|Also known as:||Sharpie, Dick Vaughn|
|Rank:||Private (Sharpe's Tiger)|
Sergeant (Sharpe's Triumph)
Ensign (Sharpe's Fortress, Sharpe's Trafalgar)
Lieutenant (Sharpe's Rifles)
Captain, (Sharpe's Eagle, Sharpe's Company)
Major, (Sharpe's Enemy)
Lieutenant-Colonel, (Sharpe's Waterloo)
Colonel (Sharpe's Challenge)
Richard Sharpe is the series protagonist, a British soldier who fought in India, the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo. His tale begins in Sharpe's Tiger as a private in the 33rd Regiment of Foot. He earns the rank of Sergeant by the end of the book. Throughout his career, he is gradually promoted through the ranks, finally becoming a lieutenant colonel in Sharpe's Waterloo. He is described as being six feet tall, having an angular, tanned face, black hair, and blue eyes. He has "a slash of a scar on his cheek that gave him a broodingly savage face."
Sharpe is an intelligent, driven, and fiercely ambitious man, rising through the ranks by courage, determination, and luck. He is most comfortable on the battlefield; and being a soldier is the life he excels at.
His best friends and only real family are the soldiers he serves with. On the battlefield he is confident, highly skilled, instinctual, and ingenious. Off the battle field he is often insecure and somewhat naive, never really fitting into the world of the gentlemen of privilege, means, and education who are his fellow officers.
Although he has a towering and somewhat brittle pride, a man too proud to ever fail, he has remarkably little ego. He never really understands the loyalty of his men was to him personally, more than to any unit. He marveled at their confidence in taking on numbers ten times their own, he did not understand, as Patrick Harper did, that it was because of him, that he could make his men feel that "the impossible was just a little troublesome and that victory was common place where he led." (Sharpe's Gold) He is a born leader, a natural soldier.
Richard Sharpe was born in June or July of 1777 or 1778, to a prostitute residing in Cat Lane, London and an unknown father. Sharpe remembers only dark hair and a voice in the darkness of his mother. When Sharpe was about three, his mother was killed, leaving him an orphan. With no other known relatives to claim him, he was eventually deposited in a foundling home at Brewhouse Lane, Wapping. There, the children under six were assigned to pick apart old tar coated ships cables which left their fingers bloody and abused. Each child would work a seven foot length every day which was then sold to caulkers and upholsterers. He said it was better than working the bone room where bones were pounded to powder to make paste which was sold as imitation ivory. They liked Christmas because it was one day a year that there was no work, the one day the home was heated, and they were given minced tripe and hard boiled eggs to eat. (Sharpe's Enemy). At about the age of eight or nine, when he was sold to a chimney sweep, he ran away. He was found by Maggie Joyce in the Rookery of St Giles, London, who found work for a nimble child, he becomes a thief and house breaker. St Giles was grim and dark, a place of desperation where kill or be killed was an everyday occurrence. Maggie was the first woman he slept with, and the first he killed for, both before his thirteenth birthday.
After killing one of the lords of St Giles for beating Maggie, she sent him away and he fled to Yorkshire. He worked at a coaching inn in Yorkshire for over two years where he assisted the innkeeper in snaffling luggage, and dealing in stolen goods. He called the man a right bastard, and he eventually killed him in a knife fight over a local girl. To avoid arrest, he accepted the King's shilling from Sgt. Hakeswell and joined the 33rd Regiment of Foot.
Sharpe sees his first action at the age of 16 in Flanders. He then serves in India and it was in India where his nemesis, Sergeant Obediah Hakeswill, had him flogged. In 1799, Sharpe is sentenced to 2,000 lashes for striking the sergeant, but is released after receiving 202. Using the flogging as a cover, he is assigned to accompany Lieutenant William Lawford on a secret mission to rescue Lawford's uncle, Hector McCandless, head of British East India Company intelligence. They join the Tippoo Sultan's army posing as British deserters, which is fortunate for his healing back, since the Indian doctor is far more skilled than the army surgeon. Sharpe is ordered to shoot McCandless and after surreptitiously asking if the man had a message for the General, does so without hesitation. The powder, however, is made without saltpeter, and couldn't fire, a fact a line soldier such as he picks up on immediately. McCandless was impressed by the soldier, Lawford stunned. They were later exposed by Hakeswill and imprisoned. Lawford and McCandless teach Sharpe to read and write while they are in the Tippoo's dungeon (Sharpe's Tiger).
