A Brother in Exile

LUCIEN BONAPARTE IN THE WEST MIDLANDS

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Between 1811 and 1814 the Midlands played host to a surprising visitor when Napoleon’s brother Lucien was detained as a prisoner of war en route to voluntary exile in America.

After six months in Ludlow, Lucien bought Thorngrove in Worcestershire, where he lived with his family and an extensive retinue.

In January 1811 Lucien Bonaparte (1775-1840), the man whom Walter Scott would describe eighteen years later as the ablest of Napoleon’s brothers, arrived in the Midlands. He and his family had set sail from Rome in August 1810, en route to voluntary exile in America. Napoleon owed to Lucien the success of his coup d’état of November 1799 (18 Brumaire in the Republican calendar), which drew the Revolution to a close and established Napoleon as First Consul. However, an increasingly fractious relationship over Napoleon’s imperialist tendencies had deteriorated to the point of rupture some months previously: the 1811 imperial almanac omits Lucien from the list of the Emperor’s brothers.

The British, fearing that Lucien would become involved in a plot on American soil, had intercepted his ship off the Sardinian coast. After a two-month detention in Valletta, he was conveyed to England as a prisoner of war under parole, along with a forty-strong entourage: his wife, seven children (including two by his first wife Christine Boyer and his wife’s daughter from a previous marriage), his nephew, his secretary, a doctor, chaplain, tutor and painter, and twenty-three Corsican and Italian servants.

The whole entourage landed at Plymouth in December 1810. Despite the circumstances, relations were more than cordial. Lucien presented the Captain with a diamond watch and received in return a double-barrelled shot-gun, which became his hunting weapon of choice while in England.

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