Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tomb Raider: Napoleon's Fascination with Egypt, a guest post by Anne Cleeland

Novelist Anne Cleeland is here today with an essay that explores the phenomenon of Egyptomania during the early 19th century and how it came about.  Her new novel Daughter of the God-King, just out from Sourcebooks, unites mystery, adventure, and romance in the story of Miss Hattie Blackhouse, a young woman who travels from Regency England to Egypt in search of her parents and turns up a trail of secrets.  Thanks to the author, I'm able to offer a giveaway at the end (US readers).


Tomb Raider: Napoleon's Fascination with Egypt
Anne Cleeland

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Europe in general and England in particular went through a craze for all things Egyptian. Regency drawing rooms featured crocodile-legged settees and lotus blossom wallpaper, while drawing room hostesses sported jewelry that imitated the geometrical designs worn by ancient Egyptian women.

Although the wonders of ancient Egypt had been known for centuries, this particular craze was largely instigated by General Napoleon Bonaparte, a master strategist and a master propagandist. In 1797, he suggested to France’s post-revolutionary leaders that he should lead a military expedition to seize Egypt, with the treble aim of protecting France’s trade with the Orient, disrupting Britain’s trade, and opening up a sea passage similar to the modern-day Suez Canal. Unspoken was the ambitious general’s desire to be seen walking in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and indeed, one of the reasons the French approved of the expedition was to get the power-hungry and popular general out of the country for a time.

Along with his military forces, Napoleon included nearly two hundred scientists and explorers, who were tasked with cataloguing the ancient monuments and in particular, the Pharaohs’ tombs that had so captivated the public. Among other achievements, this expedition is credited with discovering the western valley in the Valley of the Kings and the famous Rosetta Stone, the key that facilitated translation of the ancient hieroglyphics. Over the next dozen years, Napoleon’s expedition created a catalog of meticulous drawings and descriptions of the monuments, tombs, and treasures—the most ambitious one to date. As a result, Egyptian fashions became all the rage.

During his time in Egypt, Napoleon took every opportunity to cement his image as a great military leader; Alexander the Great was said to have spent time alone in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramids, and therefore Napoleon did, also. Before the Battle of the Pyramids, when the French defeated the native Egyptian forces, Napoleon is said to have exhorted his troops to remember that forty centuries of history looked down upon them.

Napoleon’s plans came crashing down when his navy was defeated by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, and once he realized he didn’t have the forces to conquer the area, he quietly withdrew back to France, to stir up trouble there. The legacy of his ambitions remained, though, and the ultimate irony was that most of the French-catalogued artifacts ended up in the British Museum, after the British established control in Egypt. Unfortunately for the rest of Europe, the undaunted French general then went on to other successes to offset his Egyptian setback, and the rest, as they say, is history.

From Anne Cleeland comes the second book in her Regency adventure series—Daughter of the God-King (Sourcebooks, November 2013).  The daughter of world-famous Egyptologists is living an uneventful life in England until her parents disappear while working their latest find in the Valley of the Kings. Suddenly, the various factions from Napoleon’s last war are pursuing her, and she must travel to Egypt to unravel the mystery. Along the way, she meets her parents’ enigmatic agent, who also appears to be pursuing her—although his reasons may be more personal than professional. What secret is buried in the tomb of the God-King’s daughter? The answer will change her life forever, and could set the world ablaze in yet another war. Please visit, or see on Amazon to order.

Anne Cleeland holds a degree in English from UCLA as well as a degree in law from Pepperdine University, and is a member of the California State Bar. She writes a contemporary mystery series set in New Scotland Yard as well as a historical fiction series set in the Regency period. A member of Mystery Writers of America and the Historical Novel Society, she lives in California and has four children. Her website is


Please fill out the form below for a chance to win a copy of Daughter of the God-King (US only).  Deadline Wednesday, November 13.
This giveaway is now closed.


  1. Thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity, Sarah!

    1. My pleasure, Anne, and thanks for an intriguing post!