Waterloo anniversary


Happy weekend! London Gambit is now up for pre-order and has it’s own pages on this site (the trade paperback will be available about the same time as the e-book, but won’t be up for pre-order). Above is a picture of Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington London residence, that I took on a research trip a few years ago. The denouement of London Gambit takes place at a banquet at Apsley House on the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. The timeline of the series naturally put the book in June 1818, three years after Waterloo. Perhaps because I was subconsciously aware of this, echoes of the battle reverberate through the book. I needed a major social event for the denouement of the book, and I really wanted it to revolve round the anniversary of Waterloo on 18 June. I knew from a research visit to Apsley House, that Wellington had given banquets for Waterloo veterans on the anniversary of the battle.

Apsley House  (which stands on the edge of Hyde Park at Hyde Park Corner) was designed by Robert Adam and built in the 1770s for the second Earl of Bathurst (who had been Baron Apsley before he succeeded to the earldom). Wellington’s brother Richard, Marquess Wellesley, purchased Apsley House in 1807 and engaged James Wyatt to improve it (with the assistance of Thomas Cundy). Though the grateful nation was offered to build Wellington a London home, Wellington instead bought Apsley House from his brother in 1817 (to help Richard out of financial difficulties). In 1818 Wellington engaged Benjamin Dean Wyatt, James Wyatt’s son, to make repairs to the house. Wyatt installed the nude statue of Napoleon by Antonio Canova, which Wellington had acquired, at the base of the stairs.

But Wellington was still British ambassador to France in 1818. He probably didn’t give his first banquet for Waterloo veterans at Apsley House until 1820, and the first of his banquets took place in a dining room that could only seat 35, so the guests were limited to senior officers. After the Waterloo Gallery was completed in 1830, up to 85 guests could attend, including guests who had not been present at the battle, but the guest list was limited to men. While I worked on the first draft of London Gambit, I danced round what to do with the Waterloo anniversary. In the end I decided that Wellington could have come to London for the Waterloo anniversary in 1818 even if he did not in fact do so, and that he could have held a banquet with the guest list I needed. I blogged more about this recently on History Hoydens.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Mélanie and I had a lot of fun seeing a local production of Kismet last night and today we went to a “Pajama jam” (pic below) to which Mélanie insisted on wearing her ballgown and didn’t mind a bit that she looked different. She is very much my daughter!






Imperial Scandal

Wellington’s staff officers were some of my favorite real historical characters in Imperial Scandal. Here’s a glimpse of them interacting with Malcolm Rannoch and the other fictional characters on the night of 17 June 1815, the night before the Battle of Waterloo.

“Malcolm. Davenport.” Fitzroy Somerset, as usual, was bent over a pile of paperwork by the light of a single, guttering candle in the inn at Waterloo that served as Wellington’s temporary Headquarters. “Have you brought food?”

“And wine.” Malcolm pulled a bottle out from under his sodden greatcoat and set it on the gateleg table. Davenport did likewise. “Where’s the duke?”

“Asleep. I hope. I’m to call him between two and three so he can write letters. He’s been waiting all evening for news from Blücher.”

“Still nothing?” Davenport asked.

Fitzroy shook his head. “But Müffling continues to insist Blücher can and will support us tomorrow. So much depends on it.” A rare frown creased Fitzroy’s face.

“Have a glass of wine.” Malcolm, having extracted the cork from one of the bottles, splashed wine into a glass and held it out to Fitzroy. “For once you almost look worried. Which is enough to send your friends into a panic.”

Fitzroy grinned and accepted the glass.

Malcolm stripped off his greatcoat. “I sent your message on to Harriet in Antwerp. Suzette had seen the Duchess of Richmond, who had word that Harriet’s well, as is the baby.”

Fitzroy smiled. “Thanks.” He took a sip of wine. “The duke’s marked out a position at Mont-Saint-Jean. He would have preferred the ground on the opposite ridge at La Belle Alliance, but De Lancey thought it too extended. The emperor’s taken up the ground at La Belle Alliance. Boney had his batteries fire off some shots to try to smoke out our position, and some of our lads had the bad sense to fire back and give themselves away.”

“And so the duke’s in a temper?” Davenport picked up a glass of wine.

“He was. He’s calmed down a bit. Or he’s so busy he’s forgot he was angry.”

“You back, Malcolm?” Canning strolled into the room, yawning. “Still don’t have the wit to see when you’re well out of it?”

Malcolm took a sip of wine. “Can’t stand the thought of you lot having all the fun.”

