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5 may 1821

Constantia…Joséphine

Posted on 06 May 2013

On 5th May 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte died while in exile on the South Atlantic island of St Helena. The military general and first emperor of France had started showing signs of illness in 1817, long thought to have been a stomach ulcer or cancer, but autopsies performed in modern times revealed exceedingly high traces of arsenic.

In countless books, including The Assassination of Napoleon by Ben Weider, it has been alleged that he was poisoned by his wine steward, Count Charles Montholon, with the arsenic most likely to have been administered via the sweet Constantia wine reserved for Napoleon’s exclusive enjoyment (all other food and wine was shared between those living at Longwood House).

Whether or not the Constantia proved his undoing, it was reportedly the last thing he requested on his deathbed before uttering his famous last words: “France, armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine.” (France, army, head of the army, Joséphine.)

Napoleon on his deathbed, May 1821


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