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The Sharpe Novels by Bernard Cornwell

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The Novels | Sharpe - The Television Action-Drama Films

A display of Sharpe novels.

Richard Sharpe is the creation of author Bernard Cornwell. In 1980, Cornwell lived in a London basement flat and was due to marry his American girlfriend, and move to the US to live with her. Unfortunately, he could not get a work permit, and so decided to become a writer, as it was a profession that did not require a work permit (or green card as it is known).

Bernard Cornwell wanted to write a land-based version of CS Forester's   Hornblower, a fictional account of a man's heroics in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The aim was to create a character as dramatic as Horatio Hornblower. He named this main character after a well-known 1960s rugby player, Richard Sharp, but simply added an 'e' to the end of his surname, and so Richard Sharpe was born.

Cornwell draws on some of his own life experiences in the novels. He was adopted at a young age and grew up in Essex, and this led to him writing about the South Essex Regiment. Later in life, Cornwell spent a few enjoyable years in Ireland, and as a compliment to Ireland he portrayed Harper and Hogan (good characters) as Irish.

The first novel Cornwell wrote, Sharpe's Eagle, introduced the reader to a selection of characters and set the scene for what would be more than 20 Sharpe novels over the next 24 years1. Some of the novels are written about well-known forts and villages and the battles surrounding them from the Peninsular War, whereas others were invented by Cornwell. At the end of almost every book, where appropriate, are a few pages of historical notes about the events and main battle fought within its pages.

Although the novels present a consistent basic story, they can be read in any order. Cornwell has written the series in such a way that the reader can learn enough about Sharpe's history from any of the novels not to be confused; this is cleverly revealed in dribs and drabs - his rise from the ranks, his victorious battles, his friends, his enemies and his women.

Most of the novels have been reprinted several times over the years, with various different covers. Between 1992 and 1995, 14 television action-drama Sharpe films were shown based on the novels and starring Sean Bean. In 1994 some of the books were republished with the image of Sean Bean as Sharpe, as well as other characters from the television series, on the covers.

Sharpe's Battle, published after the success of the television series, is dedicated to Sean Bean in recognition of his portrayal of Sharpe. As a further compliment to Bean, in one of the novels Sharpe has thoughts of a previous time in Sheffield, Bean's birthplace. Also, after the television series Cornwell is said to see the image of blond Sean Bean as Sharpe, rather than the dark-haired Sharpe of his earlier novels.

The Sharpe Novels' Timeline

Cornwell did not write the novels in chronological order. As the Sharpe books gained popularity he decided to bring to life the battles which he had referred to in the earlier books.


In April, 2006 Sharpe's Challenge, which was the combined adaptation of these three books, was shown on television.

Between Campaigns

The Peninsular War

The Peninsular War lasted from 1808 - 1814. The majority of these books were adapted for the television series.

  • Sharpe's Rifles (Published in 1988)
  • Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia (1809)

  • Sharpe's Havoc (Published in 2003)
  • Richard Sharpe in 1809 in Oporto, Portugal

  • Sharpe's Eagle (Published in 1981)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Talavera Campaign (1809)

  • Sharpe's Gold (1981)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Destruction of Almeida (1810)

  • Sharpe's Escape (2004)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Bussaco Campaign (1811)

  • Sharpe's Fury (2006)
  • Richard Sharpe and the The Battle of Barossa (1811)

  • Sharpe's Battle (1995)
  • Richard Sharpe and the The Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro (1811)

  • Sharpe's Company (1982)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Siege of Badajoz (1812)

  • Sharpe's Sword (1983)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Salamanca Campaign (1812)

  • Sharpe's Enemy (1984)
  • Richard Sharpe and the Defence of Portugal (1812)

  • Sharpe's Honour (Published in 1985)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Vitoria Campaign (1813)

  • Sharpe's Regiment (1986)
  • Richard Sharpe and the invasion of France (1813)

  • Sharpe's Siege (1987)
  • Richard Sharpe and the Winter Campaign (1814)

  • Sharpe's Revenge (1989)
  • Richard Sharpe and the Peace of 1814.

