ON THIS DAY: 26 February 1815

Napoleon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba, escaped. In April 1814, Napoleon had signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which allowed him to choose an island to rule. Elba, with its 86 square miles and a population of only 12,000 residents, was his chosen destination. It was not a prison, as he had two luxurious residences on the island where he received visitors and held parties. However, Napoleon soon grew restless in his small kingdom and became concerned about rumours suggesting he might be sent to a more remote location. In anticipation of any such move, he assembled a fleet of ships and departed to mainland France with about 1,500 loyal supporters. By the time Napoleon reached Paris on March 20, 1815, his army numbered around 46,000 where he prepared for his final disastrous battle at Waterloo.