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Betsy and the Emperor : The True Story of Napoleon, a Pretty Girl, a Regency Rake, and an Australian Colonial Misadventure - Anne Whitehead

Betsy and the Emperor

The True Story of Napoleon, a Pretty Girl, a Regency Rake, and an Australian Colonial Misadventure

Paperback Published: 26th August 2015
ISBN: 9781760112936
Number Of Pages: 464

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The little known story of how the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte ingratiated himself with an English family on the South Atlantic island of St Helena, and the devastating effect on them for the rest of their lives in England and Australia.

After Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he was sent into exile on Saint Helena. He became an 'eagle in a cage', reduced from the most powerful figure in Europe to a prisoner on a rock in the South Atlantic. But the fallen emperor was charmed by the pretty teenage daughter of a local merchant, Betsy Balcombe.

Anne Whitehead brings to life Napoleon's last years on Saint Helena, revealing the central role of the Balcombe family. She also lays to rest two centuries of speculation about Betsy's relationship with Napoleon.

After Napoleon's death, Betsy travelled to Australia in 1823 with her father, who was appointed the first Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales. When the family lost their fortune, she returned to London and published a memoir which made her a celebrity.

With her extraordinary connections to royalty and high society, Betsy Balcombe led a life worthy of a Regency romance, but she was always fighting for her independence. This new account reveals Napoleon at his most vulnerable, human and reflective, and a woman caught in some of the most dramatic events of her time.

Caroline Baum's review

Just ahead of Tom Kenneally's new novel on the same subject comes this lively and engrossing account of Napoleon's final years on St Helena by Australian historian Anne Whitehead. She has been intrepid enough to make the journey to that barren isolated rock herself, which is no easy feat, given that it is still without an airport (to the great frustration of its residents).

Imagine how much more isolated the former Emperor of Europe must have felt confined to his rat infested quarters there, with a devoted entourage that squabbled and gossiped to pass away endless hours of boredom. The food was dreadful, there was nothing to do and the company was provincial, petty and limited.

But a young girl called Betsy, the spirited daughter of his initial hosts, caught Napoleon's eye and made his plight slightly more bearable. Why did this teen, whose manners lacked decorum appeal to Napoleon? Was it merely her prettiness or did he find something refreshing in her untamed and fearlessly cheeky behaviour? And what were his motives in befriending her family, the Balcombes?

There is plenty of intrigue here, as well as plans for an escape (to America, to join his brother Joseph).

An enthralling slice of history, told with verve.

About the Author

Anne Whitehead is an author, historian and former TV producer-director with the ABC. She is the author of Bluestocking in Patagonia and her book Paradise Mislaid was winner of the NSW Premier's Award for Australian History.

Preface..PART ONE..1 The News..2 The Prisoner..3 Friends and Foes..4 The Briars..5 The Pavilion..6 Boney's Little Pages..7 The French Suite..8 The Admiral's Ball..9 Last Days at the Pavilion..10 Longwood House..11 The New Governor..12 Gold Lace and Nodding Plumes..13 This Accursed Place..14 The Thinning Ranks..15 The Sick Lion..16 Our Beautiful Island..17 The Company of a Green Parrot..18 At the Mercy of the English..19 Farewell to the Island..PART TWO..20 The Ties that Bind..21 The Embattled Surgeon..22 An Impending Tempest..23 The St Helena Plot..24 Official Disgrace..25 An Item of News..26 The One that Got Away..27 Marry in Haste . . ...28 'La Petite Angleterre'..29 The Clearing Fog..PART THREE..30 Sydney Town..31 'The Interesting Mrs Abell'..32 The Fashionables..33 A Fleeting Entente Cordiale..34 The Treasury Under the Bed..35 'Terrible Hollow'..36 A Fractured Family..37 Recollections of the Emperor Napoleon..Acknowledgements..Note on Sources..Notes..Index

ISBN: 9781760112936
ISBN-10: 1760112933
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 464
Published: 26th August 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3  x 3.81
Weight (kg): 0.64

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