“Ha. You don’t believe that for a moment. I’ve heard you talk about war. Poor me a glass of that wine, will you? The beds are too damned hard for sleeping.”

Alexander Gordon followed Canning into the room. “Is that wine? Always said you were a good man, Malcolm. For a diplomat.” He spoke in a cheerful voice. Their quarrel over why he had left Stuart’s ball might never have been. He moved to the table and accepted a glass of wine from Malcolm. “Lord, will the rain never let up? This is going to be the slowest battle ever, with all of us slogging through the mud.”

Fitzroy looked up from his paperwork. “There’s still time for it to dry out.”

Gordon dropped into a chair with his glass of wine. “You’re a damned optimist, Somerset.”

“If by that you mean I’m not given to exaggerated flights of fancy, I’ll concede the point.” Fitzroy held a lump of red sealing wax over his candle.

“You wrote to Harriet that we and the Prussians had repulsed the French.”

Fitzroy dripped the melting wax onto his folded letter. “The French didn’t overrun us.”

“What would you call our retreat today?” Gordon asked. “Advancing backward?”

Fitzroy pressed a seal into the wax. “When you’re married, Gordon, you’ll understand.”

“Malcolm is married.” Canning looked up from his wine to come to Gordon’s defense. “You wouldn’t catch him telling such a farrago to Suzanne.”

Gordon snorted. “Suzanne wouldn’t believe it.”

“Suzanne’s lived through battles before,” Fitzroy said. “Though she always had nerves of steel as I recall,” he added, looking at Malcolm. “Even when you first brought her to Lisbon.”

“She’d already been through a great deal,” Malcolm said. Even more, he had learned last autumn in Vienna, than he had at first supposed.

Gordon stretched his feet out toward the fire. “I miss Spain. Battle seemed friendlier in Spain.”

“By the way,” Canning said, “I saw Harry Smith earlier. With Lambert’s brigade from Ghent and not long before that from America.”

“Is Juana with him?” Malcolm asked. Juana Smith, like Suzanne, was a Spanish war bride.

“Yes, though he’s sending her to Brussels in the morning.”

Davenport, who had been leaning against the wall, moved toward Fitzroy. “Could I beg a sheet of writing paper?”

“Certainly. Ink as well.”

Davenport took the paper and ink and retired to a chair in the corner by the fireplace.

The door opened again, letting in a gust of wind, a hail of raindrops, and Geoffrey Blackwell. “Damnable weather. It’s all I can do to keep my instruments clean.”

“Sit down by the fire.” Canning got up to offer Blackwell his chair.

“No, no.” Blackwell waved a hand. “I may have nearly thirty years on you, Canning, but I’m not quite decrepit. Besides, have to get back to my patients. I have a good half dozen who’ll pull through if we can stave off wound fever. Only came to see if Malcolm was back.”

“Allie’s holding up well,” Malcolm said.

Blackwell met his gaze and colored slightly. “Thank you.”

“David and Simon are in Brussels. They and Suzanne and Allie and Cordelia have the house full of wounded soldiers. You trained Suzette and Allie well.”

Blackwell gave a crisp nod. “Glad to hear it. God knows there must be need enough of nursing in Brussels.”

Davenport crossed to Malcolm and held out a folded piece of paper. “Would you mind keeping this and giving it to Cordelia? In the event I don’t return.”

Malcolm met his gaze for a moment. Davenport’s expression was as armored as ever, but his blue eyes looked as though they could be smashed with a word. “Of course,” Malcolm said, and tucked the letter into his pocket.

“Thank you.” Davenport was silent for a moment. “It’s a damnable thing to find, on the eve of what’s probably going to be the worst battle in which one’s ever participated, that on the whole one would prefer not to die.”

“I can think of another Harry who couldn’t sleep before a battle against the French. He came through well enough.”

Davenport grinned. “ ’Fraid I’m not up to a St. Crispin’s Day speech.”

“I don’t think it’s much Wellington’s style, either.”

By the fireplace, Gordon let out a laugh.

“You’re impossible,” Canning said. “I don’t know why your friends put up with you.”

“My fellow staff officers don’t have any choice.”

“You have friends outside the staff. In fact, it’s disgusting how many friends you have.”

“Most of them don’t have any choice, either. Campbell and Flemming grew up with me–”

“Will Flemming?” Malcolm asked.

For a moment Gordon went still. Then he gave a deliberate smile, a trifle too broad. “Yes, he and Jack Campbell and I grew up on neighboring estates. Those are the friends one can never get rid of, don’t you know.”

