On This Day in Napoleonic History – 20 July 1815

20Saint Helena is first proposed as the place of confinement for Napoleon

Lord Liverpool wrote to the Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh: ‘We are all very decidedly of the opinion that it would not answer to confine him in this country. Very nice legal opinions might arise on the subject, which would be particularly embarrassing. He would become the object of curiosity immediately and possibly of compassion in the following few months, and the circumstances of his being here and indeed anywhere in Europe would contribute to keep up a certain degree of ferment in France. Saint Helena is a place in the world best calculated for the confinement of such a person. The situation is particularly healthy, there is only one place where ships can anchor and we have the power of excluding neutral ships altogether.’

Lord Liverpool was right about the isolation of the island. It was nothing but a spec in the South Atlantic Ocean, 4,000 kilometers east of Rio de Janeiro and 1,950 west of the southern coast of Africa. But he was gravely mistaken about the island being healthy. Napoleon would only last 6 years on Saint Helena.

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