Emperor Napoleon I had taken Republican France from its position being torn apart like a steak by dogs and nearly conquered Europe. From 1803 to 1815, he had consolidated power in France, launched expeditions, and broken apart five Coalitions united against him. Many of these lands came under his direct rule while he set up his siblings as kings over satellite states such as Naples and Westphalia. In 1812, he turned on Russia, a former ally and former enemy, in a catastrophic invasion that would signal the beginning of the end for his rule.
While all of this went on, Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, had served as a dashing captain for the British so successful in battle that the French had nicknamed him “Le Loup des Mers”, “The Wolf of the Sea.” In 1814, a news story broke that Napoleon had been killed by Cossacks, which charged the populace and make the stocks in the Exchange skyrocket. As the hoax was proven, the investigation turned up several men who had sold at great profits, including Lord Cochrane, his uncle, and his stock-broker. Anonymous tips caught the hoaxer, who was tied to Cochrane by having visited him the day the story appeared. Cochrane was condemned, though the evidence was circumstantial and he had simply told his broker to sell whenever his stock had raised one percent, much lower than the profits he would have made if planning a fraud. He was dismissed from the Admiralty, expelled from Parliament, lost his knighthood, fined, imprisoned for a year, and made to stand in the pillory for one hour.
Humiliated and betrayed by what he felt was “higher authority than the Stock Exchange”, Cochrane decided to leave the United Kingdom. In May of 1817, Bernardo O'Higgins requested Cochrane's assistance in the Chilean War of Independence. Cochrane agreed and arrived in Chile in November of 1818 and would become commander-in-chief of the Chilean navy. He had brought his wife and children with him, along with an older, balding manservant who, when asked, said he was Corsican. As time went on, it became obvious that the man was Napoleon Bonaparte, and he was quickly granted position as general.
When news of the great dictator in South America arrived in London, the British were shocked. On October 5, 1818, the man supposed to be Napoleon had arrived in St. Helena. While on the journey, the man had often been drunk and several times flew into rages, shouting in Italian that “this was not what had been agreed.” His guard expected better of the former emperor and took him as whining about the demands of past treaties. At St. Helena, he continued to drink, shrugging the offered friendship of the Balcombe family and routinely spitting at Governor Hudson Lowe. An investigation began, and it was found that Cochrane had used the last of his political favors to sneak Napoleon away and replace him with a Genoan drunkard who had been paid a hefty sum.
The Crown launched an expedition to fetch the rogue emperor, but by the time they had arrived in 1820, the Chileans had won their war and secured Bernardo O'Higgins as leader. Napoleon had served as an adviser in the war, saying often, “I have ruled. I don't intend to try it again.” Instead, he spoke long hours with O'Higgins, telling tales and giving advice on how to keep his people in love with him. The expedition did not carry a declaration of war, and, as Chile guarded the emperor, they returned to England, leaving the warning that if Napoleon ever left Chile, he would be arrested and hanged. Cochrane was dubbed a traitor, to which he laughed and replied, “Only to those who have betrayed me.” He would live out his days as a wealthy plantation owner with numerous Chilean titles.
Napoleon did not leave Chile. Many historians consider him using O'Higgins as a puppet as well as another great warrior, Simón Bolívar, who first visited him in 1825. Napoleon admired the young general and president, talking with him and analyzing his battles. Napoleon offered his advice on maintaining order and encouraged O'Higgins to create a tight alliance with Bolívar's nations of Gran Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. It is said that the fast and harsh end to the 1828 movement in Bolivia against Bolívar was plotted in the mind of Napoleon, remembering his days in the streets of Paris with cannons full of grapeshot.
Napoleon died in his palace in Santiago June 8, 1838. His visage is popular among coinage in South America, as are banners baring his insignia. It is said that much of Latin America's military stability and keen justice system belong to Napoleon's influence.
In reality, it was Napoleon who came to St. Helena. He was under strict guard, and the island would be surrounded and patrolled by warships during his time there. Cochrane plotted to rescue Napoleon and bring him to the Chilean war effort, but Napoleon died in 1821 after months of ill health. After victory in Chile, Cochrane would serve in the Brazilian and Greek navies before finally returning to Britain and being reinstated under Queen Victoria.