Betsy and the Emperor

The true story of Napoleon, a pretty girl, a Regency rake and an Australian colonial misadventure

Anne Whitehead
AUD $32.99
Availability: Print on demand

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 that 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.

'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 bio:

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.

Category: Other books
ISBN: 9781760112936
Table Of Contents: Preface


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


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


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



Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: August 2015
Page Extent: 464
Format: Paperback - C format
Age: 0 - 0
Subject: Biography & True Stories