    After The Peninsular War

  • Sharpe's Waterloo (Published in 1990)
  • Richard Sharpe and The Waterloo Campaign (1815)

  • Sharpe's Devil (Published in 1992)
  • Richard Sharpe and the Emperor (1820 - 21)

Special Publications

As well as the novels, Cornwell has written three short stories about Sharpe. In 1994, the Daily Mail asked Cornwell to write a short Christmas-themed Sharpe story. They required a story of 12,000 words which could be split into three 4,000-word sections to publish in their newspaper over the 1994 Christmas holiday. Cornwell obliged with Sharpe's Christmas, set in 1813 after Sharpe's Regiment. This was repeated for the Christmas holiday in 1995 with Sharpe's Ransom, set 1816, during the peacetime after Sharpe's Waterloo.

Sharpe's Skirmish - Richard Sharpe and the defence of the Tormes, August 1812 was published in 1998 for WH Smith. Only a thousand copies of this limited edition were produced: it was a promotional initiative as part of which a free copy was given away with every copy of Sharpe's Fortress. There were numerous problems including other booksellers' complaints that they did not have free copies.

In 2002, The Sharpe Appreciation Society published a revised and extended edition of Sharpe's Skirmish. In 2003, they published Sharpe's Christmas, which contains revised and extended versions of the two Daily Mail short stories: Sharpe's Christmas and Sharpe's Ransom.

Introducing Sharpe

Rifleman Richard Sharpe is an officer in Wellington's army. However, he is not a 'gentleman' in the accepted use of the word; not in an army where breeding was more highly valued than the talent to lead men. It was not unusual for Sharpe to be under the command of a superior officer who had never seen a battle, or heard the drums of the approaching French enemy. Unlike the other officers who have money, power and connections in high places to acquire their positions, Sharpe had been raised from the ranks and promoted due to outstanding acts of bravery and heroism.

Richard Sharpe's Early Years

The character Richard Sharpe was born the illegitimate child of a London prostitute in the late 1700s. Abandoned by his mother at the age of four, Sharpe spent the next five years in a Foundling Home and was put to work picking ships' tar-encrusted ropes apart from dawn to dusk. When he was nine years old the young Richard discovered that the staff at the Foundling home were trying to sell him as a climbing boy to a chimney sweep. Knowing the life - and probable early death - that the job would lead to, he ran away from the Foundling Home, and joined London's slum world of petty crime, where there was work for a nimble child. It was illegal work, but work that got him by and kept him alive.

It was in the slums that Richard met Maggie Joyce. Maggie took Richard under her wing; she was like the mother he had never had. When Richard was 16 years old, he caught two men violently attacking Maggie; he stopped them, and in doing so, accidentally killed one of them. Fearing vengeance, he ran away, took King George's shilling and enlisted in the army. Many years later, Maggie helps to save Sharpe's life in Sharpe's Regiment.

Sharpe the Soldier

Private Sharpe was just 17 when he first saw action serving under Arthur Wellesley (who would later become the Duke of Wellington), as part of the 33rd Foot regiments campaign in Flanders. He will go on to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant while still with the 33rd Foot in India, but it is on 23 September, 1803 at The Battle of Assaye that Sergeant Sharpe's life as a soldier changed direction. When he saw General Wellesley dismounted from his horse and at the mercy of Indian troops, he courageously fought them off, until Wellesley was on his feet and fighting beside Sharpe. He earned the gratitude of Wellesley, a field commission and his most treasured possession: a telescope with a brass plaque inscribed - In gratitude. AW. September 23, 1803 presented from Wellesley.

From the first in the series of novels Sharpe is congratulated for his bravery at Assaye, as well as other victories. However, it would be many novels and nearly 18 years later that Cornwell wrote the full story of how thousands of men died at The Battle of Assaye, but Sir Arthur Wellesley's life was saved by Sharpe in Sharpe's Triumph.

