On 15th October 1815 a crowd of curious St Helena islanders (saints) stood patiently on the quayside to welcome the famous captive to their island. The Northumberland had finally anchored off Jamestown after its long voyage from Plymouth. But the ‘Emperor’ did not set foot on dry land for a further two days as members of his entourage inspected Longwood, the house designated to be their home after a brief sojourn at the house of one Mr Henry Porteous in Jamestown.
It was only on the morning of the 17th that he was due to set foot, after over three months on board ships, on dry land. The wharf and landing stages were crowded as every inhabitant on the whole island, black and white, were eager to get set eyes on the illustrious prisoner-of-war. It was decided that, to avoid embarrassment, the prisoner would wait until nightfall by which time, it was hoped, the majority of the curious would have abandoned their wait. But even after dark soldiers with fixed bayonets were required to force a way through the throng from the landing steps to Mr Porteous’s house.
On the 18th Napoleon inspected Longwood and many alterations and improvements were to be undertaken before he could take up residence.
Disliking the confines of Jamestown and the unceasing attention of the crowds, he transferred on the 19th October to the house of the Balcombe family where he stayed for two months after which time he finally took up residence in Longwood.
Or did he?
Of those on St Helena who had known Napoleon all would have laid down their lives for their Emperor and happily kept up the fiction of the true identity of the captive.
There were some who were in the pay of the English Secret Services and knew that the Emperor was safely in Dublin with Wellington’s spy-master, Bernard Lacey.
Most of those who came into contact with the captive, however, had never known the emperor and such was the training of the impersonator that no one guessed.
In A Set of Lies there is an alternate view of history and who the man really was who spent those two months happily living in the confines of the Balcombe’s small homestead.