The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

Napoleon in Plymouth

Napoleon's period in power saw Britain fighting for its very existence. The people of Plymouth had been particularly involved in this life and death struggle and so were more keen than most when Napoleon arrived in Plymouth aboard the Bellerophon after his defeat at Waterloo. He was apparently very impressed at the construction of the Breakwater which was very close to where the Bellerophon spent its time at anchor. He remarked to the effect that now he understood how he could lose to a country capable of such engineering feats. He also witnessed many French prisoners from Waterloo coming ashore en route to the recently built Dartmoor Prison. He was kept on board the Bellerophon to ensure that he did not step on British soil and so would not have full access to the British legal code that could have complicated and restrained the options available to the victorious power. His fate was decided ashore in Plymouth where they ran through the various options before deciding that he should be sent in exile to St. Helena under permanent guard. In fact, they set sail rapidly when they got word that a lawyer was heading to Plymouth to make representation on the Emperor's behalf. The Bellerophon met up with the Northumberland off Start Point to transfer the Emperor for his journey to the South Atlantic.

Empire in Your Backyard: Plymouth Article

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by Stephen Luscombe