Sharpe's Service Record and Regiments

In reality, regiments of the era were officially known by their number followed by their unit, such as 40th Foot or 11th Light Dragoons. Another point of history worth noting is that it was an unusual event for an officer to rise through the ranks; only around 5% of officers were from the ranks. However, promoting officers from the ranks became more commonplace by the end of the war.

Where the regiments have names in the novels, Cornwell made them up. Before his promotion, Sharpe served in the 33rd Foot and the 74th Foot. After he was promoted to officer, Sharpe, accompanied by Sergeant Harper, commanded various regiments including: the 95th Rifle Regiment, the South Essex/South Essex Light Company and the Prince of Wales's Own Volunteers. Sharpe rose from the rank of a Sergeant to finish his army days as Lieutenant-Colonel in Sharpe's Waterloo.

Sharpe the Officer

Richard Sharpe is six feet tall with dark hair. He has a scar on his right cheek which gives him a mocking look. On his back he carries the scars of an unjust flogging from his earlier days in the army as a Private. He wears his tattered and patched green jacket - a Rifleman's jacket - with pride, regardless of the colours of the uniform of the Regiment he is in command of. On his feet he wears knee-high French boots, taken from a dead Frenchman after a battle. He arms himself with a Baker Rifle and an officer's sword. Traditionally an officer had a sabre in his scabbard. However, Sharpe, not being a traditional officer, carried a 35-inch heavy cavalry sword, sometimes referred to as a 'butcher's sword' by other officers.

Sharpe has a strong dislike for privilege and wealth, and often finds himself under the command of less experienced officers than himself. While commissioned officers could purchase their promotions after a fixed time-period, Sharpe had to earn his, and even then until appropriate personnel at Horse Guards had accepted and confirmed in writing a gazette to a higher officer rank, it could easily be withdrawn, or even purchased by a commissioned officer.

Sharpe is seen in many different ways: as an upstart from the ranks, a rogue, brave, a bastard son of a peasant whore, victorious, gallant, but most of all he was seen as being lucky sometimes, even by his enemies, including French officers as well as his own side. To Sharpe, failure was never an acceptable outcome.

Some of Sharpe's luck can be accounted for by his wit, resourcefulness, cunning, ruthlessness and trickery as witnessed in Sharpe's Honour. Due to the incompetence of a quartermaster, Major Sharpe's small infantry battalion lost all their muskets' ammunition, with an attack from the French imminent: around fifteen hundred enemy solders, including infantry, cavalry, and guns (cannon) against only four hundred English infantry and Captain Frederickson's company of 60th Riflemen. Sharpe managed to persuade the French General to surrender, with no deaths or injuries to Sharpe's men and just seven French deaths, with 21 wounded. And that was just in the first chapter.

It was not all glory and victory for Sharpe; he had his low times too. It was during one of these low times in Sharpe's Prey, while he was drowning his sorrows in a tavern that a general noted Sharpe's natural talents as a soldier and a leader. General Baird told Lieutenant Sharpe:

There are three kinds of soldier, Sharpe. There are the damned useless ones, and God knows there's an endless supply of those. Then there are the good solid lads who get the job done, but would piss in their breeches if you didn't show them how their buttons worked. And then there's you and me. Soldiers' soldiers, that's who we are. The politicians get the world into tangles, then ask their armies to make things right. We do their dirty work, Sharpe, and we're good at it. Very good. You might not be the best officer in King George's army, but you're a bloody fine soldier. And you like the life, don't tell me you don't.

Sharpe would go on to become one of the best leaders and most respected officers in Wellington's army. He believed that a soldier was only as good as his last battle, and strived to make every battle the best for himself and the men under his command.

