Principality of the Island of Elba

The State of the Island of Elba is born

The principality of the Island of Elba was a small European state, which existed in the 19th century from 1814 to 1815, ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte, former emperor of the French and king of Italy.

Napoleon Bonaparte and the Principality of the Island of Elba

Reception Hall Villa dei Mulini - Napoleon and the Principality of the Island of Elba

The principality of the island of Elba was created on 13 April 1814 by virtue of the Treaty of Fontainebleau where Napoleon was allowed to keep his noble titles. By renouncing any dynastic right for himself and his descendants over France, Italy and the other countries which belonged to the French Empire. In exchange, Napoleon and his wife, Maria Luisa and their heirs, would have enjoyed full sovereignty over the Island of Elba and the Tuscan archipelago. He excluded the island of Giglio and Capraia, in the form of an independent principality.

Napoleon at the helm of the Island of Elba


Il 4 maggio 1814 fu emanato un editto che dichiarava la presa di possesso dell’Isola d’Elba a Naboleone Bonaparte:
“This May 4, 1814. HM the Emperor Napoleon having taken possession of the island of ‘Elbe, General Drouot, governor of the island, in the name of the Emperor, had the island’s flag displayed on the forts: a white background crossed diagonally by a red band strewn with three bees. gold. This flag was saluted by the batteries of the forts on the coast, the English frigate the Undaunted and the French warships which were in the port. In witness whereof, we, Commissioners of the Allied Powers, have signed this report with General Drouot, Governor of the Island, and General Dalesme, Superior Commander of the Island. Done at Porto-Ferrajo on May 4, 1814”.
Napoleone fu seguito sull’Isola solo dalla madre Letizia e la sorella Paolina.

The period of the principality of the Island of Elba

Napoleon remained at the head of the Principality of the Island of Elba for ten months, from 14 April 1814 to 1 March 1815. During the entire period, he devoted himself meticulously to the administration of the island, without however abandoning the project of his return to France

Napoleon’s two residences on the island have become two museums where the memories of his time on the island and of the Principality of the Island of Elba are kept.

Napoleon, the court and the Principality of the Island of Elba

Portoferraio capital of the principality

Biscotteria the building that houses the Town Hall of Portoferraio - Napoleon and the principality of the Island of Elba

All’arrivo nel Principato dell’Isola d’Elba, Napoleone dimorò per qualche giorno nel municipio di Portoferraio, città scelta al rango di capitale del principato. Durante la sua reggenza all’Isola d’Elba, Napoleone fece eseguire i lavori alla palazzina dei Mulini, per divenire la sua residenza urbana e reggia per ricevimenti. L’edificio è situato a Portoferraio sulla sommità della rocca e domina il porto, vicino c’era anche il Teatro dei Vigilanti, da lui realizzato ed ancora oggi centro di molti spettacoli.

Villa dei Mulini

Elba Napoleon Villa of the Mills Portoferraio - Napoleon and the Principality of the Island of Elba

The building, headquarters of the military engineers, was modified by the architect Paolo Bargigli, who created the hall on the first floor and the internal modifications that made it respond to the Emperor’s needs; with the demolition of some buildings, the area destined to garden will be created.

Giardino Villa dei Mulini e Forte Falcone Elba Napoleone

His first valet Louis Joseph Marchand described the Mulini building as follows: «This building, on the ground floor, consisted of ten rooms, four of which had a view of the city, with an entrance hall, a lounge, a dining room , a small gallery, while the other six overlooked the garden and the sea: an office, a library, a bedroom, a bathroom, plus two bedrooms for the servants. This house was located at the top of one of the steepest streets in the city, halfway up the slope, dominated by the Fort Stella where General Cambronne stayed; on the left instead, there was the Fort Falcone which was further away where the Polish guards and the Mamluks were quartered. These two forts, joined by a covered passage, constituted the defense system of the city towards the sea»

Upon his departure, the emperor donates the Villa Elbana to the municipality of Portoferraio

Villa of the Mills - Napoleon and the Principality of the Island of Elba

Upon his departure on February 26, 1815, the emperor gave the Palazzina dei Mulini to the municipality of Portoferraio but Ferdinand III of Lorraine, reinstated on the throne in 1815, assigned it to residence of the Grand Ducal Governor; after the unification of Italy it became the headquarters of the military engineers. A long dispute between the Municipality of Portoferraio and the State ended in 1880 with the definitive assignment of the villa to the State, and of the library to the municipality.

