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Napoleon in Torquay

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Napoleon in Torquay

Postby SusanneMcCarthy » December 11th, 2014, 10:28 am

Hi - I am a resident of Torquay and recently found out about Napoleon's visit here en route to St.Helena. Apparently the Bellerophon anchored in the bay 24th-26th July, before sailing to Plymouth. According to a letter written by one of the crew (now in Torre Abbey) the decision to stop at Torbay was certainly made before 19th July - I have read elsewhere that it was made before the ship left France.
Does anyone know why it was decided that it should stop here, instead of sailing straight to Plymouth - which seems much more logical? Torquay at the time was little more than a fishing village, with about 2000 residents, although Torre Abbey had been the "quarterdeck" of Earl St.Vincent when he was Commander of the Channel Fleet earlier in the Napoleonic wars and had become a popular resort for officers and their families.
I'd be interested in educated guesses, as well as any evidence for the decision. Thank you.
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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » December 11th, 2014, 10:54 am

Welcome to the forum Susanne. Thanks for making this known to us. I expect one of our members will have more information, or an educated guess.

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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby unclearthur » December 11th, 2014, 8:54 pm

I thought they stopped at Torbay while the government/admiralty were deciding what to do with the Emperor. Plymouth was a population centre and those in power worried if word got out Napoleon was there, the place would be inundated with sightseers.

But they underestimated the public mood and once rumours started I gather people simply chartered boats and sailed further down the coast just for a glimpse of the most famous man in the world!
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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby Mark » December 11th, 2014, 9:26 pm

This issue is covered in Paul O'Keeffe's book 'Waterloo: The Aftermath'. I have read the book, but don't have it to had while I type this. Perhaps someone can take a look if they have access to it.

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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 12th, 2014, 11:49 am

I think unclearthur is right, on the motive, I'm jut trying to remember whether it was Captain Maitland's call or if he was ordered to Torbay.

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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby SusanneMcCarthy » December 12th, 2014, 6:23 pm

Thank you for your answers. I think unclearthur's response is plausible, but it still begs the question, Why Torquay instead of, say, Dartmouth or Falmouth? Both are in a more direct line of sail and offer good anchorage, the weather was apparently quite clement - and both are less accessible by land than Torquay.
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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 16th, 2015, 12:50 am

Apparently it was all to do with secrecy.

“Extract of an Order from Rear-Admiral Sir Henry Hotham, K.C.B., addressed to Captain Maitland, of H.M.S. Bellerophon, dated H.M.S. Superb, Quiberon Bay, 8th July, 1815.

"The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having every reason to believe that Napoleon Buonaparte meditates his escape, with his family, from France to America, you are hereby required and directed, in pursuance of orders from their Lordships, signified to me by Admiral the Right Honourable Viscount Keith, to keep the most vigilant look-out for the purpose of intercepting him; and to make the strictest search of any vessel you may fall in with; and if you should be so fortunate as to intercept him, you are to transfer him and his family to the ship you command, and there keeping him in careful custody, return to the nearest port in England (going into Torbay in preference to Plymouth) with all possible expedition; and on your arrival you are not to permit any communication whatever with the shore, except as herein after directed; and you will be held “responsible for keeping the whole transaction a profound secret, until you receive their Lordships' further orders.

"In case you should arrive at a port where there is a flag-officer, you are to send to acquaint him with the circumstances, strictly charging the officer sent on shore with your letter, not to divulge its contents: and if there should be no flag-officer at the port where you arrive, you are to send one letter express to the Secretary of the Admiralty, and another to Admiral Lord Keith, with strict injunctions of secrecy to each officer who may be the bearer of them."

Messrs Savary and Las Cases, who came on board, from the Schooner above mentioned, at seven o'clock on the 10th of July, presented the following letter to me:—”

Excerpt From: Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland. “The Surrender of Napoleon / Being the narrative of the surrender of Buonaparte, and of his residence on board H.M.S. Bellerophon, with a detail of the principal events that occurred in that ship between the 24th of May and the 8th of August 1815.” iBooks.

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Re: Napoleon in Torquay

Postby Louis » January 17th, 2015, 1:24 am

In Plymouth Sound
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