Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Valley of the Tomb: Napoleon's Burial Place on St. Helena

On the death of a great man like him, we should only feel deep concern and regret
- Hudson Lowe

I assume that you will not wish to place an inscription upon the tombstone, because it would be necessary to use titles and that I cannot allow
- Hudson Lowe

After Napoleon's death Longwood had been opened for the public, civilians and military alike, to come and pay their respects; large numbers came:-

They came in groups of four, six, or ten persons at a time, and left after a few minutes. The majority touched the Emperor's hand. Several women or officers were unable to restrain their tears, recorded Grand Marshall Bertrand in his diary.

One young soldier tried on Napoleon's hat: He must have had an extraordinary wide head, for it would not fit me when put on square (the way he always wore it).
The same soldier was suprised at the living conditions he found at Longwood: I could not have lived as he did, I am sure, half the time he did.

Napoleon's body was sealed within the inner of four coffins. It is said that with the air excluded the body will be preserved for centuries confided Bertrand to his diary.

So to the Geranium Valley/Sane Valley.

Napoleon chose this as his resting place, if he could not be buried in France.

It is very close to Hutts Gate, but involves a good walk down to the bottom from the road.

It looks a little different from nineteenth century pictures.

This is a very beautiful, peaceful place.

It is a very fertile green valley, where even bananas grow.

Napoleon used to send a servant here every day to fetch drinking water from the stream.

He himself visited it often.

We visited twice. It was a pleasure to meet the attendant, another of nature's gentlemen.

Michel has a very interesting picture of "Charlie" on his blog (see links on left - then on Michel's site look for entry headed Exposition "L'abondance" par Andrew Parker).

It looks as if the artistic life of St. Helena may be about to blossom! Sometime I will talk a little about art on St. Helena, but that must wait for another day.

This place has witnessed two great occasions.

The first, the funeral(May 9th 1821), must have been the biggest event that has ever occurred on St. Helena -perhaps a little grand for a mere "General".

The second event, the exhumation(16th October 1840), although not as large, was in its own way just as remarkable.


dpete said...

Very interesting.Great job!

Greg Boyd said...

John: really enjoyed this post. I'm trying to find the exact spot for Napoleon's grave. Was wondering if you can locate it on something like Google maps (satellite view). One photographer looks to have said it is at Lat: 15.959217, Long: -5.698206 and there does appear to be something in the satellite image that could be the tomb. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Greg Boyd
Norman, Oklahoma, USA

John Tyrrell said...

Hi Greg

My wife and I have tried in vain to locate it on Google Maps. It is I think just too small to show up clearly, but the coordinates you have are probably as good as you can get.

Re-reading my own post makes me annoyed that I didn't revisit this beautiful place on my last visit to St Helena!



Anonymous said...

Here is the precise location on Google Maps: -15.9585151,-5.6981749