Napoleon Joins the Saints

JamestownOn 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.

 

October

October - James TissotOctober is a busy month for hatches, matches and despatches in A Set of Lies.
In October 1816 Sir Bernard Lacey (spymaster to the Duke of Wellington) married Constance Shaw, a marriage witnessed by his neighbour, the man now known as Claude Olivierre.
On 2 October 1882, Sir Bernard’s younger grandson, Sir Augustus Lacey, was murdered by cut throats in the back streets of London leaving his wife of little more than six weeks and his unborn son. Almost exactly 35 years later, 31 October 1917, that son (Sir Bertie) died after being hit by a car during an air raid in London.
On 21 October 1890 Sir Bernard’s youngest great grandson, Henry Lacey, was born. He lived a long life and played a critical role in preserving an important locket.
The last baronet of the Lacey line, Sir Arthur Lacey, Sir Bernard’s only great great grandson, was born 14 October 1935.
Confused? You won’t be when you read A Set of Lies.
As the history of the Lacey family unfolds the secret of the man they knew as Claude Olivierre is exposed.

 

“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.

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.

Fact and Alternate Fact

TorbayEarly in the morning of Monday 24th July 1815 HMS Bellerophon anchored in Torbay with Napoleon Bonaparte on board. Captain Maitland immediately received orders from Admiral Viscount Keith to the effect that he was to await further instructions (Prime Minister Liverpool had yet to decide on the next course of action) but under no circumstances was Maitland to allow any person to board the ship nor was any person whatsoever to be allowed to leave.
That did not stop the news of who was on board the recently arrived ship from circulating in the area and before long the Bellerophon was surrounded by an armada of over-crowded boats of all descriptions.
Napoleon, under instructions from Bernard Lacey, made frequent appearances on deck so that as many as possible could see him and he spent much of that day and the next allowing himself to be an object of curiosity.
Lacey had assured him that he could then use the extreme and unruly interest shown in him as an excuse to withdraw to his cabin, out of the sight of not only the tourists but also of the crew of the Bellerophon.
Napoleon co-operated with Lacey’s demands as he now knew that whatever the rumours on board may have been saying about exile to St Helena, it would not be he who made that journey.
He knew by then that within the next few days a doppelganger would be substituted and his new life, as a Jerseyman, and his new career, as Informant, would begin.

 

Napoleon surrenders himself to the British

Front Book coverIf the Admiral (Maitland), should send the passport for the United States therein demanded, His Majesty (Napoleon) will be happy to repair to America; but should the passport be withheld, he will willingly proceed to England, as a private individual, there to enjoy the protection of the laws of your country.”
Since no passport was forthcoming that is what he did.

In established and accepted history the perfidious English reneged on their offers of goodwill and sent him to exile on St Helena. In A Set of Lies he was persuaded by Bernard Lacey that his best option was to cooperate with the British and on the Bellerophon the General began his new life, as Jerseyman Claude Olivierre, and his new career, as informant.

 

 

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.