The story of Napoleon and Betsy Balcombe is an unusual and fascinating tale. A fallen
Emperor who once controlled most of Europe makes friends with an impudent, pretty
and spirited young English girl, just about to celebrate her thirteenth birthday. Betsy
produced a book full of interest, but notwithstanding that the book wanders backwards
and forward chronologically, the general tenor of the relationship between this young
girl and Napoleon is beyond question, and it was of an unusual and extremely friendly
nature. Napoleon’s fall from an unprecedented position of power to humiliating
confinement must have been an impossible burden to have lived with, and yet, despite
this — or possibly because of it — Napoleon befriended this child and held genuine
affection for her. Despite the naivety, the warmth of the friendship between the exemperor
and little ‘Mees’ Balcombe shines through, and her text is well-worth
providing in this new edition.
Napoleon was at the Briars for eight weeks, but the family were very close to the
community at Longwood, some two miles further up hill and inland, and visited
weekly, sometimes more often. It was here, as Betsy matured and grew more
responsible, that the friendship developed, to the extent that she assisted Napoleon
with his attempts at English. She was daring as well as impudent and with an
irrepressible sense of humour she unlocked the inner child in Napoleon that led to the
famous friendship. He found her boldness amusing and occasionally alarming. It must
have been a welcome diversion from his darker thoughts.
234 x 156 mm • hardback • 160 pages • 40 b&w and colour
Betsy Balcombe (later Lucia
Elizabeth Abell) was a young girl
coming up to her thirteenth birthday
when Napoleon was forced upon her
family as a temporary guest at the
Briars, St Helena. Following his move
to Longwood two months later, Betsy
maintained and built upon her close
friendship with the fallen emperor.
Elizabeth Abell published her
recollections in 1844 and her book
became an instant best seller. Her own
life was one of tragedy and distress
and in later life she was given a land
grant by Napoleon III in ‘in memory
of her comfort to his uncle’.
This feature is currently in development.