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July 26th, 2016

Indomitable Elza

Since The Emperor's Agent is featured in Storybundle this week, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the fascinating real woman that the book is based upon.

Elzelina Versfelt (Elza), also known as Ida St. Elme, was the perfect Napoleonic adventuress. Courtesan, actress, medium and spy, she also fought in men's clothes for fifteen years in the armies of Napoleon, alternating between male and female personas. She was the lover of one of the leading generals of the Republic, Jean-Victor Moreau, who later became her deadly enemy, or perhaps frenemy is the better word. She was also the long-time lover of one of Napoleon's marshals, Michel Ney, a red-headed country boy who was never entirely comfortable in the highest levels of society. She was also briefly involved with Napoleon himself, though that liaison paled compared to the relationship she shared with him as his secret agent. Devoted to his cause, she never renounced him, though in later life she became a champion of the forgotten women, the women of the baggage train who the dawning Victorian era tried to erase. Her eight books written after the wars are a window on this world. Mariska Pool, of the Royal Netherlands Arms and Army Museum, said, "These women barely escaped oblivion, yet they deserve far more prominence than all those well-known noble and elegant ladies who found a place in the history books purely by reason of their family connections.... Ida gave all the women a monument, the brave ones, the unfortunate ones, the ones with no choice, the ones who really loved, the opportunists, the mistresses, the wives, and all those who had their own private reasons to sign up."

The Emperor's Agent tells part of Elza's story -- the story of how she became Napoleon's agent and how she completed her first mission in his service, in the summer of 1805. I have taken some liberties with her story, but I think Elza would entirely approve.

If you'd like to read it, The Emperor's Agent is currently available in Storybundle, where it is part of a package with a number of other amazing books. You can get the bundle for as little as $5 for five books.