Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène, réalités et légendes, de 1815 à nos jours

Abstract : A territory is undeniably associated with Napoleon and his legend in the minds of the peoples. It is not a question of Corsica, place of birth, but of Saint Helena, place of exile, of death but also of construction of the napoleonic legend. It is on this island of the South Atlantic that between 1815 and 1821 he who, during more than twenty years, made tremble Europe, saw the last years of its existence. The captive during all the years of his detention on St. Helena Napoléon is closely observed. However, the French, between 1815 and 1821, do not know what is happening on this lost island of the South Atlantic. News about this character is rare if not absent and the lack of truthful information about the events of the island is considerable. This observation is accentuated by the situation of St. Helena. It is a distant place, unknown and difficult to understand for the great majority of the French of the nineteenth century. This lack of information leads to the wildest rumors. Indeed, the false news strew the exile of Napoleon, French spread noises, claim to know the truth and to transmit it generally orally, more rarely in writing, to others. If the noises are essentially emitted between 1815 and 1821 they continue during the 1820s and even beyond by multiple relays. Many noises and books offer multiple stories all about Napoleon's exile. Among them, Napoleon escaped from Saint Helena. Real facts have inspired the many evasive theories that flourished from 1815. Thus, kidnapping projects have undeniably been thought out. Nevertheless, none of the plans are put into execution, leading consequently a questioning on the reasons of the absence of their concretization. Maybe, they were simple verbal exchanges between Bonapartists? Finally, rumors endure after 1821 partly thanks to the arts. Indeed, the internment of Napoleon was much represented by literature, painting and more recently by cinema. For example, many nineteenth-century writers drew inspiration from the Emperor's stay in Saint Helena in a more or less obvious way and re-invested the constituent elements of the legend. All the rumors and artistic representations of captivity distort the last years of Napoleon. However, these altered representations remain in the collective memory because they are easier to remember, they are better stories than reality ... And so, mythology ended up altering the historical reality. For example, the idea of ​​a Napoleon permanently humiliated by the British is rooted in the popular mentality as among the elites. Moreover this distortion of reality is an integral part of the Napoleonic legend. Without the idea of ​​Napoleon's ordeal on St. Helena prisoner of the Holy Alliance and the negative image of Hudson Lowe, the figure of the captive among liberals and nationalists in the nineteenth century would not have been the same. The legend of St. Helena is therefore a fundamental part of Napoleonic history.
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Florian Coppée. Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène, réalités et légendes, de 1815 à nos jours. Histoire. Université de Cergy Pontoise, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018CERG0927⟩. ⟨tel-02012736⟩

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