August 7 1815: Napoleon is Transferred to the Northumberland

“On the morning of the 7th of August, 1815, Count Las Cases made an application to me for permission to wait on Lord Keith, having a communication to make to him. I, in consequence, went to his Lordship, and obtained leave to send him. When the Admiral came on board the Bellerophon, in the forenoon, to attend Buonaparte in his removal to the Northumberland, he informed me that Monsieur Las Cases had represented to him, that I had promised Buonaparte should be well received in England, and allowed to remain there; and the same day he wrote a letter to me containing the above statement, and directing me to report upon it, which I afterwards did, as will hereafter appear.

Count Bertrand was employed, during the morning, making out a list of those that were to proceed to St Helena with Buonaparte, in which General Gourgaud’s name was omitted, and Colonel Planat was nominated his Secretary. This offended Monsieur Gourgaud so much, that he made use of some very strong language to General Bertrand; and after a good deal of altercation, it was arranged, I believe by Buonaparte himself, that Gourgaud should take Planat’s place. There was also another cause of disagreement. The number of domestics allowed to go to St Helena being only twelve, did not admit of all the officers taking their personal attendants; General Montholon was obliged to leave a servant who had been with him many years, and Count Bertrand’s was the only exception.

General Bertrand had been so much employed all the morning making preparations for their removal, that he did not come to breakfast until every one had finished; his wife remained at the table, as I did also, as a mark of attention to him. She soon commenced an attack on her husband, to induce him to quit Buonaparte and remain in England. He seemed much distressed, but remained silent. At last, she turned to me, and begged I would give an opinion, and use my influence in favour of her proposal. I said, “Madame Bertrand, I have from the beginning endeavoured to avoid meddling in the very unpleasant discussions that have been going on for some days; but, as you demand my opinion, and force me to give it, I must acquaint you that I think, if your husband quits his master at such a time as the present, he will forfeit the very high character he now bears in this country.” I then rose from the table and went upon deck.

A short time after, Madame Bertrand came on deck, and, addressing me with much indignation in her countenance, said, “So, Captain Maitland, I hear the Emperor is not to have the whole of the after-cabin on board the Northumberland.” I told her, I understood that Sir George Cockburn had received orders to that effect. “They had better treat him like a dog at once,” said she, “and put him down in the hold.” I had for several days been kept in a state of irritation that cannot be described, and such as few people have had an opportunity of experiencing. Madame Bertrand had, it will be readily understood, some share in causing this; and on her making the above remark, I am sorry to say, the little self-possession that still remained gave way, and I answered in these words, “Madam, you talk like a very foolish woman; and if you cannot speak more to the purpose, or with more respect of the Government I have the honour to serve, I request you will not address yourself to me.” Just before she went out of the ship, however, she came up to me in a conciliatory and friendly manner, that did her the highest honour, and said, “Captain Maitland, you called me a very foolish woman this morning, but I should be sorry to part with you on bad terms; have you any objection to shake hands with me? as God knows if we shall ever meet again.” “Very far from it,” I answered; “I should be extremely sorry you left the ship without receiving my good wishes for your happiness and prosperity; and if, in the warmth of my temper, and under the harassing circumstances of my situation, I have said anything unpleasant, I most sincerely beg your pardon, and hope you will forgive and forget it.”

Soon after breakfast, Marchand came and said the Emperor wished to see me: I went into the cabin. “I have requested to see you, Captain,” said he, “to return you my thanks for your kindness and attention to me whilst I have been on board the Bellerophon, and likewise to beg you will convey them to the officers and ship’s company you command. My reception in England has been very different from what I expected; but it gives me much satisfaction to assure you, that I feel your conduct to me throughout has been that of a gentleman and a man of honour.” He then said, he was desirous of having Mr O’Meara, the surgeon of the Bellerophon, to accompany him; and asked my opinion of him in his medical capacity, as well as of his principles. I replied, that I had the highest opinion of him, both for his skill and attention; that he had given me so much satisfaction while under my command, that I had procured his removal from two different ships in which he had served with me previous to my appointment to the Bellerophon, that he might accompany me; and that I was convinced he was a man of principle and integrity. After conversing some time longer with him, during which he spoke in the warmest terms of affection of General Bertrand, and the obligations he felt to him for his remaining with him during his adversity, when he knew strong efforts had been used to induce him to abandon him, I took my leave; and this was the last time I was ever alone with him.

Soon after, Sir George Cockburn came on board, attended by Mr Byng as his secretary, for the purpose of examining Buonaparte’s baggage: he had directions to apply to some person of his suite to attend at the search. The proposal was made to Count Bertrand; but he was so indignant at the measure, that he positively refused either to be present himself or to direct any other person to superintend. General Savary, however, consented, and was present, as well as Marchand. The covers of the trunks were merely opened, and Mr Byng passed his hand down the side, but the things were not unpacked. Once or twice, when the door of the after-cabin was opened, Buonaparte expressed his obligation to Mr Byng for the delicate manner in which he conducted the search, by bowing to him. When they came to the boxes containing the money, of which there were two, Marchand was permitted to take out such sum as was considered necessary for paying the wages of the servants that were to be left behind, and for other contingent expenses. One box, containing four thousand gold Napoleons, was retained and put under my charge, where it remained until my arrival in London, when I delivered it to Sir Hudson Lowe to be restored to its owner, as will be seen by the following order, receipts, &c.

