The Objects

15th Jul 1815

Source: Courtesy of Peter Clark.

The Surrender of Napoleon to Capt. Maitland on board HMS Bellerophon

Contributed by: Peter Clark

By the middle of July, 1815, a flotilla of Royal Navy warships were blockading the ports along French Atlantic coastline with firm orders to prevent Napoleon making his escape. A point came in negotiations with the Royal Navy when Napoleon realised that he could neither remain any longer in France nor hope to escape from France by running the gauntlet of British Naval vessels. Holed up in a house on Ile d’Aix, from 12 to 15 July, he eventually realised the impossibility of accomplishing his plan to get to America, and so in the end he decided to throw himself on the mercy of the British. He wrote a letter to George, the Prince Regent, dated 13 July 1815, in which he begged to be granted refuge in Britain from his many enemies. It was a letter in which he firmly declared “My political career has come to an end”.
Once on board HMS Bellerophon he voluntarily surrendered to Captain Maitland, who then took Napoleon to Plymouth Sound, to await further orders.

This engraving, published in Leeds in 1817, is a very rare impression of the historic scene. The naval costumes, the ship’s rigging, and even the appearance of the leading players are all reasonably accurate, but of course they are all imaginary. Midshipman George Home, who wrote an account of Napoleon's arrival on board which is quoted at length in the book Bellerophon "The
bravest of the Brave" by Edward Fraser (published in 1909), says that Napoleon was "without any sword" (Fraser, p. 277). The engraver has taken the liberty of adding one for dramatic effect.

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