This is an old version of from June 2010, which is for curiosity purposes only.
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Napoleon Bonaparte

Some things you maybe don’t know about him

Napoleon Bonaparte, by Jacques-Louis David (1812)

Napoleon Bonaparte (15th August 1769 to 5th May 1821), also known as Emperor Napoleon I, was a military and political leader of France whose actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century.  He was exiled to St. Helena in 1815 and died here in 1821.

So much we all know (hopefully).

But did you also know that:

  • He was born in the town of Ajaccio on the island of Corsica, one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa.  So if he'd been born a year earlier he would have been Genoan, not French.  Maybe that would have saved the world a lot of trouble (but made St. Helena a lot less famous).

  • He was initially named Napoleone di Buonaparte, but later adopted the more French-sounding Napoleon Bonaparte.

  • He spoke with a marked Corsican accent and never learned to spell properly, being teased by other students for his accent.

  • An examiner observed that Napoleon was good at mathematics and was "fairly well acquainted with history and geography", and then suggested he should become a sailor.

  • He considered joining the British Royal Navy (which also might have saved the world a lot of trouble, etc.) but instead trained to become an artillery officer.

  • During his time on St. Helena there was a plan to rescue him with a primitive submarine, (which given the state of submarine technology at the time could be described as anywhere between brave and insane).

  • His tomb was left nameless because his representatives and the British government couldn't agree on what should be written on it.

  • People are still arguing over the cause of Napoleon's death.  At the time it was attributed to stomach cancer but it has since been argued that he died of arsenic poisoning; some say deliberate - others say from chemicals in the wallpaper released by mould growing on it.

  • He was not short, as is often thought.  He was actually 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) tall, average height for the period.  The short-man suggestion came from British propaganda during the Napoleonic Wars.

  • Unlike most European leaders of his time, Napoleon welcomed Jews, saying "I will never accept any proposals that will obligate the Jewish people to leave France, because to me the Jews are the same as any other citizen in our country. It takes weakness to chase them out of the country, but it takes strength to assimilate them."

How much of that did you know?

To learn more about St. Helena's arguably most famous resident click here to see the Wikipedia page on NapoleonClick here to go to our ‘Visitor Information’ page.

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This is an old version of from June 2010, which is for curiosity purposes only.
To see the up-to-date version of this page go to