When Napoleon Bonaparte lost the infamous Battle of Waterloo in 1815—a defeat that ended his rule as Emperor of the French—he was exiled to the remote volcanic island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon lived there as a prisoner of the British government until he died in 1821 at the age of 51.
More than 200 years after Napoleon’s banishment, The Telegraph reports that the famous military leader’s personal belongings from his time in St. Helena are now on display at France's national army museum, Musée de l'Armée Invalides, in Paris. The exhibition—which opened Wednesday and ends July 24—is called “Napoleon, the Conquest of Memory.”
The show features a recreation of Longwood House, the vermin-infested lodging in which Napoleon spent the final years of his life. Highlights include Napoleon’s bathtub, his camp bed, his uniform, his famous "bicorne" hat, and a slew of priceless souvenirs.
The Associated Press reports that, to add comfort to his grim surroundings, Napoleon brought about 50 boxes of his own possessions to St. Helena, including fine Sevres porcelain and a nightstand made of gold, silver, and wood. These fine items sit alongside humble items like Napoleon’s dressing gown, underwear, and slippers. Together, the exhibition’s 240 items paint a striking portrait of a world leader’s fall from grace.
Since Napoleon wrote his memoirs in the home, the show’s name—“Napoleon, the Conquest of Memory”—is an ode to his final quest to leave a legacy. However, Paris residents can only pay homage to Napoleon’s last grasp for glory until late July, when the exhibition closes and the items are returned to St. Helena.
[h/t The Telegraph]