On This Day in Napoleonic History – 10 December 1815

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270px-longwood_houseNapoleon moves to Longwood

For the first seven weeks of his stay on Saint Helena, Napoleon resided at the Briars with the family of East India company superintendent William Balcombe. This was the happiest period of his exile. When Longwood was finally ready for him, he took up residence with a heavy heart. ‘Do not call it my palace but my tomb,’ he said. He clearly foresaw that Longwood would be his last residence.

The conditions in which the deposed Emperor was to spend six years before his death in 1821 were barely livable. Longwood is elevated and lies in cloud for most of the year. Humidity is typically 77%. It would leave everything slightly damp, and even Napoleon’s playing cards had to be dried in the oven to stop them from sticking together. Because of the dampness Napoleon and his entourage would suffer from constant colds and bronchitis. In addition to its unhealthy climate, Longwood was infested with termites, rats, mosquitoes and cockroaches. In his final years the Imperial prisoner became so depressed, he refused to leave the house to get some fresh air he needed. His health deteriorated rapidly.

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