James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 11

Abdication of Napoleon

By William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)

  • From “The Chronicles of the Drum”
  • After his defeat by the Allies at the battle of Leipsic, Napoleon was compelled by them to abdicate. He was allowed to retain the title of Emperor, and received the Island of Elba as a principality, with an annual income of two million francs. His abdication took place on April 11, 1814.

  • “OUR warrior was conquer’d at last;

    They bade him his crown to resign;

    To fate and his country he yielded

    The rights of himself and his line.

    “He came, and among us he stood,

    Around him we press’d in a throng:

    We could not regard him for weeping,

    Who had led us and loved us so long.

    ‘I have led you for twenty long years,’

    Napoleon said ere he went;

    ‘Wherever was honor I found you,

    And with you, my sons, am content.

    “‘Though Europe against me was arm’d,

    Your chiefs and my people are true;

    I still might have struggled with fortune,

    And baffled all Europe with you.

    “‘But France would have suffer’d the while,

    ’Tis best that I suffer alone;

    I go to my place of exile,

    To write of the deeds we have done.

    “‘Be true to the king that they give you.

    We may not embrace ere we part;

    But, General, reach me your hand,

    And press me, I pray, to your heart.’

    “He call’d for our battle standard;

    One kiss to the eagle he gave.

    ‘Dear eagle!’ he said, ‘may this kiss

    Long sound in the hearts of the brave!’

    ’Twas thus that Napoleon left us;

    Our people were weeping and mute,

    As he passed through the lines of his guard

    And our drums beat the notes of salute.”