“By the Right Hon. Viscount Keith, G.C.B.,
&c. &c. &c.

“You are hereby required and directed to receive into your custody such a sum of money belonging to General Buonaparte, as will be delivered into your charge by Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn, granting proper receipts for the same.

“Given on board the Tonnant,
At anchor under Berryhead,
7th August, 1815,
“Keith, Admiral.”

“To F. L. Maitland, Esq.
Captain of H.M.S. Bellerophon.”

“J’ai laissé le sept d’août, à bord du Bellerophon, à Monsieur le Capitaine Maitland, une somme de quatre vingt mille francs, en quatre mille Napoleons d’or.

“Marchand,
Premier Valet de Chambre.”

On the 7th of August, I have left on board the Bellerophon, in charge of Captain Maitland, the sum of eighty thousand francs, in four thousand gold Napoleons.

Marchand,
1st Valet de Chambre.

“I acknowledge to have received a box with four paper packages, said to contain four thousand gold Napoleons, the property of Napoleon Buonaparte.

“August 7th, 1815,
“Fred. L. Maitland.”

“Approved, George Cockburn.”

As I shall not have to revert to the subject of the money, I shall here subjoin the receipt I obtained on delivering it at the Admiralty Office, though it is of a date some time posterior.

“Admiralty, September 14, 1815.

“Received from Captain Maitland a box, containing four packages, marked each 20,000 francs, and said to contain four thousand Napoleons d’or.”

“H. Lowe, Major General.”

About eleven A.M., Lord Keith came on board in the Tonnant’s barge, to accompany Buonaparte from the Bellerophon to the Northumberland. Count Bertrand immediately went into the cabin to inform him of his Lordship’s arrival: it was, however, full two hours before it was reported that he was ready to attend him. About one o’clock, the barge of the Admiral was prepared; a Captain’s guard turned out, and by Lord Keith’s direction, as Napoleon crossed the quarter-deck to leave the ship, the guard presented arms, and three ruffles of the drum were beat, being the salute given to a General Officer.

He walked out of the cabin with a steady, firm step, came up to me, and, taking off his hat, said, “Captain Maitland, I take this last opportunity of once more returning you my thanks for the manner in which you have treated me while on board the Bellerophon, and also to request you will convey them to the officers and ship’s company you command:” then turning to the Officers, who were standing by me, he added, “Gentlemen, I have requested your Captain to express my gratitude to you for your attention to me, and to those who have followed my fortunes.” He then went forward to the gangway; and before he went down the ship’s side, bowed two or three times to the ship’s company, who were collected in the waist and on the forecastle; he was followed by the ladies and the French Officers, and lastly by Lord Keith. After the boat had shoved off, and got the distance of about thirty yards from the ship, he stood up, pulled his hat off, and bowed first to the Officers, and then to the men; and immediately sat down, and entered into conversation with Lord Keith, with as much apparent composure as if he had been only going from one ship to the other to pay a visit.

About a quarter of an hour before Buonaparte quitted the Bellerophon, Montholon came to me on the quarter-deck, and said, “I am directed by the Emperor to return you his thanks for the manner in which you have conducted yourself throughout the whole of this affair; and he desires me to say, that the greatest cause of disappointment he feels in not being admitted to an interview with the Prince Regent is, that he had intended to ask as a favour from his Royal Highness, that you should be promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.” I answered, “that although the request could not have been complied with under any circumstances, as it was contrary to the regulations of our naval service, yet I do not the less feel the kindness of the intention.” “He meant also,” he said, “to have presented you with a box containing his portrait, but he understands you are determined not to accept it.” I replied, “In the situation I am placed, it is quite impossible I can receive any present from him.” “He is perfectly aware,” said he, “of the delicacy of your situation, and approves of your conduct.” I then said, “I feel much hurt that Count Las Cases should have stated to Lord Keith, that I had promised Buonaparte should be well received in England, or indeed made promises of any sort. I have endeavoured to conduct myself with integrity and honour throughout the whole of this transaction, and therefore cannot allow such an assertion to go uncontradicted.” “Oh!” said he, “Las Cases negotiated this business; it has turned out very differently from what he and all of us expected. He attributes the Emperor’s situation to himself, and is therefore desirous of giving it the best countenance he can; but I assure you, the Emperor is convinced your conduct has been most honourable”: then taking my hand, he pressed it, and added, “and that is my opinion also.”

In the course of the afternoon, I attended General Savary and Lallemand on board the Northumberland, where they went for the purpose of taking a last farewell of their master. I had very little conversation with him myself, but they remained with him a considerable time. When I was about to return to my ship, I went into the cabin to tell them they must accompany me. They approached him in the after-cabin, where he was standing, when he embraced each of them most affectionately, after the French manner, putting his arms round them, and touching their cheeks with his. He was firm and collected; but, in turning from him, the tears were streaming from their eyes. On getting on board, all the squadron got under weigh, the Tonnant and Bellerophon to return to Plymouth, the Northumberland, with two troop ships in company, to proceed to St Helena. The following day she was joined by a frigate and several sloops of war from Plymouth, when she made sail to the westward.”

— Captain Maitland of H.M.S. Bellerophon writes about August 7 1815

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