Napoleon’s St Helena Tomb

Before Napoleon died in 1821, the British government had instructed Governor Hudson Lowe that the emperor’s body was to stay on St Helena. A burial site was chosen about a mile from Longwood House on land owned by the merchant Richard Torbett. Initially, Torbett received £650 as an indemnity plus an annual subsidy of £50, but later, he negotiated a lump sum payment of £1200—not a bad deal as the emperor’s body was returned to France in 1840.

Thanks to information a descendent of Richard Torbett sent me, I learned that after the death of Richard Torbett’s widow, the house on the  property ended up in the hands of a freed slave named Sally Phil.  According to David Torbett, Richard’s great-great-great grandson, Miss Sally wrote the following poem:


  • Melanie
    November 11, 2011 - 7:40 pm | Permalink

    How fun is that?! What a neat and unique tidbit of information to have gleaned, Margaret.

  • mrodenberg
    November 11, 2011 - 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Melanie, I love learning more about St Helena and Napoleon from my blog readers. This information is particularly interesting because it came from a descendent of the Saint who owned the property on which Napoleon was buried. The treatment and stories of individual slaves on the island provide real insight into the culture of the time and human nature. I plan to touch on that in my book and in more blog posts.

  • ashish tadewar
    January 30, 2013 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

    This site turns to be more useful for those who research on Nepoleone Bonaparte.
    Hope your book too did it so well.

  • mrodenberg
    February 13, 2013 - 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your comment. My book is fiction but I hope well-founded in fact.

  • Dave Huntley-Smith
    June 8, 2013 - 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Hi Margaret
    Richard Torbett was the brother of John Torbett, my 5x great grandfather. Thank you for the site and particularly the photo trip to St Helena, I hope one day to visit. The records of Saint Helena, and sites like yours, offer an amazing source of information for people like myself seeking out our family histories. Up until a few years ago I had no knowledge of my family association with St Helena. My great great grandmother, Alice Eleanor Alexander, was the last family member to be born on the island and through her I link myself to many families on the island.
    Good fortune with your book,

  • mrodenberg
    June 10, 2013 - 10:23 am | Permalink

    Wonderful to hear from you, Dave. I’m so glad you enjoyed the website and the St Helena slideshow. St Helena is a special place and I hope you get a chance to visit, particularly since it’s your ancestral home. I’m sending you a private email with email addresses of two other Torbett descendants, in case you would like to contact them.

    Thank you for your good wishes.


  • June 25, 2013 - 4:53 am | Permalink

    Dear Margaret,
    I have come across your posts quite by accident. I am researching the Alexander family tree.
    One of my ancestors, Frederick Augustus Alexander, was the Engineer in charge of exhuming Napoleons body for shipment back to France. I have a copy of the report written by him on the exhumation. If you have not seen it I can send you a copy.
    My family tree is on the website provided above.
    I would like to get in touch with Dave Huntley-Smith. He is missing from my tree. If you could email him with my email address, this will give him the choice of corresponding with me or not. I always respect another s privacy.

    Clive Stanbridge Alexander

  • mrodenberg
    July 4, 2013 - 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Clive,

    I’m glad you found my site and I’d love to see a copy of the exhumation report.

    I forwarded your email to Dave Huntley-Smith. Hope it turns out to be an interesting connection for you.

    All the best,


  • Pravin
    December 6, 2013 - 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Margaret,

    I recently read a book on Nepoleon. I would like to know some facts.

    What happened to his son from his wife Mery Luiza to whom Nepoleon want to be a next emperor of France.

  • mrodenberg
    December 22, 2013 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Pravin. Thanks for contacting me. Here’s one of my blog posts that describes Napoleon’s son, known as the King of Rome.

    Unfortunately, he had an unhappy life and early death.

    Take care,

  • Pingback: Family Legends about Napoleon » Finding Napoleon

  • Raymond Renardel de Lavalette
    April 15, 2014 - 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I have read and followed many written words about Napoleon.
    A fascinating, complicated individual. A personality most likely not agreeable with mine. Have been wondering and still have not reached a conclusion if it was fair by the British to have placed Napoleon on St, Helena. But I can see that the British did not want any possibility of him escaping and become popular again. As we have seen before.
    His stay at St. Helena fascinates me more than all his battles and glorious time as Emperor.



  • mrodenberg
    April 16, 2014 - 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Yes, people can argue whether Napoleon was a great man or a vicious tyrant, but most would agree that he was a difficult personality. I too find his time on St Helena fascinating. What was left of him when his power and freedom were gone? That’s part of what I explore in my novel. Thanks for your comments. Please keep in touch.

  • arturo
    August 30, 2014 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Very nice video and history, I´m very impressed by the beauty of St Helena, and at the same time I´m trying to see through the time the last very sad days of Napoleon there, far away from the world and almost near to heaven or maybe the hell.

  • mrodenberg
    September 28, 2014 - 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Arturo, I think you have captured how Napoleon felt. St Helena is a beautiful place, and I hope with its first airport scheduled to open in 2016 that more people will be able to visit it.

  • David Torbett
    February 25, 2015 - 12:37 am | Permalink

    My name is David Torbett. I am so pleased to see one of my relatives actually successfully sold a funeral plot to somebody. Also, I am pleased to see that Sally Phil pronounces our name correctly (rhymes with orbit).

  • mrodenberg
    March 1, 2015 - 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi, David. I’ve responded to your email with an email to the several Torbett ancestors who have contacted me over the last couple of years. (I can’t tell for sure if some of the address are duplicates for the same person.) Hope this helps and that you all get together, even if only by email or Skype. All the best, Margaret

    PS I wish one of MY ancestors had sold a burial plot for Napoleon!

  • Tobias Peter John Howr
    April 26, 2016 - 5:36 am | Permalink

    Hello my name is Tobias Howe, my mother is the daughter of Dorothy Torbett
    I’ve only just found out all this information!

    Can anybody tell me what The Torbett brothers are to me? Great ink led?
    I’m at-

    Hope to hear soon

  • mrodenberg
    May 29, 2016 - 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what you relationship is, but I have an email from a Torbett descendant. I’ll pass your email on to him. Good luck finding your relatives!


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