'Napoleon is Dead' - Criminal Conspiracy!

Monday, 21 February, 1814

Napoleon David(Right; Napoleon by David, 1813 Wiki CC)

The following letter was received by the Admiral commanding the Royal Navy ships stationed in the Downs:

To the Honourable J. Foley, Port Admiral, Deal, &c. &c. &c.

Dover, One o’Clock, A.M.
February 21, 1814


I have the honour to acquaint you that the L’Aigle from Calais, Pierre Duquin, Master, has this moment landed me near Dover, to proceed to the Capital with dispatches of the happiest nature. I have pledged my honour that no harm shall come to the crew of the L’Aigle; even with a flag of truce they immediately stood for sea. Should they be taken, I have to entreat you immediately to liberate them. My anxiety will not allow me to say more for your gratification than that the Allies obtained a final victory; that Bonaparte was overtaken by a party of Sachen’s Cossacks, who immediately slaid him, and divided his body between them. -General Platoff, saved Paris from being reduced to ashes. The Allied Sovereigns are there, and the white cockade is universal, an immediate peace is certain. In the utmost haste, I entreat your consideration and have the honour to be,

Your most obedient humble Servant,
R. du Bourg,
Lieutenant Colonel and Aid de Camp to Lord Cathcart.

It had been written in 'The Ship Inn' at Dover in the early hours of Monday 21st February 1814. The author, wearing a military cap, was dressed in an officer's scarlet military uniform worn under a grey greatcoat, and was later identified as Charles Random de Berenger. It was in fact the opening act of an elaborate criminal conspiracy that concluded with the earliest successful prosecution for (stock) market manipulation in England. The prosecution did not have to allege that any particular purchaser or purchasers had suffered loss as a result of these actions and instead proved that it was a conspiracy by the use of wrongful means for a wrongful purpose. The wrongful means was the false rumour concerning the defeat and death of Napoleon and the wrongful purpose was the creation of an inflated value of government securities when stockholders became elated at the prospect of peace. When the London Stock Exchange opened, the city was full of rumours of a great allied victory and the price of government bonds inflated rapidly. The criminal syndicate of speculators then sold their recently acquired bonds at the inflated prices.

At the Court of King's Bench on Tuesday 21 June 1814, Mr Justice Le Blanc's Speech in Pronouncing Sentence concluded with the words:

'That you, Sir Thomas Cochrane, otherwise called Lord Cochrane, and you Richard Gathorne Butt, do severally pay to the King a fine of one thousand pounds each; that you, John Peter Holloway, the third person who was to be benefited by this conspiracy, do pay to the King a fine of five hundred pounds; that all you the six several defendants, Charles Ransome de Berenger, Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, Richard Gathorne Butt, Ralph Sandom, John Peter Holloway, and Henry Lyte, be severally imprisoned in the custody of the Marshal of the Marshalsea of our Lord the King for twelve calendar months; and that during that period you, Charles Ransom de Berenger, you, Sir Thomas Cochrane, otherwise known as Lord Cochrane, and you Richard Gaythorne Butt, be severally set in and upon the pillory, opposite the Royal Exchange in the City of London, for one hour, between the hours of twelve at noon and two in the afternoon; and that you be now severally committed to the custody of the Marshal of the Marshalsea, in execution of this sentence, and be further imprisoned until your several fines be paid.'

At that time , this was a remarkably lenient punishment which probably reflected the guilty men's social class. Richard Harding, a man without title, was tried for, on 24 May 1805, 'Forging, fabricating, and counterfeiting the legal stamp on the Ace of Spades and Selling and uttering playing-cards with the same, while knowing such stamp to be false'. He was found guilty and hanged.