This glass tumbler, engraved with a crown and the initials of Napoleon’s first wife Josephine, was a personal gift from Napoleon to a British naval officer. It was presented to Frederick Maitland, the 38 year-old Captain of HMS Bellerophon, the 74 gun warship that carried Napoleon to England after his abdication. After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon surrendered to Captain Maitland after fleeing across France, one step ahead of the pursuing Allied armies.

After his retreat from Waterloo Napoleon tried to hold on to power but was eventually forced to flee to the port of Rochefort, where he hoped to make his escape on a French ship. But he found the coast too closely guarded by the British navy, and Rochefort itself blockaded by the Bellerophon. As a last resort Napoleon surrendered to Maitland on 15th July 1815. He did this in the expectation that he would be offered a dignified asylum in England. His departure from French soil was greeted by his faithful followers’ heart-rending cries of “Vive L’Empereur.”

Maitland treated Napoleon with deference and vacated the captain’s cabin for him. With his natural curiosity and charisma Napoleon soon charmed everyone on board, including the Captain. Even when the Bellerophon reached the English coast and Napoleon was kept on board, he did not disappoint the droves of sightseers who came out in little boats to catch a glimpse of him. He would show himself on deck in the evenings and doff his hat to the ladies. But the government was not minded to be gracious. With his escape from Elba fresh in the memory it was decided to send Napoleon into exile on the isolated and distant island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

Upon his transfer to HMS Northumberland for the long voyage to exile he took his leave of Maitland in his cabin in the following words: “My reception in England has been very different from what I expected; but it gives me much satisfaction to assure you, that I feel your conduct to me throughout has been that of a gentleman and a man of honour.” And he presented him with the glass tumbler. Not only did Maitland treasure the gift, he later published an account of the voyage and ended his distinguished career as a Rear-Admiral.

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This object is in the collection of National War Museum Scotland