July 26 1815: Napoleon at Plymouth

At three in the morning of the 26th of July, Captain Sartorius returned from London; having carried my despatch announcing Buonaparte’s intention to embark in the Bellerophon, and brought with him orders for me to proceed to Plymouth Sound. We immediately got under weigh, accompanied by the Myrmidon and Slaney. While heaving the anchor up, Las Cases came upon deck, when I told him the ship was ordered to Plymouth, supposing, if he thought it requisite, he would acquaint his master. Soon after the ship was at sea, Madame Bertrand made her appearance, when she attacked me with some warmth for having neglected to acquaint Buonaparte with the orders I had received, and told me he was excessively offended. As she had once or twice before, when every thing did not go exactly as she wished, held the same language, I determined to ascertain whether Buonaparte had expressed any dissatisfaction, and, if so, to come to an explanation with him, as, though I was inclined to treat him with every proper consideration, it never was my intention to be looked upon as responsible to him for my movements; I therefore told Las Cases what she had said, and requested he would ascertain whether Napoleon really had felt displeased. He immediately went into the cabin, and on his return assured me that there must have been some mistake, as nothing of the kind had taken place.
The ship’s removal to the westward was by no means an agreeable event to the suite of my guest: they naturally reasoned, that, had it been the intention of the British Government to allow him to land in England, he would not have been removed further from the Metropolis. He, however, made no observations on the subject himself; still affecting to consider the reports in the newspapers as the surmises of the editors.

We had, during the forenoon of the 26th of July, to beat up from the Start to Plymouth Sound, against a strong northerly wind. Buonaparte remained upon deck the greater part of the day. When going into the Sound, I pointed out the Breakwater to him, and described the manner in which they were forming it. He said, it was a great national undertaking, and highly honourable to the country; enquired the estimated expense, and seemed surprised, when I told him it was expected to be finished for something less than a million sterling. He added, “I have expended a large sum of money on the port of Cherbourg, and in forming the Boyart Fort, to protect the anchorage at Isle d’Aix; but I fear now, those and many other of my improvements will be neglected, and allowed to go to ruin.”

— Captain Maitland of H.M.S. Bellerophon,writes about July 26 1815.

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