Sharpe's rules: The army issued regulations and rules in big thick books but Sharpe imposed three simple, basic rules on the men in his command:

  1. To fight well
  2. Not to get drunk without permission
  3. Not to steal, except from the enemy or when starving

In his 25 years as a professional soldier, Sharpe suffered 11 serious wounds. Despite these, Sharpe always came out on top with 65 confirmed enemy kills and countless injuries with his heavy cavalry sword, a 'brown bess musket' or the state of the art Baker rifle.

Sharpe's Friends

Sharpe befriended numerous officers, both above and below his rank including the young Lieutenant Harold Price, who can often been found suffering the affects of too much alcohol. Price is from Hampshire; his father had bought his son's commission to enable him to escape gambling debts and unwanted pregnancies among the ladies in his hometown.

Lord Wellington

The character of Sir Arthur Wellesley, later to become Lord Wellington, was based on the real military hero of the era, the Duke of Wellington. He went on to command the British forces in the Peninsular War, and then again at Waterloo, and was never once defeated in his military career.

Wellington in the novels is shown to be a ruthless general, not afraid to 'throw men to the wolves' to gain the advantage. He had promoted Sharpe up from the ranks, after Sharpe saved his life and helped him gain the title of Lord Wellington by helping to win the Battle of Talavera, and by capturing a French Eagle2 (the equivalent of the English regimental colours). Despite this, Wellington is not above using Sharpe either as bait or a fall guy in the political world he lives in. This can be witnessed to great effect in Sharpe's Battle and Sharpe's Honour.

The Peer, as Lord Wellington was known in the novels, has been described as Britain's greatest ever professional soldier. His reputation, much like Sharpe's, was forged in the heat of India where he became the famous 'Sepoy General'.

Sergeant Patrick Harper

Although hostile towards Sharpe at first, Harper becomes Sharpe's right-hand man, confidante and best friend. Harper grew up in a small village in Donegal, Ireland, the fourth of eleven children. He left home at the age of 16 to go to Derry to find a better life for himself. However, one morning he found he had joined the army, after a recruiting sergeant had got him drunk.

At a towering six feet and four inches, Harper is a full four inches taller than Sharpe; he's muscular too. Harper's regular weapon is a seven-barrelled volley gun; one of Henry Nock's less successful inventions, which Sharpe gave to Harper around Christmastime one year, believing that Harper is the only man strong enough to be able to handle the shoulder-breaking recoil as the seven bullets exploded from its barrels; even Harper was occasionally knocked off his feet by the strength of the recoil.

Harper carries a lucky rabbit foot in his pocket, is a keen bird-watcher and has the habit of saying 'God save Ireland' in situations of disbelief.

Due to his natural leadership qualities Sharpe makes him a sergeant, the non-commissioned officer (NCO) in direct line between officers and men in a company, and finally a sergeant major, the most senior NCO rank.


Sharpe has the pleasure of numerous women throughout the novels; Harper has just one: Isabella. Harper and Sharpe rescue the young Spanish Isabella from a group of drunken British soldiers in Badajoz, after a hard-fought victory to take the town in Sharpe's Company. Isabella travels with the regiment along with the soldiers' wives and 'hangers on'. A relationship develops between Harper and Isabella and they get married in Sharpe's Enemy. Harper, believing the army was no place for his wife, sends her to stay with relations in London. Isabella appears in the novels from time to time, including in Sharpe's Regiment.

95th Rifle Regiment

The 95th Rifles were based on a real regiment of the era; the 95th Foot. After their heroic actions in The Peninsular Campaign and Waterloo, they were renamed The Rifle Brigade (95th), thus being saved from being dis-banded. The role of the modern infantryman was developed from their tactics in the field.

In Cornwell's novels the 95th Rifle Regiment was just one of the Rifle regiments, also known as the 'green jackets' due to the distinguished green jackets they wore. Riflemen are an elite Company of the best sharp-shooters Wellington's army had to offer. Rifle Regiments are a detachment to Infantry Regiments. They are skirmishers who work in front of the infantrymen. The riflemen work in pairs covering for each other as they fire at the enemy. The riflemen's motto is. 'First on the battlefield and last off of it'.

