No Man Is An Island . . .

Bodleian_Libraries ElbaAndrea/Cara here, I’ve recently started working on a new Lady Arianna mystery novel, and after having sent her and Lord Saybrook to Scotland in the last adventure, I decided to head south to the Mediterranean.

More specifically, to a certain island in the Mediterranean—one that will likely ring a bell with aficionados of Regency-era history. (Though there’s a little unexpected excitement along the way.) Elba was home to Napoleon during his first exile from the world stage. But I knew little else about the rugged speck of land in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Which of course meant I needed to do some research.

Aerial_view_of_Elba_2Oh, joy. Now in the spirit of full disclosure I’ll confess that I have a thing for islands. I love the sense of their being a little world unto themselves. The closeness of water seems to bathe them in a special aura—things always feel calmer and more relaxed on an island. (Yes, yes, I know—an oxymoron when it comes to Napoleon!)

Elba didn’t disappoint. I found it to be a fascinating place, rich in history and natural beauty. Allow me to share some of the highlights of my research . . .

Tuscan_archipelagoFirst let’s place it a little more exactly. It’s a mere 6 miles off the coast of Italy, which raised concerns from the start among the Allied leaders at the Congress of Vienna when Napoleon requested it as his place of exile. As the Emperor of Austria wrote to his foreign minister, Prince Metternich, “The important thing is to remove Napoleon from France, and God grant that he may be sent very far away. I do not approve of the choice of the Island of Elba as a residence for Napoleon; they take it from Tuscany, they dispose of what belongs to my family, in favour of foreigners. Besides, Napoleon remains too near to France and to Europe.” Lord Castlereagh of Britain agreed, but Tsar Alexander harped on the need to get Napoleon to abdicate quickly, and so he was grudgingly given the island as his new empire.

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