Ensign Charles Pratt, Ostend 1798

A couple of days ago, while I was taking an hour or so out after my working day to transcribe some notes on Sir Home Popham (whom I am beginning to enjoy researching — how could I not, when he was so unexpected in every way?), I made a chance discovery. In May 1798, Popham […]

Sir Home Popham off Boulogne, 1804: or, correspondence with Lord Melville, BL Add MS 41080

20 June 1804 (f. 10) Sir Home Popham: My dear Lord. Lord Melville: Sir Home. Popham: You remember that letter Lord Hutchinson sent you? Melville: Yes, of course I – Popham: THERE WAS NO LETTER. THERE WAS NEVER ANY LETTER. AND IF THERE WAS, LORD HUTCHINSON DIDN’T SEND IT. Melville: Popham: Oh, and tell Mr […]

‘A dirty Apothecary’: the elopement of Lady Lucy Stanhope and Thomas Taylor

Lady Chatham has now an account of her poor Granddaughter, disposed of (with ten thousand pounds) to a dirty Apothecary in whose shop she is to reside at Sevenoakes. [1] Lady Lucy Rachel Stanhope was not quite 16 years old when Lady Aylesford wrote this report to Mrs Stapleton, companion to the Dowager Countess of […]

The name’s James, Charles James: a Napoleonic-era enigma (Part 2)

You can read last week’s post about Charles James, poet, fixer, and international man of mystery extraordinaire, here. Major of the Royal Artillery Drivers and ‘French Secretary’ to the Ordnance In 1806, Pitt the Younger died and Lord Moira’s Whig associates came to government as the Ministry of All the Talents. Moira himself became Master-General […]

The name’s James, Charles James: A Napoleonic Enigma (Part 1)

A few months ago, while I was researching something completely different, Major Charles James exploded into my life. James was what one might delicately label ‘a right piece of work’. I have started using the hashtag #shady to refer to him in my notes. He was many things in his relatively short life (c1758–1821), many […]

Who wrote “Letters from Flushing”?

One of the most famous contemporary descriptions of the Walcheren campaign is a small volume entitled Letters from Flushing … an account of the expedition to Walcheren, Beveland, and the Mouth of the Scheldt, under the command of the Earl of Chatham … (London: Richard Phillips, 1809). The book consists of 14 letters allegedly written […]

“The Severest Censure of this House”: a government is repeatedly defeated in the House of Commons, 1810

Current events in Parliament are very interesting to me as a political historian, although I admit I’d prefer to be watching from the safer distance of, say, a couple of centuries. Since I am a historian, however, and a Napoleonic-era one at that, yesterday’s triple defeat of Theresa May’s government reminded me strongly of the […]

Sheepgate 1809, or how a surfeit of sheep nearly led to a diplomatic incident

In the summer of 1809, Britain and Spain had been allies against France for just over a year. Sir Arthur Wellesley was currently in the Iberian Peninsula with an army of about 30,000 men. Diplomatic relations with Spain, however, remained a little fraught – the two countries had been at war for much of the […]

Short Story: The Arabian

Grey desert arabian, from  here The Late Lord was published exactly a year ago today (11 January). To commemorate the occasion, I am putting up a blog post (gasp!) to publish a short story I wrote six months or so before the book was published, for my own enjoyment. The Arabian is based on an […]

Walcheren 1809: the mystery of the missing memorandum

The Walcheren Expedition of 1809, which Lord Chatham infamously commanded, was unquestionably a disaster. Although the British managed to take the islands of Walcheren and South Beveland, they failed to get to Antwerp, the ultimate objective, to destroy the fortifications there and the French and Dutch fleet. Most seriously of all, the army was rendered […]