by Alison Stuart
This is a sad story… and as you know, we like happy ever afters, but for the Honourable Orlando Bridgeman, that HEA was not to be…
I came across Orlando’s story in the Guards Museum in London (well worth a visit). With the National Army Museum being closed, the smaller museums around the UK were hosting different aspects of the Waterloo story and, of course, the Guards are inextricably tied up with the action at Hougemont Farm so there was quite a display about Waterloo. Tucked away in a glass case, and looking completely out of place in a military museum was a full length, woman’s red silk cloak and this is the story that accompanied it.
Born in 1794, the third son of the Earl of Bradford, Orlando, as all third sons did, joined the Army and the age of 17 found himself as a young Ensign at the siege of Cadiz in Spain. Here young Orlando succumbed to a fever and was left behind by his regiment. Hurrying north to rejoin his regiment, he found himself caught up in action at the capture of Seville in August 1812. After the action he encountered a French Sergeant of Chasseurs who implored the honourable young man to help a wounded (and dying) French officer by the name of Marbet. Marbet, Orlando was told, had left his fiancee, Mademoiselle de Casteja, in Madrid and now with the English army moving north, Mlle de Casteja was alone and friendless in the midst of enemies. “Please,” Marbet begged, “Tell her of my fate and help her procure a pass through the British lines so she can return to Paris.” Orlando gave his word and as soon as he reached Madrid he sought out Mlle de Casteja.
Mlle de Casteja enchanted the young man and a ‘tendresse’ formed between the two. The safe pass was arranged and Mlle de Casteja left for Paris, leaving her red silk travelling cloak with Orlando as a keepsake, along with a request that he seek her out in Paris when the war was ended.
Three long years of war followed and with Napoleon’s return from Elba, the allies and French met once more at the decisive battle of Waterloo. Now Captain Orlando Bridgeman was there, as Aide de Camp to Sir Rowland Hill. Although wounded (not badly) he hastened with the allied forces to Paris, anxious to keep his promise to Mlle de Casteja only to find that not only had Marbet inconsiderately survived his wounds, he had been reunited with his love and married her.
It is said that Orlando had kept the red silk cloak with him for those three long years and had even worn it at Waterloo (the latter is dubious as not only was it impractical but showed little sign of having been in a battle of such magnitude).
Broken hearted, Orlando left the army and returned to England where, two years later he married an old friend, Lady Selina Needham. They had four children but sadly Orlando died at the age of 33.
Many of his letters survived and are contained in a book, A YOUNG GENTLEMAN AT WAR edited by Gareth Glover. For more about Orlando’s life, click here.
From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams — only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.
Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. Except, her dreams are soon shattered from beyond the grave when she is not only left penniless, but once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.
But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?
Escape author, Alison Stuart is an award winning Australian writer of cross genre historical romances. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes and men in uniform. If your taste is for duelling cavaliers, wayward ghosts, time travel and murder mysteries – sometimes all in the same book – Alison’s stories are for you. The second book in Alison’s GUARDIANS OF THE CROWN series for Escape, THE KING’S MAN will be released in September.