In the northern winter of 1814, a French armada set sail for New South Wales. The armada’s mission was the invasion of Sydney, and its inspiration and its fate were interwoven with one of history’s greatest love stories – that of Napoleon and Josephine.
The Empress Josephine was fascinated by all things Australian. In the gardens of her grand estate, Malmaison, she kept kangaroos, emus, black swans and other Australian animals, along with hundreds of native plants brought back by French explorers in peacetime. And even when war raged between France and Britain, ships known to be carrying Australian flora and fauna for ‘Josephine’s Ark’ were given safe passage.
Napoleon, too, had an abiding interest in Australia, but for quite different reasons. What Britain and its Australian colonies did not know was that French explorers visiting these shores, purporting to be naturalists on scientific expeditions, were in fact spies, gathering vital information on the colony’s defences. It was ripe for the picking.
The conquest of Australia was on Bonaparte’s agenda for world domination, and detailed plans had been made for the invasion, and for how French Australia would be governed. How it all came together and how it fell apart is a remarkable tale – history with an element of the ‘What if?’ No less remarkable is how the tempestuous relationship between Napoleon and his empress affected the fate of the Great Southern Land.
About the Author
Terry Smyth is an award-winning journalist, playwright, scriptwriter and songwriter. The youngest son of Irish immigrants, he was born and raised in the Hunter Valley, and is now based in Sydney. He has, in his time, worked as a builder’s labourer, steel worker, cotton mill hand, psychiatric nurse, professional musician and advertising copywriter.
Terry has written and produced drama, music and comedy for ABC radio, television and the stage, and continues to write and record original music.
In a 25-year career as a feature writer and columnist with Fairfax Media (on The Newcastle Herald, The Sun-Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald), he wrote extensively on historical, social and cultural subjects, and was more recently the co-founder and editor of the popular Australian history online magazine The Forgotten Times.
Terry has a longstanding interest in colonial Australian history, British and Irish history, and in American history, particularly the American Civil War.