We celebrate this Wednesday the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death. It was May 5, 1821 in Saint Helena. And just before his exile, the emperor passed through Charente-Maritime. He had just lost the Battle of Waterloo. This is on the island of Aix that he found refuge for a few days with all his personal staff, nearly 50 people, in the governor’s house of the island of Aix, now transformed into a museum.
It is a stone house that blends in perfectly with Aix’s architecture and yet, within its walls, an entire section of French history is preserved. “There are some very precious things, silverware which belonged to the Emperor, quite personal items such as a snuffbox, gloves, etc. “ describes Pierre Privat with a keen eye. Aixois from generation to generation for several centuries, the ancestors of Pierre Privat, now a municipal councilor, experienced the passage of Napoleon on the island.
Down to the smallest detail, everything is thought out in memory of the Emperor, like the many clocks indicating 17:49, time of Napoleon’s death on May 5, 1821.
Like Pierre Privat, some Aixois have inherited objects in Napoleon’s time: “I have souvenirs at home, for example dishes decorated with the Empress and the Emperor. It’s stored on a shelf, you don’t use it because you risk breaking them.”
A strategic location to observe the enemy
Upstairs in the museum, the Emperor’s bedroom: a table, three chairs and a very small single bed. “We can see that he was not very tall because General De Gaulle could not have stayed on this bed!”
This house was also a strategic location for Napoleon: “When he got up and opened his shutters, he saw the harbor of the Ile d’Aix. And so inevitably with his telescope, from here, he could count the boats. And it is there. that he must have said to himself, that’s it, I’m made like a rat and I just have to surrender. “
Surrender is ultimately the choice Napoleon made on July 14, 1815. Legend has it that once on board the ship, he blessed the soil of the island of Aix with a handful of sea water.