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The Emperor's Shadow

Bonaparte, Betsy and the Balcombes of St Helena

Anne Whitehead

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Allen & Unwin
05 May 2016
After Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, he was sent into exile on St Helena, arriving in October 1815. For the six years until his death, he was 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 and entertained by Betsy Balcombe, the pretty teenage daughter of a local merchant. Anne Whitehead brings to life Napoleon's time on St Helena and the web of connections around the globe which framed his last years. Betsy's father, William Balcombe, was well-connected in London, and he smuggled letters and undertook a clandestine mission to Paris for Napoleon. Betsy's friendship with Napoleon cast a shadow over the rest of her colourful life. She married a Regency cad, who soon left her and their daughter, and she travelled to Australia in 1823 with her father, who was appointed the first Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales. After her father was exposed for fraud and the family lost their fortune, she returned to London and published a memoir which turned her into a celebrity. With her extraordinary connections to royalty in London and to the Bonaparte family and their courtiers, Betsy Balcombe led a life worthy of a Regency romance. 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.
By:   Anne Whitehead
Imprint:   Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication:   Australia
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 33mm
Weight:   450g
ISBN:   9781760113513
ISBN 10:   1760113514
Pages:   464
Publication Date:   05 May 2016
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Anne Whitehead is an author, historian and former TV producer-director. Her previous books include Paradise Mislaid, winner of the 1998 NSW Premier's Award for Australian History, and Bluestocking in Patagonia. She lives in Sydney.

Reviews for The Emperor's Shadow: Bonaparte, Betsy and the Balcombes of St Helena

Anne Whitehead deftly weaves a lively, poignant tale of Napoleon's last years on St Helena and the precocious teenager whose impudent charm briefly enlivened his exile. Her indefatigable pursuit of a tantalising archival trail takes her readers from St Helena to England, Scotland, France and New South Wales, uncovering a life curiously shadowed by its early brush with fame. -- Professor Penny Russell, University of Sydney, author of Savage or Civilised? A fascinating exploration of the life journey of Betsy Balcombe Abell from St Helena to Sydney to London. This is a well-researched and readable history of the dramatic repercussions for an English family of its proximity to Napoleon in his final years on St Helena. -- Professor Ann Curthoys, University of Sydney St Helena: an exiled emperor in the garden pavilion and in the house a pretty flighty teenager. And therefrom spring some fascinating narratives, ending up, after a disastrous marriage to a stylish cad, in colonial New South Wales. -- Marion Halligan, award-winning author Deftly woven... Whitehead's history is thorough, possibly the best account of Betsy, interesting for what it tells us about the life of an ordinary woman. Sydney Morning Herald The most meticulously researched version yet of Betsy's incredible life Herald Sun

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