On This Day in Napoleonic History – 25 March 1802

25Peace of Amiens between France and Britain is signed

Amiens was chosen for the occasion because Henry VIII and Francois I had signed a peace treaty there in 1527 and it was seen as a good omen. Under the treaty, Britain was to restore to France, Spain and Holland nearly all the territories captured since 1793, including the Cape of Good Hope, Dutch Guiana, Tobago, Martinique, St Lucia, Menorca and Pondicherry, retaining only Trinidad and Ceylon. Britain was also to evacuate Elba, return Malta to the Knights of St John and Egypt to the Ottoman Empire. France was required to evacuate Naples and the Papal States.

The treaty was a triumph for France. The whole of France’s overseas empire was returned at the cost of parts of Italy. The only territories gained by Britain were Trinidad and Ceylon, neither of which had belonged to France. Despite the inequality of the Treaty of Amiens, Britain rejoiced and there were celebrations in the street. There was a great change in the tone of the government papers. Suddenly, the Corsican adventurer was referred to as the August hero and the restorer of peace, which had some truth to it because within a year Napoleon had made peace with Austria, Russia, Turkey and Britain.

On the conclusion of the Peace of Amiens, around 5000 British citizens descended on Paris. Commenting on the numbers of French arriving in Britain, the naturalist James Smithson remarked that, should they continue this way for a little bit longer, the two countries were likely to completely exchange their inhabitants.

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