On This Day in Napoleonic History – 5 May 1821

5Napoleon dies on St Helena

‘The mightiest breath of life that ever animated human clay has ceased,’ said Chateaubriand on the news of Napoleon’s death.

Napoleon was laid to rest in a beautiful spot a mile from Longwood, under willow trees where he liked to visit when he sought solitude. Even after the former Emperor’s death, Sir Hudson Lowe would not allow his gravestone to feature the Imperial title of Napoleon, while Napoleon’s entourage refused to accept Lowe’s wording of the non-royal Napoleon Bonaparte, and so his grave remained unmarked.

Two decades later, on 2 December 1840, the anniversary of his coronation and the Battle of Austerlitz, his remains were moved to Paris and he was interned at Les Invalides. An estimated one million Frenchmen lined the route of the cortege through Paris. Attending were four of his marshals: Jean Soult, Bon Adrien Jeannot de Moncey, Nicolas Charles Oudinot and Emmanuel de Grouchy. Although Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont and Claude Victor were still living, they did not attend.

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