“Quite.” Malcolm stared at Gordon. Between them Gordon and Canning had given him a new piece of the puzzle. He reached for his greatcoat–still damp, but at least it would keep the rain off the rest of his clothes–and moved to the door.

“Where are you off to?” Davenport asked.

“To have a talk with George Chase.”

Excerpted from Imperial Scandal by TERESA GRANT Copyright © 2012 by Tracy Grant. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Imperial Scandal

One of history’s most famous social engagements was two hundred years ago today. 15 June 1815. The ball given by the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels at which Wellington got word that Napoleon’s forces were on the move and Napoleon had “hoodwinked: him by attacking in a different direction from what he had anticipated. Officers rode to battle in ball dress (Waterloo was not the next day but 18 June, with the fighting at Quatre Bras in the interim).

In honor of the anniversary, here is an excerpt of how the scene plays out in Imperial Scandal.

When the meal came to an end, the spell that had held the company under some semblance of illusion that they were at an ordinary ball well and truly broke. Malcolm was claimed by Stuart, Davenport by Colonel Canning. Raoul met Suzanne’s gaze briefly across the supper room. It was, she knew, the only good-bye they would have.

By the time Suzanne and Cordelia stepped back into the hall it was a scene of chaos. Soldiers calling for their horses, girls darting across the floor, tripping over their skirts, shouting the names of their beloveds, parents scanning the crowd for sons. The musicians had begun to play again in the ballroom, but the strains of the waltz vied with the call of bugles and the shrill song of fifes from outside. A broken champagne glass scrunched under Suzanne’s satin slipper. By the dining room door a young captain stood holding the hands of a girl in orange blossom crêpe. A little farther off a girl in pink muslin had sunk to the floor, weeping into her hands. Suzanne felt Cordelia go still beside her.

A man in a rifleman’s uniform brushed past them, a girl in white on his arm. Suzanne suppressed a start at the sight of those finely molded features. Then she forced her gaze away. The ghosts of her past seemed irrelevant in the chaos of the present.

“Suzanne.” Georgiana touched her arm. “I’m going to help March pack up his things.” She glanced toward the ballroom. “I can’t believe people are so heartless as to still be dancing.”

Cordelia drew a harsh breath. “I wouldn’t be too hard on them. It may be their last chance.”


“Malcolm. Glad I found you.” Stuart gripped Malcolm’s arm, his face uncharacteristically grim. He jerked his head toward the Duke of Richmond’s study. Malcolm followed the ambassador into the room to find Wellington and the Duke of Richmond already there, amid the ranks of books and the smell of old leather and dusty paper. Richmond was spreading a map out on the desk.

“Napoleon has humbugged me by God!” Wellington glanced at the door as Malcolm and Stuart stepped into the room. “He has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me. And separated us from the Prussians.”

“What do you intend doing?” the Duke of Richmond asked. He was a soldier himself, in command of the reserves in Brussels. Three of his sons were in the army, and Malcolm knew Richmond himself had been displeased not to receive an appointment on Wellington’s staff.

Wellington moved to the desk and stared down at the map. “I have ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras, but we shan’t stop him there, and if so,” he said, pressing his thumb down on the map, “I must fight him here.”

Malcolm moved to the duke’s side to see what he was pointing at. Wellington’s thumbnail rested on a small village called Waterloo.


“Rannoch.” Davenport fell in beside Malcolm outside the door of the duke’s study. “What did Hookey have to say?”

“That Bonaparte has humbugged him. He’s gained a day’s march on us and separated us from the Prussians.”

Davenport grimaced. “Exile apparently hasn’t dulled Boney’s brilliance. It looks as though I’m back to being a staff officer. I’m off to Fleurus with a message. I don’t know if I’ll get back to Brussels before the fighting starts. Tony Chase–”

“I’ll talk to him.” Malcolm nearly said more, but he wasn’t quite ready to share the suspicions roiling in his head. “You need to find Lady Cordelia and make your farewells.”

Two cavalry officers pushed past them. A girl in blue ran up and seized one by the arm. Davenport glanced at them for a moment, then turned his gaze back to Malcolm. “Look, Rannoch.” His voice was clipped. “I know Cordelia. I’ve no illusions she’ll go home or even to Antwerp.”

“I shouldn’t think so. Suzanne wouldn’t, either.”

A smile of acknowledgment tugged at Davenport’s mouth. “And Wellington wouldn’t thank me for considering defeat. But I have a healthy respect for Napoleon Bonaparte. Should the unthinkable happen–”

Malcolm gripped his friend’s shoulder. He had many acquaintances but few friends. He realized Davenport had become one of them. “I’ll make sure Lady Cordelia and your daughter get to safety. My word on it.”

