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.


Crossing the Equator

Crossing The EquatorIt seems a long time since HMS Northumberland and its accompanying squadron left Plymouth heading for Jamestown, St Helena yet it is only six weeks and the man previously known as Ennor Jolliffe is playing his role to perfection.
Treated as l’Empereur by the French contingent and as a respected General by the largely English crew everything he said and did was exactly as would be expected by the man who had recently been Emperor of the French.
His routine on board was fixed. He kept to his cabin throughout each morning, appearing on deck in uniform at two in the afternoon, retiring at four to the after cabin for a game of chess or piquet before repairing to his cabin to prepare for dinner – always served at six. There was little to break the monotony of the long voyage.
On 15th August, Napoleon’s birthday, a special dinner was held.
On 23rd August they took on fresh provisions in Funchal, Madeira but they did not stop at Tenerife (which they passed on 27th August) or the Cape Verde Islands (1st September).
A young woman travelling with his large entourage was encouraged to allow ‘the distinguished passenger’ to pass at least some of his time in female company and in June 1916 a baby was born whose paternity she never divulged.
On 23rd September the squadron crossed the Equator – in that year the Equinox – the event was celebrated in traditional form with offerings made to Neptune though ‘Napoleon’ played no part in the festivities.
They would not reach St Helena until 15th October.
The world was somewhat larger in those days….

“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.

What to do with Boney?

LiverpoolNow they’ve got him what should the British Government do with Napoleon? As the Bellerophon sailed slowly northwards there was much discussion by the cabinet of Prime Minister Liverpool.
Should they hand him over to their allies the Prussians, who had been instrumental in the victory at Waterloo? Should they hand him back to the French? Both of these options would lead to his swift execution.
If they allow him to set foot in England, under Common Law, he would have to be put on trial. A trial would necessarily be a long drawn out affair and would be embarrassing to many politicians, military men and members of high society exposing them as Bonaparte sympathisers. A trial in open court would probably lead to the assassination of the accused who was hated by as many as admired him.
Should they keep him offshore and arrange for his exile? The exile to Elba had been hastily planned and an obvious failure so a far off island had to be identified. St Helena was one option, but it was a far from obvious choice being a busy staging post for ships to the Cape Colony and to India and in the policing of the African Slave Trade.
Should they grant him parole? Many French officers, captured in the previous twenty years of war, including Napoleon’s brother, Lucien, had been offered the opportunity to live the lives of country gentlemen having taken an oath not to participate in any activities related to the war. This was an option favoured by many as it would show Britain in a good light, treating their enemy with the respect owing to a Head of State. However, it was thought likely that, were he to live openly, he would not survive for long. There were a great many who would want to be ‘the man who killed Boney’.
One other option was known to The Duke of Wellington.
Since 1802 he had been kept informed of, and had given his tacit approval to, a plan devised by Bernard Lacey of the British secret service, a man he had known since they had served together in the Low Countries in the 1793.
Lacey had found a doppelganger, a man who could impersonate Napoleon in exile since the prisoner would be seen only by people who did not know him or men and women who would rather die than see Napoleon held prisoner.
The part played by this doppelganger would enable the British Government to gain far more from Napoleon’s surrender than simply the end to the French wars.
All Wellington had to do was persuade the Prime Minister (Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool) of the possibilities.


St Helena

JamestownAt the end of May in the year 1881 Sir Augustus Lacey and his future wife’s father are on their way back from The Cape to England when their ship spends three days anchored off Jamestown, on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

Sir Augustus knows nothing of his family’s connections with the island.

He does not know that his grand-father (Sir Bernard Lacey) visited the island several times between late 1815 and the Spring of 1821 as the charade was maintained.

He does not know that the uncle he does not know exists (William Lacey) had spent three years on the island in 1844. William was a geologist and his letters back to his family on the Isle of Wight were bound in leather by Claude and kept in the library of The Lodge. No one looked at them until they were discovered in June 2014 by Professor Carl Witherby and Skye Lacey (a distant cousin of Augustus’s) as they searched for clues they did not know exist to solve the mystery of A Set of Lies.