I recently came across the letter below written by Major Charles Napier of the 50th Foot to his mother Lady Sarah Lennox Napier, who was the daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond. Her great grandfather was King Charles II. Major Napier was the older brother of William Napier who is best known as the author of the six volume “History of the War in the Peninsula and the South of France”.
Charles Napier was seriously wounded at Busaco on 27 September 1810 and spent several months recovering from his wound in Lisbon. While in Lisbon he wrote the letter below. The reason I am posting it is because it is the most mind boggling letter from the era that I have ever read. The letter is to his mother and was written in late November 1810. Napier says that Lisbon was abound with conspiracies at the time and that Dom Miguel Forjaz, the Portuguese Secretary of War, was trying to get Wellington replaced. Napier apparently met with an Italian and after the meeting, the man, his wife, and their children were arrested by Forjaz.
“As to conspiracy, dearest mother, be at your ease: I am a conspirator as much as the unfortunate creatures taken up; their crime is being freemasons: the regency, composed of the greatest rascals on earth, have used conspiracy for pouncing on private enemies. They called everybody they dislike jacobins [sic], and in two hours the wretches were dragged on board ship and no more heard of: their poor families have to thank our papers for all they know of their relations’ fate! My intent is to have a slap at the regency if any of them are to be met at the admiral’s, or at the envoy’s, Mr. C. Stuart’s: the latter and Lord Wellington disclaim these proceedings entirely. There is no more conspiracy in Lisbon than in London.
The Portuguese prime minister, or head of the regency, told Stuart that my statement was a lie. Stuart told me this. I will prove it a truth said I, and taking Captain [Thomas] Lloyd of the 43rd, and Captain [Henry] Sturgeon of the Staff Corps with me, I went straight to the palace of government and saw the minister. I told him he must choose one of three things 1o. Making am ample apology. 2o. Fighting me. 3o. Horsewhipping. He said it was very unpleasant to do any one. Our tastes are perfectly similar, said I, but having unluckily been born a gentleman I have a character to keep up which obliges me to desire an immediate compliance. To-morrow you shall have an answer, said he, for I too am a military man. This minute if you please, your excellency, quoth I. After some more talk on his part, and a rather insolent manner on mine, Sturgeon doing interpreter, and Lloyd looking like Gog and Mag together, Forjas said he would say, that I was right, and make an apology to me through Mr. Stuart. It must be given in writing, as the lie was so given, said I. He answered, if you are not content to-morrow we will fight, but read my apology first. Basta, if the apology be complete, was the reply. So we ended.“
My questions are:
1. Was there any truth in this?
2. What would have happened if Forjaz had accepted the duel and was killed?
3. Regardless of the outcome of the duel, did Wellington hear about it?
4. If Wellington had heard about it, what would his reaction have been?
I have found nothing in Wellington’s Dispatches on this, nor have seen any gossip about it in letters of the time.