"If any of you will shoot his Emperor, here I am."
Exile in Elba
Napoleon spent only 9 months and 21 days in an uneasy forced retirement on Elba (1814–1815), watching events in France with great interest as the Congress of Vienna gradually gathered.
Return to France
While the Allies were distracted, Napoleon solved his problem in characteristic fashion. On 26 February 1815, when the British and French guard ships were absent, he slipped away from Portoferraio on board the French brig Inconstant with some 1,000 men and landed at Golfe-Juan, between Cannes and Antibes, on 1 March 1815. Except in royalist Provence, he was warmly received. He avoided much of Provence by taking a route through the Alps, marked today as the Route Napoléon.
Firing no shot in his defence, his troop numbers swelled until they became an army. On 5 March, the nominally royalist 5th Infantry Regiment at Grenoble went over to Napoleon en masse. The next day they were joined by the 7th Infantry Regiment under its colonel, Charles de la Bédoyère, who was executed for treason by the Bourbons after the campaign ended. An anecdote illustrates Napoleon's charisma: when royalist troops were deployed to stop the march of Napoleon's force at Laffrey, near Grenoble, Napoleon stepped out in front of them, ripped open his coat and said "If any of you will shoot his Emperor, here I am." The men joined his cause.
Marshal Ney, now one of Louis XVIII's commanders, had said that Napoleon ought to be brought to Paris in an iron cage, but on 14 March, Ney joined Napoleon with 6,000 men. Five days later, after proceeding through the countryside promising constitutional reform and direct elections to an assembly, to the acclaim of gathered crowds, Napoleon entered the capital, from where Louis XVIII had recently fled.
The royalists did not pose a major threat: the duc d'Angoulême raised a small force in the south, but at Valence it did not provide resistance against Imperialists under Grouchy's command; and the duke, on 9 April 1815, signed a convention whereby the royalists received a free pardon from the Emperor. The royalists of the Vendée moved later and caused more difficulty for the Imperialists.