Davenport met his gaze, for once with no hint of mockery. “Thank you.”

Davenport strode off in search of his wife. Malcolm spared a brief thought for what it would be like to say farewell to Suzanne with such a nightmare of estrangement between them. Then he pushed the thought to where personal thoughts had to go at times like these and glanced round the chaos of the hall for Anthony Chase. Soldiers pushed past, white-gloved fingers clutched scarlet-coated arms, shouts for horses and calls to husbands, wives, sweethearts, children, parents cut the air. Malcolm saw a flash of green and a bright gold head near the front door and pushed his way through the crowd, only to find it was a lieutenant in the 95th rather than Chase.

He turned back toward the ballroom and saw a familiar face. “March. Are you off?”

“When I’ve seen my parents,” Lord March said. “Georgy helped me pack.”

“You haven’t seen Tony Chase by any chance, have you?”

“Not since supper, I think. Probably slipped off to say good-bye to his latest mistress.” March grimaced with distaste. “I’ve always thought Jane Chase deserved better.”

“I won’t argue with you there. Though one can’t deny Chase’s bravery at Truxhillo.”

“No, though if you ask me half of his success was the French being so bloody incompetent.”

“I was in Andalusia at the time,” Malcolm said. “I think the accounts I’ve heard were rather exaggerated.”

March frowned. “It’s odd. Tony Chase asked me about that.”

“About the accounts being exaggerated?”

“Where you were at the time, of all things. Seemed to think you were on a mission near Truxhillo.”

Malcolm felt his pulse quicken. “When was this?”

“Fortnight or so ago. Wellington’s ball for Blücher perhaps? One of the endless round of parties we’ve been attending. The days have a way of running together.”

Malcolm gripped the other man’s arm. “Thank you, March. Look after yourself.”

“Always do, old fellow.”

Malcolm scanned the hall for Tony Chase again. Finding him had suddenly become a matter of pressing urgency.


“Harry.” Cordelia skidded over fallen roses and shards of broken champagne glasses on the hall floor. “Thank God. I was afraid you’d left.”

“Cordy.” He was standing by the base of the stairs, drawing on his gloves. She thought, inconsequentially, that he must have had them off since supper. Absurd the way one’s mind worked at such moments. “You’re staying in Brussels?” he asked.

“Don’t try to argue me out of–”

He gave a faint smile. “I wouldn’t dream of it. This is no time to waste one’s breath. But in the event it becomes necessary, Rannoch can help you get back to England.”

She nodded, swallowing her surprise.

Harry continued pulling on his gloves. “Should I– In the event I don’t see you again, my man of business has all the necessary documents. Alford-Smith in St. Albans Lane. There’s a portion for you and everything else is in trust for Livia with you as trustee. Neither of you should want for anything.”

She stared at him. It was as though she was looking at a stranger, and yet she sensed he had never spoken so genuinely. “Harry– I didn’t expect–”

He tugged the second glove smooth. “What did you think I’d do? Support you and Livia in life and abandon you in death?”

“No, of course not. But I wish you wouldn’t talk about–”

“Merely taking precautions. I’ve lived through a tiresome number of battles, I daresay I shall live through this one.”

Beneath his easy tone and cool gaze something belied his words. She looked at him for a moment, every nerve stretched taut beneath her skin. This could be the last time she would ever see him. She reached up and curled her gloved fingers behind his neck.

He stiffened beneath her touch. “Cordy–”

“I have no right to ask you to come back to me, Harry. But for God’s sake, please come back.” She drew his head down and pressed her mouth to his.

For a moment he went completely still. Then his arms closed about her, as though he would meld her to him. His mouth tasted of wine. His hair was soft beneath her gloved fingers, his hands taut and urgent through the net and silk of her gown, his mouth desperate yet oddly tender against her own.

When he raised his head, his eyes were like dark glass. He stared down at her with the wonder and fear of a man who has stepped into an alien world. “I’m sorry. I didn’t–”

She put her hand against the side of his face. Her fingers trembled. “Thank you. That is, I didn’t mean to–”

He seized her hand and pressed it to his lips with a fervor equal to his kiss. “Tell Livia–”

“You can tell her yourself when you come back.”

He gave a twisted smile. “Look after yourself, Cordy.”

She swallowed. “That’s one thing I’ve always been good at.”


A few couples were still waltzing in the ballroom. Cordelia found Suzanne beside a gilded table that held a porcelain bowl of wilting roses and a brace of candles dripping wax onto the marble tabletop.

