Thursday marks 200 years since Napoleon's last voyage

(AGI) Rome, Oct 15 - On October 15, 1815, Napoleon Bonapartelooked out from his cabin on the HSM Northumberland and saw thesmall island where he would spend the rest of his days. Facingthe small bay at the centre of Saint Helena, surrounded by theAtlantic Ocean on all sides, perhaps even this "world spirit" -as Hegel had defined him after seeing him on horseback on thestreets of Jena - finally understood the limits of human power.After disembarking under the watchful eye of the small Britishfleet that had escorted him, the former Emperor was

(AGI) Rome, Oct 15 - On October 15, 1815, Napoleon Bonapartelooked out from his cabin on the HSM Northumberland and saw thesmall island where he would spend the rest of his days. Facingthe small bay at the centre of Saint Helena, surrounded by theAtlantic Ocean on all sides, perhaps even this "world spirit" -as Hegel had defined him after seeing him on horseback on thestreets of Jena - finally understood the limits of human power.After disembarking under the watchful eye of the small Britishfleet that had escorted him, the former Emperor was informedthat the journey was not quite yet over, as the residence ofLongwood - a wooden house in a terrible state of disrepairaccording to Napoleon's memorialist, the Comte de Las Cases -was three miles away. Napoleon temporarily suspended therecording of his memoirs and readied himself for life on SaintHelena, from which he would never return. Countless volumeshave been written on his exile, and especially on his death sixyears later, which historians have attributed to everythingfrom poison, suffocation, and depression to simply perishingfrom natural causes. The inexorable passage of time,melancholy, and interminable walks on the wave-battered islandprobably contributed to his ailing health. Measuring 16 by 11km, St. Helena was smaller than the terrain on which the Battleof Leipzig had been fought. On the island of Elba, at least, hehad retained a small court and could catch the scent of hisbirthplace of Corsica. He could even organise parties there, aliberty which he took advantage of. The previous spring, makingthe most of a gala ball, he set sail for French soil to reclaimhis lost throne, a feat which lasted 100 days. The British werenow determined to leave him no room to breathe: if the voyagefrom Elba to Cannes only took some 10 hours, the one fromFrance to St Helena lasted 69 days. Napoleon eventuallysuccumbed to an ulcer, which some believed to be "aided" byEngland's arsenic. The death of the invincible leader on a rockin the middle of the Atlantic took Europe by surprise and lefta deep mark on its collective conscience. The Italian poetManzoni dedicated his most famous work to the event. Shortlyprior to his death, Napoleon expressed his desire to be buriedin Paris. His wish was only acquiesced almost 20 years later,in 1840, when his body returned to France. He was laid to restat Les Invalides, next to his soldiers, in a sarcophagus madeof red marble, which - as he had learned in Egypt - was thestone of emperors.. .