Napoleon Bonaparte's enemies sought to make prison more of an ordeal for the defeated French emperor, by rationing him to just one bottle of Champagne daily, show newly released records.


Handwritten notes show that Napoleon and his staff received a bottle of Champagne plus 10 bottles of ‘claret’ every day while imprisoned on St Helena, a tiny island off the west coast of Africa. One note says the defeated emperor requested exchanging two clarets for two bottles of Burgundy.

A series of records on food and drink provisions for Napoleon and his entourage were sold for £800 at auction this month by Woolley and Wallis, based in Salisbury in southern England.

The French emperor was imprisoned for life on the island after being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 by British and Allied armies led by the Duke of Wellington.

But, records show that Napoleon and his staff continued to live reasonably well on St Helena.

They received around 50 bottles of wine a day in total, plus various spirits. They also got a daily food allowance that included 50 pounds (lbs) of beef and veal, 68lbs of bread, 50lbs of mutton and pork, one roasting pig, two turkeys, 12 pigeons and 42 eggs.

A regular prison diet in early 19th Century Britain at the time consisted of bread, cheese, gruel and suet. Meals were designed to be worse than those served in Workhouses, which accommodated some of the poorest people outside of prison.

Where is St Helena? See the map below:

St Helena

St Helena, site of Napoleon’s prison

And here is where Napoleon was imprisoned on the island. He died in exile in 1821.

Map of St Helena, Napoleon's prison home

A map of St Helena, Napoleon’s prison home



  • Dave_Aa

    You can see Napoleon’s drinks cooler at the Russell-Coates Museum in Bournemouth, England. Apparently it was auctioned off along with his other possessions after he died. Now I know why it was so large – though as it says here a lot of the “50 bottles a day” was for his entourage.