Napoleon’s Prisoner: A Country Parson’s Detention in France

Author(s) : PARRY-WINGFIELD John
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© Arthur H. Stockwell

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In 1802 there was a short interlude of peace in the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France, during which many British of all classes travelled to France. A year later Napoleon resumed hostilities and decreed that all British citizens travelling in France should be interned. These were known as détenus.
One such détenu was the Reverend Lancelot Charles Lee, then a fellow of New College, Oxford, who remained interned for eleven years, mainly in Verdun. Like most internees he was held under house arrest and not as a prisoner and was able to travel outside the Verdun city walls during the day.
This book includes letters which he wrote from France to his cousin, who is the author's great-great-great-grandfather. They paint a vivid and colourful picture of the life of the détenus and of Lee's state of mind during this long separation from his family and friends. In addition the introduction provides detailed background to the détenus' world, and there is a short biography of Lee.
On his return to England, Lee was appointed rector of the country parish of Wootton near Oxford, where he was a popular figure and generous benefactor. He died in 1841 aged seventy-three.

Those looking to explore further the fates of other détenus will find much of interest in our selection of complementary texts and accounts published here on

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Arthur H. Stockwell
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