Sharpe’s Villains

One of the hallmarks of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series are the engaging and brilliant villains. Cornwell has a knack for creating enemy characters that the reader ends up loving (or, loving to hate) through their many ways to bring about Sharpe’s downfall, even if none of them are ever truly successful. Usually they are fictitious but Cornwell also brings to life historical figures that Britain opposed in the early 19th century excellently. So here is a list of all the villainous antagonists in the Sharpe novels.

(contains spoilers)

Tippoo Sultan (Sharpe’s Tiger) R
Ruler of Mysore, Tippoo opposes the British in their quest to dominate the Indian continent. He captures Sharpe and kills twelve British soldiers, then throws salt onto his flogged back, and locks him up in a cell with Lawford and McCandless. Tippoo is eventually killed by Sharpe after the British successfully siege Seringapatam, and Sharpe steals his jewels.

Obadiah Hakeswill (Sharpe’s Tiger, Sharpe’s Triumph, Sharpe’s Fortress, Sharpe’s Company, Sharpe’s Enemy)
Sharpe’s sergeant in the 33rd, Hakeswill is a horrible spiteful bastard whose goal in life seems to be to cause Sharpe as much hell as possible. First, he conspires to get Sharpe flogged and then betrays Britain and sees Sharpe locked in a cell, then plots to get him court-martialled by staging an assault on Morris, and then tries to have Sharpe killed by local toughs, until Sharpe finally shoves him into a snake pit at Gawilghur. Hakeswill then makes his return nine years later when he joins the South Essex, of which Sharpe is a captain in. Hakeswill assaults Teresa, frames Harper for theft and strips the riflemen of their green, putting them in redcoats. He then tries to rape Teresa but is stopped, fleeing from the army to hide with a band of deserters where he enjoys murdering, thieving and raping. Hakeswill is finally done in when he is caught for murdering Teresa and executed. He is, perhaps, the most memorable Cornwell villain, for no other can surely be as hateful and intriguing.
Portrayed by Pete Postlethwaite

William Dodd (Sharpe’s Triumph, Fortress)
A British deserter that joins the army of the Maratha Confederacy to gain the promotions he was never going to have with the East India Company. Dodd murders an entire British garrison, wounds Sharpe and then gives him his characteristic scar at Gawilghur. Killed by Sharpe during that siege.

Lord William Hale (Sharpe’s Trafalgar)
A snobbish arrogant politician and former Governor of Bombay, Hale is the husband of Lady Grace, the woman whom Sharpe falls in love with aboard the Pucille. Hale eventually learns of the affair and Lady Grace’s pregnancy but is shot by her during the Battle of Trafalgar.

John Lavisser (Sharpe’s Prey)
A French spy working in Britain, he has huge gambling debts and so steals thousands of guineas destined to buy the safety of the Danish fleet. Sharpe uncovers the truth about Lavisser and eventually sees his demise during the Siege of Copenhagen.

Pierre de l’Eclin (Sharpe’s Rifles)
French colonel that chases Sharpe, the remnants of the 95th cut off from the retreat and Blas Vivar across northern Spain for the chest held by Vivar. De l’Eclin dies in the street fight in Santiago de Compostela, although unusual for a Sharpe villain he is a rather honourable soldier just doing his duty.
Portrayed by Malcolm Jamieson

James Christopher (Sharpe’s Havoc)
Representative of the Foreign Office in Portugal officially overseeing the war to determine whether or not Britain should fully pursue it. He marries a British wine merchant but then sells out, defecting to the French after believing there was no hope for Britain. Sharpe kills him in the mountains north of Oporto.

Sir Henry Simmerson (Sharpe’s Eagle, Sharpe’s Regiment)
Simmerson creates the South Essex Regiment to impress friends at Horse Guards, but he is an incompetent hopeless leader totally unsuitable for war. In his first fight he loses the colours and has an entire battalion destroyed, and at the Battle of Talavera his cowardice almost loses the battle. Simmerson returns as a part of a crimping scheme where the second battalion of the South Essex is sold to other regiments. Sharpe discovers the truth and ruins Simmerson’s reputation forever, also later marrying his niece Jane Gibbons.
Portrayed by Michael Cochrane

El Católico (Sharpe’s Gold)
Spanish guerillo colonel in possession of a sizeable horde of gold Britain needs to complete the Lines of Torres Vedras. Sharpe steals the gold and El Católico chases him through the mountains and into Portugal, eventually becoming trapped inside Almeida together. Sharpe kills him in a bell tower before blowing up the magazine and escaping through the broken wall.

Pedro and Luis “Ferragus” Ferreira (Sharpe’s Escape)
Portuguese brothers who were trying to sell a warehouse full of stored food to the French for a big monetary reward. Sharpe, already an enemy of Ferragus after a fistfight over flour, discovers the warehouse. Sharpe eventually kills him just outside the Lines of Torres Vedras after escaping through a sewer in Coimbra.

