05.05.

1821: Napoleon Bonaparte Dies after Confession and Communion

1821: Napoleon Bonaparte Dies after Confession and Communion
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 05 May 1821
  • Napoleon's last word was apparently "Joséphine" (the name of his beloved first wife). When he died, Napoleon was only 51 years old, and there are suspicions that he was poisoned.

Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest conquerors in the history of the world, died on this day. 

This occurred while he was in captivity on the British island of Saint Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (between Africa and South America). When he died, Napoleon was only 51 years old, and there are suspicions that he was poisoned.

Napoleon spent the last six years of his life on St. Helena. The British gave him a poorly-maintained, almost ruinous house.

Napoleon’s “jailer” was insular Governor Hudson Lowe. Napoleon lived in almost martyr-like conditions, in a damp house, and the governor imposed permanent restrictions on him.

Even some British MPs protested and held the view that Napoleon should be treated without excessive harshness.

Napoleon’s personal physician Irishman Barry O’Meara noted that Napoleon became ill precisely because of the poor conditions of his detention.

Napoleon died after he confessed, communicated and received last rites in the presence of priest Ange Vignali. Napoleon’s last word was apparently “Joséphine” (the name of his beloved first wife).

Autopsy determined stomach cancer as the cause of his death. Later, many arose theories about poisoning, particularly those involving arsenic, argued by the fact that Napoleon’s body remained well preserved long after his death (arsenic is a strong preservative).

At the beginning of the 21st century, samples of Napoleon’s hair were tested and a 100 times higher-than-normal dose of arsenic was discovered there.

However, hair samples from his youth were also tested later, and it was found that the level of arsenic was already then 100 times higher than normal.

Napoleon, therefore, came into contact with arsenic since his younger days, probably from paints and glue. This has dismissed arsenic poisoning as a cause of death, at least for now.

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