The Baker Rifles used by both Sharpe and the rifle regiments took longer to load than the muskets used by the infantrymen. However, what the Baker rifles lost in slowness of loading they gained in accuracy of firing.

Sharpe's first command is of a small detached group of the 95th Rifles, which includes Rifleman Hagman, an ex-poacher from Cheshire: the oldest of the Rifles, Hagman is believed to be the best sharpshooter in Wellington's army.

On the battlefield Sharpe and Harper together were a formidable force to be reckoned with; when a rifle regiment backed them up they were unstoppable. Sharpe is most at home when in command of the 95th Rifles.

Captain William Frederickson

Captain Frederickson is ironically nicknamed Sweet William by his men for his frightful appearance during battle when he removes his eye patch, revealing an eyeless socket and because he also removes his false teeth, thereby emphasising his facial scars from previous battles.

Sweet William is Captain of the 60th Rifles, The Loyal American Rifles3. He's a career soldier, a good leader and a good fighter. Sweet William proves to be a good friend and ally to Sharpe using his determination and soldiering skills to defeat the enemy.

Major Michael Hogan

Hogan is an Engineer when he first meets and befriends Sharpe, who he always addresses by his first name, Richard. The snuff-taking Irishman is promoted to Chief of Intelligence and put on Wellington's staff. Hogan, who is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and French communicates with Wellington's Exploring Officers (spies) behind enemy lines and the Guerrilleros who hide in the hills, and ambush the French at every opportunity. Major Hogan dies of fever in Sharpe's Siege.

Lieutenant William Lawford

Lawford first meets Sharpe in Sharpe's Tiger while Sharpe is still a private and Lawford is the 33rd's new young Lieutenant. Although Lawford is a rich man from an affluent background, he recognises Sharpe's natural soldiering skills and requests that Sharpe accompanies him on his mission to infiltrate Seringapatam. When the pair are captured, Sharpe tells Lawford that he wishes to become a Sergeant. Lawford, knowing that a good Sergeant must be able to read and write, agrees to teach Sharpe during their incarceration in the Tippo Sultan's dungeons.

Lawford is a regular character in the novels, often helping Sharpe while always remaining Sharpe's superior officer. In the novel Sharpe's Company, Lawford is the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the South Essex Regiment. During the attack on Ciudad Rodrigo, a mine explodes and Lawford is caught in the blast. Sharpe, horrified, is forced to cut the remains of Lawford's arm off to enable him to survive. He does survive, but is forced to leave the army and return to England where he receives a knighthood and becomes a politician. Sir William Lawford MP makes a final appearance in the series in Sharpe's Regiment; his political connections help Sharpe overcome Simmerson's crimping scam and regain control of the new Prince of Wales's Own Volunteers.

Sharpe's Enemies

When Bernard Cornwell was writing the Sharpe novels he soon realised that in order to maintain the excitement, some of Sharpe's adversaries would need to be on his own side, as well as the enemies' side.

Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill

Hakeswill is a yellow-skinned, lank-haired, twitching psychopath. Obadiah Hakeswill is Sharpe's oldest enemy. Hakeswill suffers from a nervous twitch in his face and hideous scarring on his neck, caused by an event at the age of 12 when he was sentenced to be hanged. After his uncle saved his life by cutting him down, Hakeswill began to believe he was immortal; a man who could not be killed. It was Hakeswill who enlisted 'Sharpie' (Hakeswill's taunting nickname for Sharpe) into the army. To the officers Hakeswill is punctilious and obsequious, the perfect soldier. However, to the men in his command, Hakeswill is an evil and sadistic tyrant.