“Did you find Harry?” Suzanne asked.

“He’s just left. You’re staying in Brussels?”

“Of course.”

Cordelia smiled, more relieved than she would care to admit to know she would have her friend to rely upon in what was to come. “I knew you could be depended upon. Livia and I will be at the Hôtel d’Angleterre.”

“Lady Caroline’s leaving?”

“Along with half the expatriates in Brussels. I can’t quarrel with her. But I feel compelled to stay.”

“Of course. But not in an hôtel. You and Livia must come to us.”

Cordelia shook her head. “That isn’t why I told you–”

“I know that. But it’s the logical solution.”

“It’s not just Livia and me. I’ve told Johnny I’ll take Robbie and his nurse in.”

“Aline’s coming to us as well. We have plenty of room.” Suzanne touched Cordelia’s arm. “You’ll be doing me a great favor. Malcolm is bound to be off on an errand, and God knows when he’ll be back. I’ll be going mad with worry, and I suspect you will as well.”

Cordelia looked at her for a moment, a dozen polite denials trembling on her lips. Then she said simply, “Thank you.”

“Splendid. I daresay–” Suzanne broke off as a tall, fair-haired man in a colonel’s uniform brushed past them.

The colonel went stock-still, his gaze locked on Suzanne’s. “Suz– Mrs. Rannoch.”

“Colonel Radley.” Suzanne’s voice was as icy as Cordelia had ever heard it. She turned to Cordelia and performed a quick introduction.

Radley inclined his head. He had an elegantly boned face and a self-assured blue gaze that implied he was quite aware of how handsome he was. But that confident gaze shifted over Suzanne as though she was a cipher he could not solve. “I’m off to join my regiment. Are you staying in Brussels?”

“Of course,” Suzanne said. “My husband’s here.”

“Your devotion continues to be remarkable.” Radley regarded Suzanne a moment longer, half- speculative, half-challenging. Then he nodded and moved off.

Cordelia adjusted the folds of her Grecian scarf. Suzanne Rannoch was a surprising woman, but Cordelia had never thought to find her friend playing out the equivalent of her own scene with Peregrine Waterford.

“I knew Frederick Radley in the Peninsula,” Suzanne said. “Before I married I Malcolm.” She gave a faint smile and looked directly into Cordelia’s eyes. “You aren’t the only one with ghosts, Cordy.”


Suzanne studied Malcolm’s face. “You’re not going home to change?”

He shook his head. “There’s no time. Richmond’s lending me a horse. I need to find Anthony Chase or at the very least warn his commanding officer. It’s not precisely a message I can trust to someone else.”

Beside them, a dragoon was pulling a flower from a girl’s gold ringlets, while a fresh-faced young Foot Guard lifted a dark-haired girl’s hand to his lips. Suzanne’s hands closed on her husband’s arms. “Be careful.”

A smile pulled at his mouth, the familiar, maddening smile he employed when going into danger without her. “I’m only delivering a message.”

“You’re looking for a man who means to kill you.”

“He won’t try to do it himself.”

“You don’t know what he’ll attempt if he’s driven to desperation.”

His gripped her shoulders. “I’ll try to be back tomorrow. I think it will be a day or so before anything decisive occurs.”

She leaned into him and put her mouth to his. His arms closed round her with the force of everything he couldn’t put into words. Bugle calls sounded in the distance. The French had gained valuable time. Something sang within her at the knowledge, and yet at the same time her heart twisted at the danger her husband faced.

He drew back and set his hands on her shoulders. “Should the news not be good, you should have plenty of time to get to Antwerp. I’ll find you there. Or back in England if necessary.”

She gave a quick nod. “Cordelia is coming to stay with me. Allie as well.”

“Good.” He hesitated a moment, then added, “There are still papers in the compartment in the bottom of my dispatch box. Where I told you to look when we were in Vienna. Travel documents, letters for Aunt Frances and David. And for you and Colin.”

A chill shot through the gauze and satin of her gown. “Malcolm–”

“In our line of work, it’s always wise to be prepared.”

She had letters for him and Colin as well, but Raoul had them in safekeeping. One in case she died and took her secrets to the grave, one in case she died and Malcolm had already learned the truth of her work. Since she’d married and become a mother she feared death as never before, but even more she feared a future in which she was gone and her husband and son hated her.

She reached up and kissed Malcolm again, branding him with a memory meant to survive whatever was to come.

Excerpted from Imperial Scandal by TERESA GRANT Copyright © 2012 by Tracy Grant. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.