After his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena, where he spent the last six years of his life. Though reduced from the most powerful figure in Europe to a prisoner on a rock in the South Atlantic, Napoleon was charmed by Betsy Balcombe, the pretty teenage daughter of a local merchant-and bereft when the Balcombes had to leave the island in 1818. Published in Australia as Betsy and the Emperor, this history from Anne Whitehead brings to life Napoleon's last years on St. Helena, revealing the central role of the Balcombe family and laying to rest two centuries of speculation about Betsy's relationship with Napoleon. Tracing this remarkable woman's life across Britain, St. Helena, France, and Australia, Whitehead chronicles how Betsy's extraordinary connections to London royalty and the Bonaparte family led a life worthy of a Regency romance, and depicts Napoleon at his most vulnerable, human, and reflective.
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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.Review:
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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