THE RED SILK CLOAK – A tale of Unrequited Love

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.

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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


20836 (1)Can the love of an honourable man save her from  the memory of a desolate marriage?

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?


Alison-web smallABOUT ALISON

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.

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What is all the fuss about the Battle of Waterloo?

by Alison Stuart

The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo fell on June 18th this year, and the occasion was marked at the battle site itself with a weekend of re-enactments, presentations and memorial unveilings attended by 100,000 people. Church services and commemorations were held in London and Brussels (but in France it passed with barely a murmur. In fact, I suspect, the French probably think they won the battle.)

Not this Waterloo...

Not this Waterloo…

And I was there… or nearly! My husband and I were fortunate enough to visit the Battle Site the week before the commemoration. The new Visitor’s Centre (which is AMAZING!) had just opened and workmen were frantically laying paths and putting up the bleachers… and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves on a very warm, sunny day.

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After a longish bus ride in a stuffy local bus from central Brussels, we had a whole day on our hands and we took the time to visit the Wellington Museum in Waterloo itself (the inn where Wellington stayed the night of the battle and from which he wrote his famous Waterloo despatch). At the site of the battle, we spent ages in the Visitors Centre, climbed the 200 steps to the top of Butte de Lion and walked the line of the ridge to Hougemont Farm with its brand new English Oak gate. Sadly without a car, time did not permit a visit to Napoleon’s headquarters.

Alison at Wellington's HQ 2015 Jun

Back in London we visited the Guards Museum which hosted an exhibit on Hougemont Farm (where the Guards regiments distinguished themselves), the National Portrait Gallery which had a whole exhibition devoted to Wellington, Apsley House on Waterloo Day and in Paris… at the Hotel de Ville (the military museum), there are galleries devoted to Napoleon’s glory years but blink and you miss any mention of Waterloo!

So… Waterloo is very much on my mind and I am thrilled that in honour of Waterloo, my ‘Waterloo’ story Lord Somerton’s Heir will be 99c (on Amazon and iBooks) from 4 -13 July only.

As I picked up a few little bits and pieces on my travels, I will be offering a Waterloo Commemoration prize as part of a Rafflecopter contest that will run all week (details are on my website at www.alisonstuart.com). But wait… there’s more… sign up to my Readers’ Group newsletter and not only do you get extra points in the contest, you will receive a short story, the ‘prequel’ to Lord Somerton’s Heir… SEBASTIAN’S WATERLOO.

Enough preamble… there is something about Waterloo that captured and held public attention like very few other battles in history. Why? I would be interested in your comments…

In the meantime, here are some facts about Waterloo…

  • It is the only battle in the long Napoleonic campaigns in which both Napoleon and Wellington faced each other.
  • The Prussians wanted to call the battle Belle Alliance after the village where Napoleon had his headquarters. Wellington’s practice was to name battles after the village in which he spent the night before the battle… hence Waterloo. 
  • The casualties numbered 200 000 men, 60 000 horses (apologies to horse lovers!), and 537 guns were in action, contributing havoc and destruction on an enormous scale. The action was fought in a relatively small space (5 square miles) and at 2291 casualties per square mile, Wellington’s losses were greater than the 234 casualties per square mile over the 120 days of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
  • Tourists flocked to the battlefield from the day after the battle and are still flocking.
  • Napoleon blamed General Grouchy for his defeat. Grouchy had misinterpreted an order from his commander. Napoleon’s Chief of Staff had scribbled ‘The battle is commenced’, intending for Grouchy to join in. Grouchy read the word ‘engagée’ (commenced) as ‘gagné’ (won)and stayed put. 
  • A good trade in false teeth went on for years after the battle – with the teeth of the dead being set in hippo bone and used as dentures.
  • Three days after the battle, in Paris, Napoleon attempted to commit suicide by swallowing poison. His doctors saved him but it is possible it hastened his death on St. Helena only a few years later.

And was it such a splendid victory? Well in the opinion of two old army officers (self and husband) it was indeed, as Wellington said, a ‘near run thing’.

  • IF Grouchy had not misunderstood his orders…
  • IF Ney had not led his cavalry off on a wild charge unsupported by artillery and infantry…

And, most importantly,

  • IF the Prussians had not turned up when they did, the outcome would have been totally different!

So please take a moment to enter the Rafflecopter contest. Details of the prize, which includes a reproduction of The Times with the Waterloo despatch, are on my website

And don’t forget to join up to my reader’s list and find out how the hero of Lord Somerton’s Heir, Sebastian Alder, passed the day of 18th June 1815.


20836Can the love of an honourable man save her from  the memory of a desolate marriage?

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?