Fitzroy Somerset


Monday I blogged on History Hoydens about some of Wellington’s aides-de-camp who appear as characters in Imperial Scandal. I thought it would be fun to repeat the post here as part of the Imperial Scandal back story.

For more on Fitzroy, Gordon, and the others, check out the letter I just added to the Fraser Correspondence, where Aline shares her thoughts on Wellington’s ADCs with Gisèle.

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This Friday, 15 June, is the 197th anniversary of the Duchess of Richmond’s ball at which the Duke of Wellington learned that Napoleon was attacking not from the west as Wellington had expected but on the Allied Army’s eastern flank, trying to separate them from their Prussian allies. Poring over a map of Belgium in the Duke of Richmond’s study, Wellington is said to have declared, “Napoleon has humbugged me.” A number of officers joined their regiments straight from the ball and fought the next day at Quatre Bras in their ball dress. Monday, 18 June, is the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo itself.

Both the ball and the battle figure prominently in my latest release, Imperial Scandal. My hero, Malcolm Rannoch, is a diplomat and intelligence agent, but Wellington presses him into servicein the battle delivering messages. I knew early on in the plotting process that I wanted to have Malcolm delivering messages during the battle, and I was very pleased to discover in my research that Wellington is actually said to have pressed civilians into service because so many of his aides-de-camp were wounded. Several of those aides-de-camp are characters in Imperial Scandal and in other fictional accounts of Waterloo, notably Georgette Heyer’s brilliant An Infamous Army. One of the challenges of writing Imperial Scandal was bringing them to life as characters who were at once unique to my story and true to the actual people. Here, in honor of the anniversary of Waterloo, are some brief notes about a few of them.

Lieutenant- Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon K.C.B. – younger brother of the diplomat Lord Aberdeen (later foreign secretary and prime minister). He was shot while remonstrating with Wellington to remove himself from fire. Gordon had his leg amputated and later died of his wounds in Wellington’s bedchamber at the inn in the village of Waterloo that Wellington had made his Headquarters. Dr. Hume reports that when he informed Wellington of Gordon’s death, Wellington said, “Well, thank God, I don’t know what it is to lose a battle; but certainly nothing can be more painful than to win one with the loss of so many of one’s friends.”

Lord Fitzroy Somerset - youngest son of the 5th Duke of Beaufort. He joined Wellington’s staff in 1807 and became his military secretary in 1811. In August 1814 he married Emily Harriet Wellesley-Pole, Wellington’s niece. She was in Brussels with him and gave birth to a baby daughter just weeks before the battle. Fitzroy was shot in the arm during the battle when he and Wellington were just a hands breadth apart. Fiztroy’s right arm had to be amputated. Before they carried it off, he insisted on removing a ring his wife had given him. He quickly learned to write with his left hand and resumed his duties as Wellington’s secretary. He was created Baron Raglan in 1852 and given command of the British troops sent to the Crimea in 1854. He died there in 1855 from complications brought on by an attack of dysentery.

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Fox Canning
– Third son of Stratford Canning. Died of a gunshot wound to the stomach in the arms of his friend Lord March late in the battle, a tragic scene which Heyer beautifully dramatizes in An Infamous Army and which I also attempted to recreate in Imperial Scandal.

Charles Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March - eldest son of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond. He was an aide-de-camp to Wellington in the Peninsula and took a musket ball in the chest at Orthez which was never removed. During the Waterloo campaignl he was assigned to the Prince of Orange’s staff. He was present at his mother’s famous ball. After the news about the French, his sister Georgiana slipped off with him to help pack his things. At Waterloo, his friend Curzon died in his arms and then Colonel Canning later in the battle. Shortly after March carried the wounded Prince of Orange from the field. In 1817 he married Lady Caroline Paget, daughter of the Marquess of Anglesey (formerly the Earl of Uxbridge) who commanded the cavalry at Waterloo. March succeeded his father as Duke of Richmond and was active in Tory politics.

Have cameos by real historical figures in historical novels inspired you to research the real people? Writers, what particular challenges have you faced writing about historical figures who have also appeared in other historical novels?

Two fascinating blogs this week, one by Jean on All About Romance and one by Lauren Willig on History Hoydens examined the tendency in historical fiction to write from the English perspective when it comes to British/French conflicts, particularly in regards to the Napoleonic Wars. Both post were very timely for me as this past week I finished the first draft of my Waterloo book (just making my self-imposed December 1 deadline :-)).

While most of the major characters in the book are British (whether real people like the Duke of Wellington, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and Lady Caroline Lamb, or fictional characters such as Charles/Malcolm, Aline, David, and Simon), Mélanie/Suzanne is of course a French agent. The last third or so of the book takes place during the Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo and moves between the battlefield and Brussels. Charles goes back and forth between the two. Mel is in Brussels, helping tend the wounded (their house resembles a makeshift hospital). David, Simon, Aline, and the other British characters are as on tenterhooks for news of the battle. So is Mélanie, but in a very different way. And then when everyone round her is celebrating victory, she’s dealing with the final end of a tarnished dream. Raoul is practically the only character she can talk to openly (it was interesting writing scenes between them when she’s still spying).

Waterloo is so iconic, but most of the fiction I’ve read about it is written from the British perspective. Though one of my historical romances, “Shores of Desire”, deals with Waterloo and had a French hero and a Scottish heroine. I thinking writing about Waterloo from a slightly different perspective is what gives me the guts to take on something that’s been written about so much and so well.

What do you think about the way English/French conflicts, particularly the Napoleonic Wars, are handled in historical fiction? What novels have you read that offer perspectives you find particularly interesting?

From now through the end of the year, I’ll be drawing the name of one commenting each week and giving away a copy of the gorgeous Advance Reading Copies of Vienna Waltz. I’ll post the winner next Saturday, December 11, so be sure to check back and then look for a new contest next week.

I’ve also just posted a new letter to the Fraser Correspondence from Raoul to Mélanie.

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