History’s Great Escapes: Napoleon’s Escape from Elba

On February 26, it will be exactly 201 years since Napoleon Bonaparte made his great escape from the island of Elba. Being one of the most famous exiles of all time has really got to put a damper on your chances of making a prison break, which is why we at Krakit Vancouver Escape Game consider this one of the greatest escapes of all time.

It’s true that a lot of negative qualities are associated with Napoleon—being overly aggressive as a way to compensate for a lack of height being just one of them—but no one can argue that he wasn’t also a great strategic mastermind. This is precisely what led him to seize power as the new leader of France following the Revolution.

Unfortunately for him, people eventually tired of his antics, which mainly included invading other European countries. After ten years, his enemies finally got the better of him and ousted him from his position as Emperor of France, exiling him to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea.

Napoleon lived on Elba for the better part of a year, at which point he caught wind that his rivals planned to move him to an even more remote location—an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. So, on February 26, 1815, Napoleon made his escape.

Taking advantage of in-fighting among the European powers who had placed him on Elba in the first place, Napoleon managed to slip past his guards who were otherwise preoccupied. He and his 1,000-man army—which he had amassed on Elba using his undiminished powers of charisma—boldly marched aboard a French ship and sailed to Provence. A regiment was sent to overtake Napoleon and his army, but instead, these men simply joined his ranks.

Two days later, Napoleon returned to Paris—and to his former title of Emperor. This wasn’t fated to last very long, however, with Napoleon’s power lasting just two days before he was exiled again. This time, to a new island a thousand miles off the west coast of Africa, where he would be unable to duplicate his Elba escape. He died on St. Helena five years later.

Napoleon greeted by the 5th Regiment at Grenoble after his escape from Elba (Charles de Steuben)