Skip to Content

Why Was Napoleon Exiled?

Why Was Napoleon Exiled?

Emperor Napoleon, a French military and political leader was exiled because he was seen as a threat to the stability of Europe.

After his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the victorious powers of Europe (Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia) agreed to exile him to the island of Saint Helena.

But before that, Napoleon was sent to the Mediterranean island of Elba, where he stayed for almost nine months as a French Emperor [1].

Why Was Napoleon Exiled? Infographic.

Early Life and Rise to Power

Portrait of Napoleon as King of Italy.
Portrait of Napoleon as King of Italy
Andrea Appiani, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15th August 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica. His family was of Italian origin and had received French nobility only a few years before his birth.

Napoleon was educated at military schools and quickly rose through the ranks of the military due to his intelligence and ability. In 1789, he supported the French revolution [2] and led French troops in many other successful campaigns in the late 18th century.

France was under the National Convention in 1793 when Napoleon, with his family, settled in Marseille [3]. At that time, he was appointed as the artillery commander of troops besieging the Toulon fortress [4].

The strategies that he planned during that fight allowed the forces to recover the city. As a result, he was promoted and became brigadier general.

Because of his popularity and military successes, Bonaparte led a coup d’état on 9th November 1799, which successfully overthrew the Directory. After that, he created the 1799-1804 Consulate (a French government).

The majority of the French population supported the seizure by Napoleon as they believed that the young general could bring military glory and political stability to the nation.

He quickly restored order, made a concordat with the Pope, and centralized the entire authority in his hands. In 1802, he proclaimed himself consul for life, and in 1804 he finally became the emperor of France [5].

From Glory to the End of the Napoleon Empire

The European powers were not pleased with Napoleon’s ascension to the throne, and they formed multiple military alliances to prevent him from expanding his rule over Europe. 

It resulted in Napoleonic wars, which forced Napoleon to break all the alliances France had one after another.

He was at the peak of his fame in 1810 when he divorced his first wife, Joséphine Bonaparte, as she was unable to give birth to an heir and married Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. Their son, “Napoleon II,” was born the following year.

Napoleon wanted to unite the entire continental Europe and rule over it. To fulfill that dream, he ordered his army of about 600,000 men to invade Russia in 1812 [6].

It allowed him to defeat the Russians and occupy Moscow, but the French army couldn’t sustain the newly occupied area due to a lack of supplies.

They had to retreat, and most of the soldiers died due to heavy snowfall. Studies show that only 100,000 men in his army could survive.

Later in 1813, Napoleon’s army was defeated at Leipzig by a British-encouraged coalition, and he was banished to the island of Elba after that.

Depicts Napoleon leaving the island of Elba at the port of Portoferraio, artwork.
Depicts Napoleon leaving the island of Elba at the port of Portoferraio
Joseph Beaume, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Exile to the Mediterranean Island of Elba

On 11th April 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte, the former emperor of France, was exiled by the victorious European powers to the Mediterranean island of Elba. 

The European powers of that time gave him sovereignty over the island. In addition, he was also allowed to retain his title of Emperor.

However, he was also closely monitored by a group of French and British agents to ensure that he did not try to escape or interfere in European affairs. In other words, he was a prisoner of the European powers which had defeated him.

He spent almost nine months on this island, during which his first wife passed away, but he couldn’t attend her funeral. 

Marie Louise refused to accompany him into exile, and his son wasn’t allowed to meet him.

But despite that, Napoleon sought to improve Elba’s economy and infrastructure. He developed the iron mines, established a small army and navy, ordered the construction of new roads, and started modern agricultural methods.

He also implemented reforms to the island’s educational and legal systems. Despite his limited resources and the restrictions placed on him, he was able to make significant progress in improving the island during his tenure as its ruler.

Hundred Days and Napoleon’s Death

Depiction of the Death of Napoléon, artwork.
Depiction of the Death of Napoléon
Charles de Steuben, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon escaped from the island of Elba with 700 men on 26th February 1815 [7]. The 5th Regiment of the French army was sent to capture him. They intercepted the former emperor on 7th March 1815, just south of Grenoble.

Napoleon reached the army alone and shouted, “Kill your Emperor” [8], but instead, the 5th Regiment joined him. On 20th March, Napoleon reached Paris, and it’s believed that he managed to create an army of 200,000 men in just 100 days.

On 18th June 1815, Napoleon faced two Coalition armies in Waterloo and was defeated. This time, he was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, located in the South Atlantic Ocean.

At that time, the British Royal Navy used to control the Atlantic, which made it impossible for Napoleon to escape. Finally, on 5th May 1821, Napoleon died in St Helena and was buried there.

Final Words

Napoleon was exiled because the European powers believed that he posed a threat to their security and stability. 

He was exiled to the island of Elba, from where he escaped and managed to raise a powerful army, but that was also defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The European powers which had defeated him, including Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, were concerned that he might try to regain power, so they agreed to exile him again to the remote island of Saint Helena.

This was seen as a way to prevent him from causing further conflict and to reduce the threat he posed to the stability of Europe. He died on that island at the age of 52.