The Objects

26th Feb 1815

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Source: Fondation Napoléon, with permission.

Napoleon’s Departure from Elba

Contributed by: Katherine Astbury

Vantini’s Watch

This watch was a gift from Napoleon on the day of his departure from Elba. The recipient, Vincenzo Vantini, a member of the Elban nobility, had been one of Napoleon’s Chamberlains during his 10-month reign over the island. The records of the Muncipality of Portoferraio provide an account of Napoleon’s departure from Elba, written by the mayor, Traditi.

The Imperial Guard began to embark at 2 in the afternoon. The Island’s civil authorities were then summoned to Napoleon’s palace at 6 in the evening to be informed of his departure. Both Mayor Traditi and Guillaume Peyrusse, Napoleon’s treasurer, record that Napoleon expressed satisfaction with those who had helped run the Island during his stay and it is at this point presumably that he offered tokens of his gratitude - such as this watch - to those who had served him well. Secret preparations for the departure had been underway since 16 February when Napoleon received news that the Congress of Vienna was considering changing his place of exile to somewhere much more remote. The convenient absence of the English Commander Colonel Neil Campbell, who was on Elba to monitor Napoleon but away in Italy between 17 and 28 February, made the preparations easier.

Napoleon left his palace at 7pm and made his way to the port surrounded by weeping Elbans, if we are to believe Pons de l’Hérault’s moving account of his departure in his Mémoires.

The flotilla, with Napoleon on board the brig the Inconstant, set sail at 8pm.


Further Information:

A transcript of the original Italian report by Traditi can be found on the site

Peyrusse’s account of the departure from Elba is to be found in Mémorial et archives de M. le Bon Peyrusse, trésorier de la Couronne pendant les Cent Jours. Vienne-Moscou-Ile d'Elbe. (Carcassonne, Labau, 1869), available here  

Neil Campbell’s diary has been published as Napoleon on Elba: Diary of an Eyewitness to Exile (Ravenhall Books, 2004)

Pons de l'Hérault, Souvenirs et anecdotes de l'île d'Elbe ed. by Léon-G. Pélissier (Paris : Plon, 1897) are available here.

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