Le quatorze juillet

 

Young Corsican Idealist NapoleonNot yet 20 years old Napoleon Bonaparte was nowhere near Paris when the Bastille was stormed on July 14 1789. In many ways, that has been a much over-rated event. There were no prisoners of note to be freed so the attack was more of a symbolic act (and an attempt to get hold of the vast amount of gunpowder stored in the fortress).
A sous lieutenant in the most prestigious regiment of artillery in the French Army, Napoleon supported the revolution but spent those early years of turmoil on an extended leave of absence on Corsica leading a battalion of republican volunteers in the complex war for the independence of the island of his birth.
26 years later to the day Napoleon’s representatives were concluding their negotiations with Maitland on the Bellerophon. Napoleon, holding court in the Hotel in the Grand Place of Rochefort, still had hopes of sailing to the United States or, as an alternative, repeating the experience of his brother Lucien who had lived under a system of parole in Ludlow, Shropshire and on his estate near Worcester between 1810 and 1814.
Amongst the many tons of baggage Napoleon had with him in Rochefort were favourite portraits, uniforms and other mementoes of his life including a flag of Corsica.

In A Set of Lies it is this flag that Skye Lacey discovered which, along with other items, led to her suspicions about a previous occupant of her house on the Isle of Wight.

 

Bernard Lacey

Bernard LaceyWhile Napoleon Bonaparte waited aboard his frigate off Rochefort hoping for safe passage through the British blockade and negotiating with Captain Frederick Maitland on the Bellerophon (both in accepted history and in A Set of Lies) Bernard Lacey (in A Set of Lies) is busy.
On the 9th July 1815 he spent some hours in Paris with the Duke of Wellington finalising the details of the scheme that had been in the planning since 1802. On the 12th July he was on the Isle of Wight arranging with Lady Frances Frensham for a certain Cornishman, no longer Ennor Jolliffe, to be moved with great secrecy to Plymouth.
On the 13th July he left the island for Rochefort where his mixture of charm, threat and skilled diplomacy would change the course of history. Upon Napoleon’s being in the hands of the British, it would be up to Lacey to persuade the man he referred to as ‘The General’ that there was an alternative to trial, to execution or to exile to a remote island in the South Atlantic.
Anthony Andrews, when he played the Scarlet Pimpernel, is my idea of Bernard Lacey as he would have been in 1802 when he first came across Ennor Jolliffe and the plan first formed in his mind.
Read A Set of Lies and let me know who you would have cast.

Captain F L Maitland

MaitlandCaptain Frederick Lewis Maitland was born in 1777, an aristocrat as his grand-father was an Earl. He was always going to be a naval man, as his father had been.
He was 36 years old in the summer of 1815 when he experienced arguably the most important weeks of his life.
Captain of the Bellerophon, he was stationed off Rochefort, a small but important port on the west coast of France in what was a major British blockade of the Biscay coast to prevent Napoleon Bonaparte from escaping. It was Maitland’s ‘decided opinion’ that any escape would not be from busier ports such as Bordeaux but would be from the Rochefort area. He obeyed his orders to cover the coast by positioning the vessels under his command widely but he kept Rochefort for himself.
Maitland writes: “Nothing of consequence occurred on the 9th; but on the 10th of July, at day-light, the officer of the watch informed me that a small schooner was standing out from the French squadron towards the ship. (The Bellerophon) upon which I ordered every thing to be ready for making sail in chace [sic], supposing she might be sent for the purpose of reconnoitring. On approaching, she hoisted a flag of truce, and joined us at seven A.M. She proved to be the Mouche, tender to the ships of war at Isle d’Aix, and had on board, General Savary Duc de Rovigo, and Count Las Cases, chamberlain to Buonaparte, charged with a letter addressed to the Admiral commanding the British Cruisers before the port of Rochefort.”
This letter confirmed that Napoleon and his entourage were, indeed, in the Rochefort vicinity and that they expected passports for their safe passage to the United States of America.
Thus began four days of negotiations that lasted until 15th July and ended with Napoleon’s surrender to the good will of the British.
In the days that followed Maitland (in A Set of Lies) met another man, Bernard Lacey, who was to be instrumental in deciding Napoleon’s fate.