Long used for improper use, only in 1928 it was designated as a museum and furnished with furniture coming in part from Villa San Martino in part from new acquisitions that restore the atmosphere of an imperial residence.

Villa of San Martino

For private use, however, he chose as residence the villa of San Martino, it was the most important, even if, due to his public activity and the strategic position of control over Portoferraio, he mainly used the other house, the Villa dei Mulini. More suited to the nature of Napoleon Buonaparte.

Inside the Villa we find many of their objects, outside a huge and welcoming park.

Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte

Epigraph in memory of the passage of Napoleon during his period of Regency to the Principality of the Island of Elba

For a short time (from 23 August to 14 September) during his regency of the Principality of the Island of Elba, he stayed in the hermitage annexed to the sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte (Marciana), where he was joined for only two days by Maria Walewska with his little son Alexandre.

The State of Elba

Map of Elba Island from 1814 - Napoleon and the Principality of Elba Island

The State of Elba was in fact an absolute monarchy headed by Napoleon, who surrounded himself with his former trusted dignitaries who performed the role of ministers of the principality of the Island of Elba. Among these we must remember General Bertrand, secretary of Internal and Public Affairs, Antoine Drouot, military governor and Minister of War, General Cambronne, who instead became head of the imperial guard, of the quarantine and commander of the square of Portoferraio and of the islet of Palmaiola. In the traditional flag of Elba he had three golden bees inserted which were supposed to allude to the three parts into which the island was divided.

Treaty of Fontainebleau (1814)

The Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1814 sanctioned the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of the French.

Fontainebleau Castle, second home of the French rulers - Napoleon
Fontainebleau Castle, second home of the French rulers – Napoleon

The subject of the negotiations was the modality of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exit from the scene as emperor of France and his future location. Despite the denomination Fontainebleau , the negotiations took place in Paris between the exponents of the coalited forces and Napoleon’s representatives. Fontainebleau historically gave the treaty its name since the first interested party remained in the homonymous castle for the entire time of the negotiations and it was in that place that he put an end to it by signing the text that had been submitted to him and becoming the regent of the Principality of the Isle of ‘Elba.

Napoleon sovereign of Elba

Napoleon becomes sovereign of the island of Elba, transformed into a principality, with an annual income, paid to him by the new French government, of two million French lire (of which one million reversible to his wife Maria Luisa) while his wife Maria Luisa would become duchess of Parma with right of succession for the son. The agreed text was submitted to Napoleon at Fontainebleau, who signed it on April 6 with these words:

Villa of the Mills - Napoleon and the Principality of the Island of Elba

“Since the Allied Powers have proclaimed that the Emperor Napoleon is the sole obstacle to the re-establishment of peace in Europe, the Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces the thrones of France and Italy for himself and for his heirs and that there is no personal sacrifice, not even of life itself, which he would not gladly make in the interest of France.”

Napoleon’s departure from the Island of Elba and return to France

When Napoleon left the island, the Congress of Vienna sanctioned the incorporation of both the Principality of the island of Elba and the ancient Principality of Piombino into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Flag of the Principality of the Island of Elba

The flag of the Island of Elba is white, divided diagonally by a red band on which there are three gold bees.

Flag of the Island of Elba - Napoleon and the Principality of the Island of Elba

On the day of his arrival on the island, May 4, 1814, Napoleon brought the flag as a gift, which was hoisted at Forte Stella. The original flag is kept in the Napoleonic building of the Mills in Portoferraio. The meaning of the cloth chosen by the Emperor has long been, and continues to be, a matter of debate even among historians.

The flag is still considered the coat of arms of the Island of Elba, it did not become extinct with the Principality of the Island of Elba.

Photos and Images that recall the principality of the Island of Elba


Napoleonic re-enactments of the Principality of the Island of Elba

360° View

Bird’s eye view Portoferraio 360°: Strong Stella, Villa of the Mills, the Port.

Posizione Musei a Portoferraio

Museums in Portoferraio

Napoleonic Museums:
Villa of the Mills tel. 0565 915846
Villa di S. Martino tel.0565 914688

Forte Falcone
Forte Stella

Lingualla Civic Archaeological: loc.Linguella tel.0565 937370
Foresiana Municipal Art Gallery: Napoleon climb tel.0565 937371
Roman Villa of the Caves: loc. Le Grotte

Volterraio Castle : Info Park Tel. +39 0565 908231