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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Nitty Gritty

BellerophonWe’re now coming up to the nitty gritty in the Set of Lies timeline.
It is two weeks since he was defeated at Waterloo and Napoleon Bonaparte has been weighing up his options – which appear limited.
The Prussians and the French royalists want him not only captured but executed. He has to leave France, that is obvious even to him.
He had been in Paris on June 25th but had been forced to leave and had retired to Malmaison (all of 7 miles from the centre of the city) to consider his future.
He was in close contact with the British who were leading him on. They were suggesting that he and his entourage would be given the opportunity to slip through the naval blockade from France and cross the Atlantic without hindrance to the United States – still only 39 years into their independence. They suggested they would give him passports and free passage and told him to travel to Rochefort.
He travelled from Malmaison with an immense amount of baggage including many cases of books, clothing, tableware, family portraits and memorabilia of his life and career.
He arrived at the coast with his small but loyal entourage on 8th July 1815 where Admiral Maitland was waiting on HMS Bellerophon.
None of this I question in A Set of Lies.
What I do question is what happened next….