Monday 30th January 2023, 11.05am (day 4,176)
The only thing that most people can recall about St Helena is that it was where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled for the last five and a half years of his life. I have a lot of sympathy for the guy; after defeat at Waterloo, certain that the Prussians, at least, were going to kill him the second they caught up with him, he surrendered to the British, only to find himself — without trial or conviction for any crime — packed off to the middle of the South Atlantic, and put under house arrest in Longwood House. These days that building would be desirable real estate I’m sure, but, riddled with damp and rats at the time, I wouldn’t want to spend all that time here against my will, particularly not if I’d been in charge of much of Europe in the previous couple of decades.
This isn’t Napoleon’s original death mask, created as he lay in this room in May 1821, having died (conspiracy theories notwithstanding) of stomach cancer, aged 51, younger than me. Apparently, for some bizarre reason, that mask currently resides in the University of North Carolina. But, copy of a copy though this one may be, here the erstwhile Emperor’s face sits in the very room of Longwood House in which Napoleon’s body lay in state 202 years ago. Officially I was not supposed to take photos inside the house, so this is firmly an unofficial shot. Don’t tell anyone.