While in India in Sharpe's Tiger, Hakeswill, along with another sergeant, frames Sharpe for a serious assault, and has him flogged. Years later, Hakeswill joins the South Essex and frames Harper for theft, causing him too to be flogged for a crime he did not commit. Hakeswill's other offences against Sharpe include attempting to rape Teresa, Sharpe's wife, and threatening to kill their baby daughter, Antonia. He murders Sharpe's friend, Robert Knowles, while he is trying to protect Teresa and Antonia from Hakeswill. Hakeswill's final affront to Sharpe is the murder of Teresa while Hakeswill is a deserter in Sharpe's Enemy.

|When Hakeswill is sentenced to be shot for desertion, Sharpe is given command of the firing squad. The fourteen muskets fire on Sharpe's command, but they do not kill the seemingly immortal Hakeswill. 'You can't kill me! You can't kill me! You can't kill me!', Hakeswill cackles triumphantly, believing he has escaped death again. Sharpe holds his rifle at Hakeswill's head and pulls the trigger; Sharpe kills the man who could not be killed.

Sir Henry Simmerson

Simmerson, a wealthy aristocrat, has friends in high places, including at Horse Guards. He purchases his commission and the South Essex Company. Simmerson is indignant at Sharpe's position as an officer raised from the ranks. Privately, Simmerson calls Sharpe 'a bastard son of a peasant whore'.

As a Commanding Officer, Simmerson is cowardly, tyrannical and sadistic and has the men in his charge flogged for any minor reason. Planning to become a hero in Spain, he is soon embarrassed by Sharpe's expertise and learns to hate Sharpe even more after Simmerson shamefully runs from a battle taking his Company with him, consequently losing his regimental colours to the French. By the end of Sharpe's Eagle he has returned to England in disgrace. However, that doesn't stop Simmerson taking credit for the capture of an Eagle (the French equivalent of the British Regimental Colours) even though he ran from the battle before Sharpe and Harper captured the Eagle.

In Sharpe's Regiment Simmerson is involved in a scam to sell trained recruits to other regiments for cash, a practice known as crimping. Sharpe exposes the scam with the help of Simmerson's own niece, Jane Gibbons, who later becomes Sharpe's second wife. With the help of his friends, Simmerson manages to escape justice.

Major Pierre Ducos

Ducos, not a real Major in military terms, is a French Intelligence Officer. Ducos is a revolutionary who had his own parents guillotined, which shows just what lengths he would go to for the revolution and the Emperor Napoleon. Ducos is feared and mistrusted by the majority of French officers.

Ducos first meets Sharpe at a dinner party hosted by the French during a truce in the Spanish town of Adrados on Christmas Day, 1812. Ducos makes an enemy of Sharpe by making disparaging remarks about Teresa, Sharpe's dead wife, who he is still mourning over. Sharpe responds by calmly removing Ducos's spectacles, dropping them on the floor and treading on them, making an enemy of Ducos. They cross paths several times, but it's in Sharpe's Honour that Ducos gets his 'eye for an eye' revenge: when Sharpe is captured by the French, Ducos breaks Sharpe's telescope, his most treasured possession.

After the peace of 1814 is declared between Britain and France, Ducos steals part of Napoleon's treasure and frames Sharpe for the theft and murder of Xavier Lassan. After hunting Ducos across Italy, to Naples, Sharpe's ally General Calvet charges the increasingly paranoid Ducos with treason and has him executed by a firing squad.

Sharpe's Women

Sharpe may not be a gentleman in the eyes of other officers but he is popular with the ladies, who are attracted to the tall, dark-haired, battle-scarred officer. Other officers' wives are not out-of-bounds to Sharpe. It's often the women in Sharpe's life that have the biggest influence on him.

Lady Grace

Grace, wife of aristocrat and politician Lord William, first meets Sharpe on board the HMS Calliope4, sailing from India to England in Sharpe's Trafalgar. Grace travels with her husband and officers in expensive cabins above deck, while Sharpe, who has recently been given the field commission of Ensign, has to sleep in a curtained-off area below decks, due to his lack of money.

