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Napoleon re-enacts escape from Elba, 200 years on

Napoleon's departure marks the end of 10 months of festivities on the Tuscan island of Elba
Napoleon's departure marks the end of 10 months of festivities on the Tuscan island of Elba Vincenzo Pinto, AFP

On February 28, 1814, British General Sir Neil Campbell realised with horror that his illustrious prisoner, Napoleon Bonaparte, had slipped away from the island of Elba to go and meet his Waterloo.

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The exiled emperor had in fact sneaked out two days earlier, embarking in the heady Hundred Days that would culminate in his final defeat on the muddy fields of Belgium.

A statue of Napoleon on the island of Elba
A statue of Napoleon on the island of Elba

Two centuries later, scores of history buffs in full costume are gathered on the Mediterranean island to re-enact the start of Napoleon’s great escape.

Early on Saturday, 50-year-old medic Roberto Colla, aka Napoleon Bonaparte, gathered his “Grande Armée” on the main square of Portoferraio, before leading his men past the restored British Fort and the Villa dei Mulini, the emperor’s residence during his 10-month exile.

"Napoleon" was due to attend a solemn mass and a grand gala later in the day, before setting sail on board the Pandora on Sunday, heading for the French coast.

His departure will mark the end of year-long festivities that have brought more than 20,000 visitors to the Italian island.

By Monday, the focus will have moved on to the French seaside town of Golfe-Juan, where another Napoleon lookalike will lead his loyal followers in a reconstruction of the emperor’s triumphant return to home soil two hundred years ago.

 

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