On This Day in Napoleonic History – 3 May 1814

3Napoleon arrives on the island of Elba

Even though Napoleon was in exile, he didn’t see it as an excuse to be idle. It was true that his Empire diminished to nothing but a small spec in the Mediterranean but he took to the task of reorganising the island’s administration with the same vigour he had once employed when giving laws to all of continental Europe.

During his eleven months on Elba, Napoleon┬árestructured the island’s defenses, gave money to its poorest inhabitants, installed a fountain which still produces drinking water today, lent a huge collection of books to the library at Porto Ferrajo, reformed customs and excise, built a hospital and bridges, repaired the barracks, planted vineyards, paved parts of Porto Ferraio for the first time and irrigated land, organised rubbish collection, passed a law prohibiting children from sleeping five to a bed, set up a court of appeal and widened roads. What little free time he had he spent reading and gardening.

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