Revolutions

RevolutionThe British governments of two hundred years ago were not exclusively concerned with foreign wars.
Although
they had been leaders of the allies against France for nearly twenty years and had also been fighting for ‘Empire’ in North America and on the Indian Sub-continent these foreign wars were only periodically the main focus of government.
It was not because of the French Revolutionary Wars that Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812. The Revolution that was causing the establishment most fear was the Industrial Revolution.
When Perceval was assassinated it was feared, not unrealistically, that his death marked the beginning of the British Revolution .It was feared that the frequent and dangerous uprisings in the newly industrialising and politically unrepresented cities of the north would become better coordinated and that the Luddite campaigns of murder and destruction would overcome law and order.
Bonapartists in the drawing rooms of fashionable London were funding agitators to make rioters, rebels and revolutionaries out of those who only sought to protect their livelihoods. Those who wished only to protect their families’ incomes were infiltrated by those who looked to overthrow the Mad King, the profligate Prince Regent and the rest of the German Royal Family.
Matters would only get worse when tens of thousands of soldiers, able bodied and horribly wounded, were released from their regiments after the victory at Waterloo.

The only person who could rein in the very real threat of revolution was Napoleon Bonaparte. And he was on his way to St Helena. Wasn’t he?
Bernard Lacey in A Set of Lies had had confidence in the military overthrow of Napoleon and saw insurgency as a far greater danger to British security. It was his task to persuade the man, who from August 1815 was known as ‘Claude Olivierre’, to use his influence to prevent a British Revolution.

 

“Napoleon” transfers to The Northumberland

Bellerophon and Northumberland

Ennor Jolliffe has survived the testing few days since the switch was made. No one on board the Bellerophon who was not in on the game has made any indication of suspecting that the man was not who he should be, although a midshipman was lowered over the side to check that the prisoner was in his cabin when he had not appeared on deck as expected.
On 7th August 1815 “Napoleon” left HMS Bellerophon for HMS Northumberland with twenty-six members of his entourage (including five children and twelve ‘domestics’) whose devotion to the Emperor meant they would suffer exile to St Helena for as long as was necessary so that “Claude Olivierre” may live his life a free man.
When Bernard Lacey, in Dublin, heard of the successful transfer he allowed himself some moments of satisfaction and then got on with the task of gaining the trust of the man who was learning to be “Olivierre”.
History, being “A Set of Lies“, is re-written so that Ennor Jolliffe’s part is not recognised for a further two hundred years.

The Northumberland Arrives

Sir George Cockburn - HMS NorthumberlandThe man who everyone but a few believed to be Napoleon Bonaparte had been keeping to his cabin for a few days. Some on board HMS Bellerophon believed that he was distraught (or sulking) at the news that he was to be exiled to St Helena, a response encouraged by those in his entourage who knew that the man they insisted be called L‘Empereur was, in fact, heading for Dublin in the company of Bernard Lacey.
On the 6th August 1815 that most dangerous time for Lacey’s scheme, when the replacement Napoleon was on board a ship where people had seen, and spoken to, the real Emperor, was coming to an end. HMS Northumberland, under the command of Sir George Cockburn, arrived in Plymouth with a crew handpicked for its lack of knowledge of the prisoner who was to be transferred from the Bellerophon on the following day.
It had been a busy few months for Sir George, having, the year before, been heavily involved in the attack on Washington that led to the burning of the building that was painted white to disguise the damage made by the British and which became known as The White House.

 

Two Napoleons

Iron CageIt is now August 1815 and the two Napoleons in A Set of Lies are facing up to their very different new lives.
One is travelling with Bernard Lacey to Dublin where he will spend the next few months justifying his extrication from captivity. He has already begun to learn how to be Claude Olivierre. He is wary but cooperative. He does, after all, wish to do everything necessary to avoid exile to St Helena – a fate he had described to Maitland on the Bellerophon as ‘pis que la cage de fer de Tamerlan’ (‘worse than Tamerlane’s iron cage’.)
The other is allowing himself to be seen only by men who did not know him (many of the crew of the Bellerophon having been replaced) and men and women who are well aware that he began life as Ennor Jolliffe, a Cornish fisherman but who were so loyal to their Emperor that they would face exile to maintain the charade.
These, Bernard Lacey knew, were the dangerous days. If the substitution was discovered everything would be lost. The fate of England, of Europe and of the World depended on the Cornishman playing his role to perfection – and avoiding close contact with anyone who could suspect him of not being who he should be.

On the way to Torbay July 17 1815

Wardroom“During the 17th and 18th of July, the weather was very fine, and nothing of note occurred” So wrote Captain Fred Maitland. “During meals, he always entered very freely and familiarly into conversation with those about him …. asking many questions about the manners, customs, and laws of the English; often repeating … that he must gain all the information possible on these subjects, and conform himself to them, as he should probably end his life among that people.”

In A Set of Lies, as the Bellerophon sailed northwards, these were the only days Bernard Lacey had to persuade the man he called ‘General’ of the need for cooperation. If Maitland’s reports of Napoleon’s conversation are to be trusted it appears that Lacey was being successful.

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.