While waxing poetic about Champagne, Napoleon Bonaparte is believed to have said, “In victory you deserve it, in defeat you need it.” Whether or not the quote is historically accurate, Napoleon’s love for the finer things followed him behind bars.
After suffering defeat at the hands of the Seventh Coalition in the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was imprisoned on the small island of Saint Helena, located off the western coast of Africa. He would remain on the island until his death in 1821.
Based on a collection of handwritten notes auctioned off in 2015, which detailed the copious allowance of wine and provisions granted to Napoleon and a group of his officers in 1820, the disgraced emperor may have actually enjoyed his exile to a certain extent.
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Though the “ration” could have been viewed as paltry by the emperor’s standards, records show that Napoleon’s daily wine allowance consisted of a bar cart’s worth of bottles, including one bottle of Champagne, 10 bottles of Claret, a half-bottle of Madeira, three bottles of Vin de Grave, a bottle of Tenerife, 31 bottles of Cape Wine, “cyder” and malt liquor, among other drinks.
All in all, Napoleon enjoyed a grant of more than 50 bottles of wine and spirits per day — and that was just his liquid diet.
While Napoleon was known to be negligent when it came to feeding his army, historical records also show that he ate quite well while in prison. Napoleon’s captors sent him a veritable smorgasbord on a monthly basis that included 50 pounds of beef and veal, 68 pounds of bread, 50 pounds of mutton and pork, one roasting pig, two turkeys, 12 pigeons, four ducks, nine fowls, two geese, and 42 eggs.
The pièce de résistance? A uniformed butler presented Napoleon the decadent meals on rare porcelain and silver plates, proclaiming, “His Majesty is served.” That type of gratuitous praise would give anyone a complex.