The Waterloo Association: Members Area

Join: Join the Waterloo Association

The Annual Cost of Keeping the Former Emperor Napoleon Captive on the Island of St. Helena

By Tom Holmberg



Napoleon noted that “The expenses of my captivity will certainly exceed ten millions of francs a year.” In 1815 24 francs equaled £1, putting the total expense, by the calculations below, at over 2.2 million francs.  (Kaplan, Herbert H. Nathan Mayer Rothschild and the Creation of a Dynasty: The Critical Years, 1806-1816. Stanford Univ., 2006. p. 170)  By one estimation the roughly £92,032 of annual expense to imprison Napoleon would come to £4,860,281 in 2005.  The British government later raised the subsidy to Napoleon’s household to £10,000 from the £8,000 given below.  Governor Lowe estimated that the cost of Napoleon’s household was closer to £20,000 per year.

(1.) Estimate of the probable Annual Expense of the Island of St. Helena, during the period of its continuing to be the Residence of Napoleon Buonaparté, and his Suite.

Military Charge:

Pay of a Battalion of 1,000 Rank and File, according to the Rates established for the East India Company’s Service in St. Helena.  £34,789 11s. 10d.

Pay of the Staff; viz.

2 Aides de Camp. £347  14s.  0d.

1 Secretary.  £695  8s.  0d.

1 Brigadier General.  £1,043  2s.  0d.

1 Deputy Adjudant General.  £695  8s.  0d.

1 Deputy Inspector of Hospitals.  £869  8s.  0d.

Total…..  £3,996  11s.  0d.

Total Military Charge:  £38.786  2s.  10d.


Pay of a Company of Royal Artillery, according to the Rates above specified.  £4,317  12s.  6d.


Salary of the Governor, including all his Civil and Military Allowances, Table Money, &c.  £12,000  0s.  0d.

Estimated Annual Expense of Buonaparté and his Suite.  £8,000  0s.  0d.

Total Civil:   £20,000  0s.  0d.

Probable Expense of Provisions for the Troops, calculated at the Rate of 2s. 6d. for each Ration. £54,750  0s.  0d.

Total Charge:  £117,854  15s.  4d.

Deduct Average Annual Expense of the Garrison of St. Helena, previous to its becoming the residence of Napoleon Buonaparté.  £80,384  0s.  0d.

Total:  £37,470  15s.  4d.

For the probable Expense of the Naval Force employed at St. Helena, vide the annexed Letter from Mr. Croker to Mr. Goulburn.

(2.) Copy of a Letter from Mr. Croker to Mr. Goulburn, dated Admiralty Office, 11th of April 1816.

Admiralty Office, 11th April 1816.

SIR:–In reply to your letter of the 9th instant, communicating lord Bathurst’s desire that a statement should be transmitted to his office, showing the amount of expense per annum, in the naval department, on account of the additional ships of war employed at St. Helena during the residence of Buonaparté in the island, as distinguished from former periods: I am commanded by my lords commissioners of the admiralty to acquaint you, that as it is not possible to state the precise disposition which the admiralty commanding on the Cape of Good Hope station may make of the squadron under his orders, it cannot be exactly calculated how much of the whole expense is attributable to the service of St. Helena; but an estimate of the expense on this latter account may be thus formed: the whole expense of the squadron on the station is £131,275  9s. per annum;–the expense of that part which would, if there were no St. Helena squadron, be restored to the Indian station, and employed in performing the ordinary duties of the Cape of Good Hope station, including the Mauritius, &c. is £76,712  13s.  1d., which being deducted from the first sum, leaves £54,562  15s.  11d. as the expense of the St. Helena squadron, contradistinguishing it from the whole force of the station; but it is possible that the admiral may find that the service can be carried on with a less amount of force, in which event a further deduction will be made from the above stated expense. I am, &c.

(Signed) J.W. Croker.

Source: Hansard. Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time. Vol. XXXIV. (London: Hansard, 1816). House of Commons. Wednesday, May 8 1816. p.364.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: Mayy 2006