Long before Eva Peron turned Argentina upside down, Elisa Lynch brought Paraguay to its knees.
In 1854, an ambitious Irish courtesan met a South American General in Paris and returned with him to Paraguay. When he became President, she became his de facto first lady and together they changed the course of the country's history. Consumed by desire for Napoleonic glory, General President Lopez took Paraguay into a disastrous war against her neighbours. Elisa Lynch went with him on campaign, turning conditions of war to her advantage where she could. He was killed in the northern hills but she survived, only to be expelled from Paraguay and die an obscure death in Paris.
Reviled and respected, loved and distrusted, Elisa Lynch has been described as both a heroic companion to Lopez and a malign enchantress. In The Shadows of Elisa Lynch, Sian Rees tells her fascinating story of recovered history.