Everybody knows that the flag was created by Napoleon after his arrival on the island.
Despite the romantic and numerous legends associated with this iconography, the red ribbon with the three bees was not created specifically for Elba, but has already been issued by an ordinance of 1809, by Napoleon himself.
As Dr. Gloria Peria (Coordinator of the Management “Associata degli Archivi Storici di tutti Comuni Elbani” and member of the “Centro Studi di Storia e Napoleonici dell’Elba”) explains, Napoleon entitled the city which had shown him such a great devotion to add the red band with the bees on their flag.
Although there are many citys declared by Napoleon to “Bonnes Villes” the flag is still unique because Napoleon united the whole island under a single management. So instead to place the emblem on a previous flag (as it was practised for other cities) the red ribbon with the three bees was placed on a white background and became the symbol of the island.
According to Dr. Peria Napoleon chose the bee because it symbolizes immortality and represents power. However, the emperor also wanted to emphasize the social role of the bee (the equality of the subjects under a single queen bee) which reflected his concept of the Bonnes Villes (the unified rank of citizens under a single emperor).
With the coronation of Napoleon, the bee got famous allover Europe: It was carved in wood, painted on vases and walls and decorated robes. Today it is still the fortunate (and sympathetic) symbol of the Elban flag.