Sharpe is invited to dine with the other officers, and Grace is present too. Grace, as well as being beautiful, is a highly intelligent woman who reads Greek and Latin; she is largely self-taught but is mocked for this by her husband, who at 20 years her senior views her as a trophy wife. Grace and Sharpe's eyes meet across the table; it is love at first sight for them both and, despite barely exchanging a few words, they fall in love and enjoy many stolen moments together.

When Lord William's accompanying secretary discovers their affair he approaches Sharpe and threatens to reveal all to Lord William. Sharpe solves the problem by killing him. However, Lord Hale finds out about the affair. While Sharpe is doing his duty in the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord William reveals his knowledge of their affair to Grace below decks. There is a confrontation, which results in Grace being responsible for her husband's death. Sharpe then helps her to conceal her crime.

After returning to England as a widow, Grace sets up home with Sharpe unmarried, which at the time is considered shocking. As a member of the upper classes she is not in a position to insist upon marrying her lover and instead endures the gossip and being shunned by society for the love of Sharpe.

In Sharpe's Prey, Grace dies shortly after giving birth to Sharpe's son, who dies within hours of her. This low point in Sharpe's life leads him to attempt to sell his commission and leave the army. However, his field commission turns out to be worthless. The legal wrangling, which results in him losing everything they had built together, is the reason for Sharpe's lifelong distrust and loathing of lawyers, hinted at in several of the novels.

Teresa Moreno

Sharpe first encounters Teresa in Sharpe's Gold where she is tied spread-eagled, a prisoner of the French in her father's mansion house. Sharpe and his men rescue her. While Harper is watching over her would-be rapist, Teresa, a partisan, uses the Frenchman's own sword to stab him in the groin. Sharpe has heard of this woman, who apparently fights like a man, and is betrothed to El Catolico leader of the partisans, who stalked the French and killed more of the enemy than Wellington's army.

The partisans are normally allies of Wellington's army; Sharpe, however, had made an enemy of El Catolico over the Spanish gold which Sharpe was unofficially sanctioned to steal from the Spanish. Wellington needed the gold, or the war would be lost.

To enable him and his men to travel without harassment from El Catolico and the partisans, Sharpe uses Teresa as a hostage, at first against her will. However, as Teresa notes Sharpe's cunning and ruthlessness she co-operates, allowing her fiancé to believe that she is being harmed by Sharpe.

A friendship builds between Teresa and Sharpe. Teresa tells him her mother had been raped and killed by the French. She had died slowly and Teresa had made a vow to kill as many Frenchman as she could. Sharpe gives Teresa the nickname La Aguja (The Needle) in honour of her methods of killing the French.

After an incident during which Sharpe kills El Catolico, the friendship between Teresa and Sharpe gets stronger. They become lovers and Teresa has a baby girl, Antonia. In Sharpe's Company they get married.

Sharpe has his soldering duties, and Teresa, who refuses to travel with the army, has her own life; first with the partisans, then taking care of Antonia. There are many partings, in a marriage made of too many of them. The final parting is in Sharpe's Enemy when Hakeswill murders Teresa.

Jane Gibbons

Jane is Sharpe's second wife and he first sees her in the portrait in a locket which he took from the dead body of her brother, Christopher Gibbons, Sharpe's superior officer in Sharpe's Eagle. Harper had killed Gibbons, saving Sharpe's life from Gibbon's sword. Sharpe carried the locket as a talisman for a number of years, even showing it to Teresa while they were married, until it was taken from him when he was a prisoner of the French.

The second time Sharpe meets Jane is in Sharpe's Regiment (the first having been very briefly at a parish church where her brother was buried four years earlier). Jane's uncle, Simmerson, who she is living with as a virtual slave, is involved in crimping. Despite fearing a beating from her uncle, Jane helps Sharpe and Harper to uncover evidence of the crimping, and to put a stop to it. Sharpe marries Jane, the girl he had dreamed of for years, to save her from her uncle's wrath. It was a marriage in haste, which was destined not to last.

