J. David Markham
Napoleonic History

To Befriend an Emperor: Betsy Balcombe's Memoirs of Napoleon on St Helena

Young Elizabeth Balcombe, or Betsy to friends and family, found life on the remote island of St Helena intolerably dull. Most fourteen-year-olds would. Her father had been posted to that unforgiving station in the Atlantic and, being a family man, he took his family with him.

Life was bleak in Balcombe's bungalow on the fringe of James Town. But then, in October 1815, the situation was transformed by the arrival of an unusual visitor. Napoleon Bonaparte, one-time master of Europe, now prisoner and exile, stepped ashore. The Balcombes, like all the islanders, were amazed. And even more so when Napoleon, taking a fancy to their bungalow (the Briars) moved in with them. Betsy, overcoming her surprise at sharing her home with an emperor, delighted in his company and the two became firm friends.

Miss Betsy Balcombe made the most of her time with the world's most famous prisoner, keenly observing all around her, noting down conversations, recording moods. The result is a unique set of memoirs which records in astonishing detail an almost unbelievable story. That of how a precocious teenager and an emperor talked, argued, played, confided and teased their way through grim years of exile on the barren rock of St Helena.

This attractive, illustrated edition brings this remarkable story back to life.

Selected as book of the month by Foundation Napoléon, Paris.

"Considering the natural interest aroused by the story of the Emperor and the gamine (including many novels, children's books and even projected movies about the incident), readers interested in Napoleon's stay on St. Helena will want to own a copy of this book. Ravenhall has given us an excellent new addition of Betsy Balcombe's charming (and sometimes surprisingly insightful) memoirs of her youthful friendship with the exiled Napoleon. French historian Marcel Dunan called these memoirs "one of the most pleasant sources to read" about Napoleon on St. Helena. Lord Roseberry has commented that "a strange mildew" rested on all the memoirs of St. Helena, but surely Betsy's recollections have little of the mildewed smell about them. Ravenhall has modernized the text, updating spelling and punctuation...Names left blank, in the nineteenth-century convention for protecting the identities of certain personages, have been identified where possible, and footnotes have been added. Otherwise the text of the original has been preserved. A useful introduction fleshing out the story told by Betsy, by Napoleonic expert J. David Markham, is also included. Numerous well-selected black and white illustrations have been added to the text.
Tom Holmberg, The Napoleon Series

Selected Works

Biography/History
The story of a fascinating but often overlooked period of Napoleon's career. The time between Waterloo and Napoleon's surrender to the British is filled with intrigue and possibilities, and this book covers all of the exciting details, often in the words of those who were there!
Six alternative history stories answered by six noted historians. Introduction and introductory material, as well as a response to one alternative history, by J. David Markham, editor.
Six alternative history stories answered by six noted historians. Introduction and introductory material, as well as a response to one alternative history, by J. David Markham, editor.
“The ultimate biography of Napoleon for the average person and students of Napoleon alike.”
--Ben Weider, President, International Napoleonic Society
The French version, with a preface by Jean Tulard, dean of French Napoleonic scholars,
The Russian version of Napoleon for Dummies. It translates as 'Napoleon for the Teapots.'
This is the Dutch version of Napoleon for Dummies.
A vivid view of Napoleon’s last years and a major contribution to Napoleonic scholarship.

Winner of the 2005 International Napoleonic Society’s President’s Choice award for Napoleonic Literature.
Easy to read, well researched and documented, it is the one book on Napoleon for student and scholar alike!

Winner of the 2004 Napoleonic Society of America Emperor's Award for Napoleonic Literature
Imperial Glory is the first complete English translation of Napoleon’s Bulletins and also contains numerous reports by Napoleon’s marshals and others, most of which have never been published in English.

Winner of the 2003 International Napoleonic Society Presidents Choice Award and the 2007 Count Las Cases Memorial Prize for Napoleonic Literature in English from the Instituto Napoleónico México-Francia.

Winner of the 2003 International Napoleonic Society President's Choice Award for Napoleonic Literature.

Betsy Balcombe's memoirs tell the story of her relationship with Napoleon on St Helena, the island to which he was exiled after defeat at Waterloo. I wrote the introduction to this edition.

Selected as book of the month by Foundation Napoléon, Paris.
Eight Napoleonic experts review Napoleon's life and legacy.
DVD/Video/Audio
An abridged audio book that includes all introductory material and some of the best stories found in the paperback version. I had the honor to be one of the readers.
History Channel production that tells the stories of the greatest military commanders of all time, including segments with J. David Markham on Napoleon and Julius Caesar.
A group of British and one American (J. David Markham) tell the amazing story of Napoleon's career.
Ben Weider, J. David Markham and others set the stage for one of history's greatest mysteries: How did Napoleon die?
Encyclopedia
A two-volume work on the world powers of the 19th and early 20th century. I contributed 10 articles.
A wealth of information on this exciting epoch. I contributed 27 articles.
A well-regarded basic reference work to which I contributed articles on Napoleon, Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar.
The Encyclopedia of Leadership brings together for the first time everything that is known and truly matters about leadership as part of the human experience. Includes my article on Napoleon Bonaparte.