Lord John Rossendale

Lord John Rossendale

Lord John Rossendale (17? – 18 June 1815) is a minor protagonist in the "Sharpe" novels by Bernard Cornwell.

Rossendale first appeared in 1813 in Sharpe's Regiment as a courtier to the Prince Regent ("Prinny") in London. While Sharpe is on leave in England, the aristocratic Lord Rossendale is initially an ally to the rifleman and attempts to find missing recruits from the South Essex Regiment, providing Sharpe with much needed support among the upper classes and the Georgian monarchy.

However, After Sharpe's Revenge in mid 1814, Rossendale's role in the novels changes. After Sharpe is falsely accused of theft, Rossendale is responsible for cuckolding the troubled rifleman while he is being hunted in France. Rossendale also embarks on a whirlwind affair with Sharpe's wife, Jane, and almost manages to bankrupt the officer by extravagantly wasting his savings.

In June 1815 (as depicted in the chronologically penultimate Sharpe novel, Sharpe's Waterloo), Rossendale is with the Duke of Wellington's Anglo-Allied army in Belgium when Napoleon's invasion, the Hundred Days campaign, begins. Despite possessing no military experience beyond holding a nominal and honorary army commission, the socialite nonetheless manages to secure a posting with Wellington's Household heavy cavalry brigade, in order to satisfy his desire to see active service. With him in Brussels is Jane, who is snubbed by society for her illicit affair with Lord Rossendale, and who suspects she may be pregnant with his bastard child.

Unfortunately for Rossendale, Sharpe is also with the Allied army, serving as a staff officer to the Dutch Prince of Orange, and as the campaign opens, the two clash violently, with Sharpe demanding that the aristocrat repay him his stolen money.

As Napoleon's invasion begins on the night of 15 June, Sharpe, returning from a bloody reconnaissance, catches Rossendale at the Duchess of Richmond's ball in Brussels, and humiliates the proud officer, demanding his money, or else satisfaction. Shamefaced, Rossendale promises Sharpe he will return him his funds. Terrified of Sharpe, and goaded by Jane for his cowardice, Rossendale briefly contemplates murdering him during the chaos of the coming fighting, but realises he simply doesn't have the courage.

Two days later, during the confusion of the retreat from Quatre Bras, Sharpe again corners Rossendale during a heavy thunderstorm. Disdainfully disarming Rossendale after he attempts to threaten him with a percussion lock pistol, the rifle officer also breaks the cavalryman's decorous sword, scornfully telling him that he can "...keep the whore, but I want my money".

The dawn of the next day, 18 June, sees Wellington's army facing Napoleon's across the shallow valley of Mont St Jean—the Battle of Waterloo is about to commence. Humiliated and ashamed of his dishonourable conduct, Rossendale determines to prove himself during the coming battle.

When the fighting begins, the Household Brigade quickly sees intense action, charging forward with the rest of the British heavy cavalry to complete the rout of the first, unsuccessful French infantry attack by Reille's corps. Slamming with his comrades into the unprotected French infantrymen, Rossendale fights like a man possessed, screaming in triumph as he slashes and lunges again and again with his borrowed sword. But the charge meets carnage when the unbridled enthusiasm of the British cavalrymen leads them to gallop on unsupported towards the French gun line on the far crest. Caught by fresh French light cavalry, the British horse soldiers are hacked and stabbed from the saddle, taking appalling casualties (as is historically accurate— see Battle of Waterloo article).

Pursued by a group of French lancers and hussars hoping to kill a wealthy British officer for loot, Rossendale nearly succeeds in escaping, but is caught when his horse becomes bogged down in a waterlogged field. Blinded by a sabre stroke, stabbed, stripped and left for dead, Rossendale lies on the battlefield in agony till the evening of the battle, finally meeting a pitiful end by having his throat slashed by a Belgian peasant woman searching corpses for plunder. The news is broken to Jane on the morning after Waterloo, when she travels to the battlefield to search for her lover. She is left, presumably, to raise Rossendale's child by herself.

In the Carlton UK TV series, Rossendale was portrayed by Alexander Armstrong in Sharpe's Regiment and by Alexis Denisof in Sharpe's Revenge, Sharpe's Justice and Sharpe's Waterloo.


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