, and find that they have not such encouragement for their manufactures in the interior as they ought to have, they will be driven out in six months."...

Napoleon was fully aware that the restoration which he so much desired, depended not on him, but on the course of events. He had no illusions as to the situation. "The Bourbons" (as he better than anyone else expressed it), "held my actions in their hand. If they realised that they had to inaugurate a new dynasty, and not to continue the old, there was nothing left for me to do, my political mission was concluded. I might remain in Elba. But their entourage, and the mistakes they committed, rendered me desirable. It was they who rehabilitated my popularity, and gave the word for my return. People may object that the Congress of Vienna would have deported me from my island, and I admit that this circumstance hastened my return. But if France had been well governed, my influence was a thing of the past."