Charles-Éloi Vial : Le dernier voyage de l’Empereur. Paris-Ile d’Aix, 1815 (The last journey of the Emperor: Paris-Ile d’Aix)
“Let him go, he can not do it too soon! ”
June 1815. These bitter words of Caulaincourt, who was nevertheless one of the faithful followers of the Emperor, give the tone of weariness and exasperation which had seized the great dignitaries of the French army and the French administration after the defeat at Waterloo. From now on, Napoleon was alone to witness the collapse of his dream, at the end of the extraordinary political adventure into which he had launched the country for more than fifteen years.
Helpless, dejected, full of illusions about his resources or the leniency of his enemies, fatalistic, attached to the symbols of a disappeared court … he was a man adrift taking the road towards the western coast, ending up at Rochefort, where his fate lay in the balance.
With extreme attention to detail and remarkable sharpness in his psychological analysis, Charles-Eloi Vial traces the various stages of the painful itinerary that would end on Bellerophon, when Napoleon finally learned that he must be deported to St Helena – a passenger, in spite of himself, on a last journey which would definitively remove him from the History of France.
Paris: Editions of the Fondation Napoléon – Vendémiaire Éditions, coll. 19th century library, 2015
Charles-Eloi Vial, Doctor of History, is a specialist of the First Empire. He is curator at the manuscripts department of the ibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France). He has already published Farewell to the Emperor. The diary of Marie-Louise (Vendemiaire editions).