Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on St. Helena on 5th May 1821. In his will Napoleon asked to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but the British Governor, Hudson Lowe, insisted he should be buried on St. Helena, in the Valley of the Willows (now Sane Valley). The Tomb is one of the 7 Wonders of St. Helena.
Lowe said the inscription should read “Napoleon Bonaparte”; Napoleon’s friends, Montholon and Bertrand, wanted the Imperial title “Napoleon” – by convention royalty were signed by their first names only. Unable to resolve the dispute the tomb was left nameless.
Napoleon’s body is no longer there – it was collected in 1840 by the Prince de Joinville, loaded onto the frigate Belle-Poule, which had been painted black for the occasion, taken back to France and re-buried in L’Hotêl Les Invalides.
Although Napoleon’s body no longer resides there, the land in which the tomb stands was sold in 1858 to the French Government along with Longwood House for a sum of £7,100.
Despite the tomb being empty, it is a popular spot with visitors, who like to experience the peace of this quiet place and spend a little time contemplating the life of Napoleon.
A “Moment de Memoire” is held at the site every year on the anniversary on Napoleon’s death. Here is the report from the 9th May 2014 issue of the St. Helena Independent:
“The 193rd anniversary of Napoleon’s death was commemorated on Monday in both France and St. Helena. In France the commemoration took place at les Invalides in Paris, in St. Helena it was at Napoleon’s Tomb.Father Dale led the service of commemoration with the 1st Jamestown Scout Group sounding the Last Post just before a minute’s silence and then sounding Reveille afterwards. Michel Dancoisne-Martineau represented the French Government and laid a wreath on their behalf, Acting Governor, Sean Burns, laid a wreath on behalf of St. Helena. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of la Fondation Napoleon by Susan O’Bey and by a student from Prince Andrew School.A group of PAS students attended, representing St. Helena’s youth, and future. Thomas Hickling spoke during the ceremony, on behalf of the students. In excellent French, he said, “On behalf of the students of Prince Andrew’s School we pay tribute to the emperor Napoleon”.The commemoration concluded with a blessing given by Father Dale. About 50 people watched the ceremony from the observation point overlooking the tomb.”