In Sharpe's Siege, Sharpe goes off to battle, with Jane appearing to be unwell. Against his wishes, she has been visiting Hogan, who has the fever. Sharpe worries that Jane has caught the fever from him. This worries Sharpe to the extent that he risks disciplinary action. The leader of some captured pirates tells Sharpe of a superstition that bad luck will befall any man responsible for hanging a pirate. Sharpe takes this to mean that his wife's life depends on whether he does his duty and hangs the pirates or sets them free: subsequently, he releases them. He later discovers that the superstition had been a ploy by the pirate to save his own life and those of his men. With the mission completed, Sharpe returns to find that Jane was in good health, and had just had a cold. However, his friend Hogan is dead.

When Sharpe breaks his promise to Jane about never fighting again she returns to England with all of his money and is seduced by the dandy cavalry officer Lord John Rossendale. At the time of Sharpe's Waterloo, Jane is at the Duchess of Richmond's Ball in Brussels when Sharpe storms in and threatens Rossendale. Sharpe no longer cares for Jane and wants his money back. Jane, knowing Sharpe is a killer, encourages Rossendale to get to him first. Sharpe sells Jane to Rossendale for what's left of his money. Rossendale is then killed on the battlefield at Waterloo and Jane is left alone and penniless.

Lucille Castineau (née Lassan)

Lucille is the daughter of French aristocrats in Normandy and the widow of Colonel Xavier Castineau. Lucille's full title is Madame la Vicomtessa de Seleglise, although by her own admission 'nearly every pig farmer in Normandy has a grand title'. Her first meeting with Sharpe during the events of Sharpe's Revenge leads to her shooting our hero with a horse pistol, blowing off the top of his ear and seriously damaging his shoulder. However, when the two end up alone in the Chateau Castineau (while Lucille nurses Sharpe back to health, having rejected Captain Fredrickson's affections) she falls for Sharpe and they become lovers. Lucille falls pregnant and has their first (illegitimate) son, Patrick Lassan. In Sharpe's Waterloo, she and Sharpe are settled on her family farm in Normandy and by the events of Sharpe's Devil the two have a daughter, Dominique. Lucille becomes the third Mrs Sharpe in 1844 after the death of Sharpe's estranged wife, Jane.

There are other women in Sharpe's life including Josefina, a high-class whore Sharpe falls in love with in Sharpe's Eagle. In Sharpe's Enemy she masquerades as Lady Farthingdale, wife of Sir Augustus Farthingdale, with his blessing, so that he can show off the long dark-haired beauty at dinner parties. Josefina is among the hostages that Sharpe is in command of a mission to rescue from a band of multinational deserters in Sharpe's Enemy.

Then there's the beautiful and manipulative Helene, La Marqesa, a Frenchwoman who spies for France and is married to a Grandee of Spain under the orders from Napoleon. Helene is known by the Spanish as La Pula Dorada (The Golden Whore) due to the colour of her hair, not the amount of gold she possesses. It is after Sharpe has spent an enjoyable night with Helene that partisans he has made enemies of capture him. His life is saved by the intervention of the French, who then take him prisoner.

Bernard Cornwell on Sharpe's Retirement:

Sharpe, though, is settled in Normandy. I suspect he has had enough excitement for one life, and I like to think he dies of old age in his chosen exile. There were many like him, old soldiers and sailors who carried their memories of Waterloo and Trafalgar, Salamanca and Badajoz into the Victorian age, where, unseen by us, Sharpe must fade away.
1 A prolific writer, Bernard Cornwell has written other novels besides the Sharpe collection.2A solid-gold, wing-spread eagle, on the top of a long pole; said to have been 'touched by Napoleon's own hand'.3A regiment formed during the American War of Independence.4Although Cornwell uses HMS Calliope in this novel, the ship was not launched until 24 June, 1884.

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