St. Helena in 1853

The Sea Serpent stopped in St. Helena

on November 14, 1853.


St. Helena is a British possession in the South Atlantic Ocean,

and one of the remotest islands in the world.

When it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 it was  uninhabited.

The British East India Company was the first to establish a settlement in 1657.

For centuries it was an important stopover

for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and Southern Africa.

In 1855, 1100 ships called at the island;

but the island’s importance slipped after the Suez Canal was built.

In 1889 the number dropped to 288.


St. Helena has a rugged terrain of volcanic origin.

The port of Jamestown lies in a valley between two peaks.

Sarah’s Description
Bayard Taylor’s Description

They also described the beauty of the ascent to the top.

Sarah’s Description
Bayard Taylor’s Description


St. Helena is perhaps best known for being

the site of Napoleon’s second exile

after his final defeat in 1815.


In 1814, the Napoleonic Wars were coming to an end.

The Armies of the Coalition (Austria, Russia, Spain, and United Kingdom)

were marching to Paris.

Napoleon was forced to abdicate.

He was exiled to the island of Elba, off the Tuscany coast.

Instead of being treated like a prisoner,

Napoleon was allowed to have control over the island

and even keep a small army.

He escaped on February 26th 1815,

and made a triumphant return to France.


Napoleon ruled for 100 days and assembled an army;

the Seventh Coalition was formed against him.

They met on the battlefield in Belgium at Waterloo,

where Napoleon was finally defeated

on June 18, 1815.


This time England sent him to the remote island of St. Helena,

where he was under the constant watch of British guards.

He arrived on October 15, 1815.


Napoleon first spent a few months at The Briars

on the grounds of the Balcombe family’s home.

There he made friends with 13-year old Betsy Balcombe.

She later wrote a memoir.

Recollections of the Emperor Napoleon

During the First Three Years of his Captivity.

Read Here
Sarah’s Description
Bayard Taylor’s Description

Bayard Taylor wrote:

Miss Balcombe’s account of Napoleon’s sojourn at “The Briars,”

is among the most striking reminiscences of his life on the island.


After that, Napoleon was moved to Longwood House,

which had been a farm used by the British East India Company.

It was not luxurious – there was a rat infestation and the island was known for its large earwig insects.

While at Longwood House, Napoleon led a quiet life.

He seemed to have enjoyed some walks around the home and in the Valley of the Willows.

He wrote some books, dictated memoirs, took English lessons,

tended a garden, and played chess.


Napoleon became quite ill with what may have been a stomach ulcer or cancer.

Realizing that Longwood House was not a suitable place for the former Emperor, the British government built him a new home, but he never moved there.

Napoleon died in Longwood House on the 5th of May 1821.

There have been rumors that Napoleon escaped, or

that he was poisoned by arsenic, either purposefully,

or through the wallpaper at Longwood House,

but tests proved inconclusive.


Napoleon wrote a will while at Longwood House,

requesting to be buried in Paris on the banks of the Seine,

but the British buried him on St. Helena in the Valley of the Willows –

also known as Geranium Valley or Sane Valley  –

and later Valley of the Tomb.


After France’s July Revolution of 1830,

Napoleon’s popularity grew once again

to reach almost legendary status.

Petitions were made to return his body to France.

In 1840, King Louis-Philippe’s son, François, Prince de Joinville,

was sent to St. Helena in the Belle Poule

for the “retour des cendres” – the return of Napoleon to France.

A magnificent funeral was held in Paris in December 1840.

Napoleon’s body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe to the Invalides, where it is today.

In 1848, Napoleon’s nephew Louis-Napoleon won election to the presidency of the Second Republic.

In 1852, he declared himself Emperor Napoleon III.


 Sarah, Willie, Mary, Bayard Taylor and Mr. Parkman

visited Longwood House and the Valley of the Tomb

on November 14, 1853.

Natives of the island were charging to give tours of the home and burial ground.

The visitors were appalled by its terrible condition.

Both Sarah and Bayard Taylor wrote vivid descriptions of that day.

Sarah’s Description of Longwood
Sarah’s Description of the Tomb
Bayard Taylor’s Description of Longwood
Bayard Taylor’s Description of the Tomb



In 1858, hearing that Longwood House was in a terrible state of disrepair

(as Sarah and Bayard Taylor both described),

Napoleon III arranged for the French government to purchase

Longwood House and the Valley of the Tomb.

It is now a museum.