Guy Loup (Sharpe’s Battle)
Loup and Sharpe meet each other after Sharpe executes two captured French rapists, and the two wage war on each other on an isolated Spanish fort/town. He tries to cause a mutiny among the mostly Irish new recruits Sharpe is training but sending fake newspapers into the camp, which reported brutalities committed by British soldiers garrisoned in Ireland. Sharpe kills him in a street fight.
Portrayed by Oliver Cotton

Philippe Leroux (Sharpe’s Sword)
Leroux is a sadistic conniving French colonel, initially taken prisoner by Sharpe. Leroux charms his way out of being treated harshly but Sharpe still suspects he is not who he says he is. Leroux escapes captivity and hides himself inside the French garrisoned town of Salamanca, where he wounds Sharpe badly. After Sharpe’s recovery he storms Salamanca and kills Leroux in a duel. He is also the brother of Hélenè Leroux, who gives Sharpe her brothers sword.
Portrayed by Patrick Fierry

Pot-au-Feu (Sharpe’s Enemy)
Alleged French Marshal and former cook, Pot-au-Feu is the leader of the band of deserters terrorising people across northern Spain. He captures Josefina Lacosta and an English woman married to a French colonel, Madame Dubreton. He demands a ransom paid by Sharpe for the women’s release but is then defeated by Sharpe during an attack on his captured convent.
Portrayed by Tony Haygarth

Pierre Ducos (Sharpe’s Battle, Sharpe’s Enemy, Sharpe’s Honour, Sharpe’s Siege, Sharpe’s Revenge)
The French version of Hogan, only a lot more evil. Ducos and Sharpe first run afoul of each other when Sharpe breaks his spectacles, and for revenge Ducos conspires to have Sharpe blamed for the rape of Hélène Leroux, which backfires. Ducos also breaks the telescope given to Sharpe by Wellington. Later, Ducos betrays Napoleon and steals his treasure but also finds a way to have Sharpe blamed for the theft until Sharpe captures him in Italy. He is executed for treason by a royalist firing squad.
Portrayed by Féodor Atkine

Lord Simon Fenner (Sharpe’s Regiment)
The likely organiser of the crimping scheme, Fenner is also the Secretary of War and a respected politician. When Sharpe uncovers the scheme Fenner is ruined, which also enabled Lady Anne Camoynes to gain her freedom.
Portrayed by Nicholas Farrell

Girdwood (Sharpe’s Regiment)
Involved in the crimping scheme with Simmerson, Girdwood is a strict disciplinarian with an irrational hatred of dogs and Ireland. The scheme is uncovered by Sharpe and Girdwood, given a reprieve as long as he fights, is driven mad by the horrors of war at the Battle of Nivelles.
Portrayed by Mark Lambert

Lord John Rossendale (Sharpe’s Regiment, Sharpe’s Revenge, Sharpe’s Waterloo)
Initially an ally when he supported Sharpe’s bid to find the second battalion of the South Essex, Rossendale becomes a bitter enemy when he begins an adulterous affair with Sharpe’s naïve young wife, Jane Gibbons. Rossendale conspires to essentially steal Sharpe’s hard won fortune from Vitoria by extravagantly spending it. Rossendale later joins a cavalry brigade at Waterloo where he and Jane are shunned by society for the affair. Sharpe sees him and demands he repay his stolen money. Rossendale proves to be a useless soldier and eventually dies during the Battle of Waterloo. Jane, meanwhile, was probably carrying his bastard child.
Portrayed by Alexis Denisof

William, Prince of Orange (Sharpe’s Waterloo) R
The Prince of Orange, heir apparent to the Dutch throne, is the nominal leader of the Dutch side of the Anglo-Allied forces at Waterloo (although Wellington and Blücher both have the real power). His complete lack of soldiering competence and understanding see him cost hundreds of men their lives when he twice orders soldiers to form line during a cavalry charge, an instant. Sharpe is the one credited with wounding the Prince of Orange in a failed assassination attempt.
Portrayed by Paul Bettany

Napoleon I, Emperor of France (Sharpe’s Waterloo, Sharpe’s Devil) R
Napoleon himself does not appear as a character in the novels until Sharpe’s Devil, but is of course the ultimate enemy. In Sharpe’s Devil Sharpe meets at Saint Helena where they have tea and talk about soldiering. Sharpe actually finds himself liking the fallen emperor. He dies a couple of months later.
Portrayed by Ron Cooke (film only)

Miguel Bautista (Sharpe’s Devil)
Vivar’s successor as Governor of Chile, who is cruel and prickly. He later loses the Chilean War of Independence against Cochrane and O’Higgins, committing suicide with his lover in Valdivia.

Note: R refers to a real historical figure

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6 Responses to “Sharpe’s Villains”

  1. Evanne Brandon Diner April 3, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    Do you know the quote, “Useless to talk, said the French spy?” My mother used to say that, and I still smile when recalling the phrase. But she has passed away, and I am unable to find the origin.

    Fine to email me and fine to publish our web site, where I’ll credit you in my journal for your response.

    Many thanks.

    Evanne

    • Rhys April 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

      I have heard of it, but I don’t know its origins. If I were to guess I would say it might be from something like Sherlock Holmes novels.

    • Rhys April 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

      I have heard of it, but I don’t know its origins. If I were to guess I would say it might be from something like Sherlock Holmes novels.

  2. JT November 4, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    I remember reading “‘Useless to talk,’ said the French spy” in a book written by H. Allen Smith about the unintentionally humorous writings of children. The phrase has stuck with me for decades. My understanding is that it was a fragment of a story written by a child. Perhaps your Mom read the same book and found that phrase as memorable as I did? The book was called either “Write me a Poem, Baby,” or “Don’t Get Perconel With a Chicken.” (Yes, “perconel.”) Feel free to email me if yo’d like to talk further about it…John

  3. Byrnsey January 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    So sad to hear Pete Postlethwaite has left us. He gave an exellent performance as Hakeswill. He will be sorely missed.

    • Rhys January 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

      Indeed.

      I actually watched Sharpe’s Eagle last night because of his passing.

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