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Napoleon’s tomb - A view from our expert author


Napoleon's tomb St Helena by Tricia Hayne It was Napoleon himself who chose the Sane Valley as his final resting place © Tricia Hayne

Today, a fence separates visitors from the tomb itself, somewhat accentuating its isolation in this lonely but serene spot.

It is said that Napoleon himself chose Sane Valley as his final resting place – though this was not quite how it turned out. Approached down a sometimes slippery track that was originally cut for the funeral cortege, the original (and now empty) tomb is quite well hidden, about 10–15 minutes’ walk from the road. Today, a fence separates visitors from the tomb itself, somewhat accentuating its isolation in this lonely but serene spot. At the time of Napoleon’s interment the tomb was surrounded by willows, but these have now been replaced by Norfolk Island pines, backed by a profusion of well-tended but natural-looking shrubs. Still standing in its original spot, though, is the guard shack: even after Napoleon’s death, the British kept a close watch over the former emperor. His memorial stone bears no inscription, for the simple ‘Bonaparte’ was rejected by Hudson Lowe, and the French were insulted by his counter-suggestion of ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’. Napoleon’s body, securely encased in four separate coffins, remained here for nearly 20 years until, in 1840, it was removed and taken back to France, where it resides with due decorum at Les Invalides in Paris.

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