Tuesday 30th June 2015 – A new exhibition, ‘Fallen Emperor: Napoleon in Plymouth Sound in 1815’, marking the 200 year anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo has recently opened at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.
The new exhibition explores the 10 dramatic days during the summer of 1815 when Napoleon Bonaparte was held as a prisoner in Plymouth Sound aboard HMS Bellerophon before his surrender to the Royal Navy. It also examines the dinner that took place to discuss his future – a future that ultimately involved exile to the remote Atlantic island of Saint Helena.
‘Fallen Emperor: Napoleon in Plymouth Sound in 1815’ is open to the public for free until Saturday 26th September with special talks on Wednesday 15th July, Tuesday 21st July, Tuesday 28th July and Wednesday 23rd September. A family workshop will also be on offer on Wednesday 19th August.
“As a military stronghold, the Napoleonic Wars had impacted quite directly on life in and around the historic ‘Three Towns’ of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport,” said exhibition curator Nigel Overton.
“During the wars Napoleon had been portrayed as a disturber of the peace and the enemy – yet he was a folk-hero to the lower classes of all nations, even those he fought against. He was here from 26 July to 4 August 1815 and we’ll be exploring the reasons why so many people flocked to see him. Were they curious or sympathetic? Was he a celebrity or a threat?”
Chief Executive of Destination Plymouth, Amanda Lumley, added: “It’s been a real privilege to have one of the descendants of Napoleon here in Plymouth to see this exhibition about a unique moment in Plymouth’s history. It provides a real sense of pride as Napoleon’s campaign across Europe in the 1800s helped shape the city Plymouth is today.”
The exhibition has even received a visit from a modern-day Bonaparte – Charles Bonaparte, a direct descendent of Napoleon and chair of the European Federation of Napoleonic Cities, came in peace and came face-to-face with a famous image of his ancestor at an event in the Plymouth City Museum recently.
The last time a Bonaparte visited the city hundreds of local people rowed out in small boats to the military ship in order to catch a glimpse of him. The exhibition focuses around a popular painting from the Museum’s collections by Jules Girardet, which shows Napoleon standing on the deck of HMS Bellerophon as this spectacle unfolds and examines the public’s mixed perceptions of Napoleon.
For more information about the exhibition and its related events visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/museumnapoleon