Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Napoleon on Elba

Commander K. in terraced garden of Villa dei Mulini
2014 will mark the bicentennial of the beginning of the Emperor Napoleon's exile to Elba in 1814.  The Allied coalition (England, Austria, Russia, Prussia, etc.) had invaded France and forced Napoleon to abdicate.  The treaty of Fountainbleau sent him to exile on Elba allowing him a lavish income, his Imperial title and sovereignty over the Kingdom of Elba.

Napoleon I,  Villa dei Mulini, Elba
Able was I ere I saw Elba
After arriving in Porto Ferraio on May 3, 1814, a restless Napoleon (See earlier post Obama, Putin and...Napoleon set about reforming the tiny island.  He reduced trade restrictions and eased the tax burden on Elbans.  Napoleon was supply-sider on Elba!  "He suppressed customs duties and tolls, as well as laws requiring stamp duties to be paid or the onerous registration of various types of transaction."  Source: Napoleon on the Island of Elba, Antonio Giubelli.  He improved existing roads and built new ones.

Napoleonic Eagle, Villa San Martino, Elba
Napoleon (see stayed on Elba for 300 days.  He enjoyed riding his beautiful horses over the islands' many hills.   He divided his time between two palaces -- his winter home the Villa dei Mulini ("Villa of the Mills") and a summer home, the Villa San Martino.

Villa dei Mulini, Porto Ferraio, Elba
The Villa dei Mulini ( is located in the hill above Porto Ferraio.  It was built in 1724 by a Medici Grand Duke.  The Villa is being restored for the celebration of the Napoleon bicentennial in 2014, but it is still open to visitors.  Napoleon's sister Paolina was the only sibling to visit him on Elba.  This was Paolina's bedroom...

Paolina's bedroom, Villa dei Mulini
The Villa San Martino ( is about 5km away from Porto Ferraio up in the mountains.

Villa San Martino, Elba
Napoleon complained that his summer residence was too hot.  Either Villa would have been a vast improvement over his ultimate fate on St. Helena.

Napoleon and Marie Lousie...?
There is an allegorical fresco on the ceiling of the Villa San Martino that symbolises Napoleon's forced separation from his wife, Empress Marie Louise.  Two doves are tieing a knot as they fly in opposite directions.  Marie Louise, for her part, found consolation for her lost Empire in the arms of Austrian Count von Neipperg who became her Chamberlain with benefits.
Marie Walewska 1786 - 1817 
Napoleon was also visited on Elba by his beautiful Polish mistress the Countess Walewski and their son, Alexandre Walewska (See " Enemy of Love?"

Napoleonic Eagle, Villa San Martino
On 26 February 1815 Napoleon fled Elba on the brig Inconstant with a small force of about 600 loyal soldiers.  Sir Neil Campbell, the Allied Commissioner from England, was charged with keeping a watchful eye on the Emperor.  Instead he was at the time visiting Livorno on the Italian mainland to pay his compliments to Contessa Miniaci, his Italian opera-singing mistress.  Napoleon landed near Antibes in France to begin the "100 Days" that ended with his defeat at the battle of Waterloo.  Over 60,000 men in the Waterloo campaign may have died on account of Opera!

Napoleon had gambled and lost; he exchanged the paradise of Elba for the prison of St. Helena.
Elba Today, view from the Hermitage Boodle
Elba today is an Italian island about 12 miles off the coast of Tuscany.  It has a population of roughly 30,000 people (12,000 in Napoleon's time).  It has many beautiful beaches and is a popular tourist destination.  The Elban white wines accompany the excellent local seafood admirably.  We spent a too brief two night exile at the family-friendly Hermitage Biodola ( which was convenient to the ferry and Napoleon's residences.

Napoleonic Brew
In Porto Ferraio you will find a brewery that makes Birra Napoleon (  I tried the blonde Paolina; it was refreshing and delicious!

Commander K. in Napoleon's Garden
Villa San Martino, Elba

You can order Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on


Bill Dietrich said...

Another great post. Love the part about Campbell being off to visit his mistress...perfect for an Ethan novel.

Best wishes. Family was impressed with an account of your cannonball.

David Markham said...

Very interesting site and some great photos. I did love my brief visit to Elba.

Not sure he was a supply-sider, though he did lower some taxes. But he also spent money on infrastructure big time, which moves him quite a bit to the left as a proponent of stimulus! :-)

Keep the blogs coming as they are fun to read and to see the photos as well.

Commander Kelly said...

Thanks David.

He lowered taxes and regulations on Elba while also trying to increase military spending which sounds pretty much like Reagan. RR also spent money on defence infrastructure, etc.

The life of Napoleon is a bit like the bible; everyone can find something to justify their pre-existing prejudice.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Marcello said...

Thank you, for guest, we are very happy.

Best regards from Birra Napoleon Elba Island

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