At the successful conclusion of their mission, he is promoted to sergeant. He serves four years as sergeant in the Armoury in Seringapatam. He then survived the massacre at Chasalgaon, perpetrated by renegade East India Company officer William Dodd, in 1803. Sharpe's servant boy, Davi Lal, and his six men died, however, and Sharpe wanted revenge.
Sharpe proves himself an excellent soldier, when the dragoon orderly attached to Sir Arthur Wellesley is killed in the early stages at the Battle of Assaye, Sharpe takes his place, and so is at hand when Wellesley is unhorsed among the enemy. Sharpe defends Wellesley against Maratha horsemen and saves the general's life, receiving a battlefield commission for this act of bravery. He joins the 74th Regiment as an Ensign, and it is he who leads the force that breeches Dodd's fortress, and destroys the renegade while at the same time collecting a defining scar to his cheek (Sharpe's Fortress).
Never quite fitting in with the clanish 74th, he applies for and is accepted to the newly formed 95th Rifles. He returns to England to join his new regiment as a second lieutenant (Sharpe's Trafalgar).
- "Go to hell, Sergeant."
"Follow you anywhere, Sir."
- — Richard Sharpe & Patrick Harper
1793 Joined the ranks of the King's 33rd Foot. Fought a brief engagement in Flanders the following year.
1795 Sailed for India with the 33rd. Made Corporal of the 33rd but was broken back to private. Becomes bored and contemplates desertion.
1799 Flogged for striking a superior. Accepted mission behind enemy lines. Met William Lawford and Hector McCandless who taught him how to read and write while they were prisoners of the Mysore Sultan. Promoted to Sergeant in the 33rd Foot for the services he provided during the siege of Seringapatam.
1803 Commissioned Ensign after saving the life of Sir Arthur Wellesley at the Battle of Assaye he was assigned to the 78th Highlanders. Stayed in India until late 1805 when he was accepted on exchange into the Experimental Corps of Riflemen as a Second Lieutenant of the 1st Battalion.
1806 Transferred into the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Rifles.
1808 Went with the army into Spain and was part of the Corunna Retreat, where he served in the rearguard action with the 95th on the Vigo route with Crauford's Light Brigade.
1809 Moved into Spain once more, served as escort to the Engineers until attached to a regular Army Regiment, the South Essex. Gazetted Captain of the Light Company by Wellington.
1812 After Salamanca and Garcia Hernandez, recovering from wounds, Sharpe was promoted to Major by the Prince Regent and given his first independent command.
1815 Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel 5th Belgian Light Dragoons and served on the staff of the Prince of Orange, participating in the Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. Sharpe spent a final month in service as the Commander of the South Essex Regiment, thereby confirming his regimental rank of Colonel.
Sharpe's Battle Wounds
- "There's no future in being a gentleman in a fight."
- — Richard Sharpe
Sharpe participated in and survived two of the most significant battles of 19th century Europe, Trafalgar and Waterloo, with no more than a bruise. Such was not always the case.
- Sentenced to be flogged, he received 202 lashes to his back.
- Took an Indian lance in his side.
- Hand clawed by one of the Tipoo's tigers.
- Grazing wound to the scalp from a musket ball during the Chasalgaon massacre.
- A bone deep bayonet wound to the hip.
- A scorched cheek.
- Sabre slash to his face resulting in notable scar.
- A grazing wound from a musket ball across the side of his head.
- Wounds to his back from shattered glass during a bombardment.
- Sword bayonet cuts to his fingers during a fight with Rifleman Harper.
- Minor sabre wound to the arm from a French Dragoon.
- Sabre wound to his leg from French Hussar.
- Bayonet wound to his leg during capture of the French Eagle.
- Shoulder trampled by Christian Gibbons' horse.
- A ricochet musket ball to his armpit which nearly killed him due to blood loss. Cauterized with a red hot iron.
- A thigh wound, when he forced el Catolico's blade through his leg in order to deprive his opponent of its use.
- Bullet wound to the shoulder from a French carbine, fired by Doña Juanita.
- Ambushed and severely beaten by Luis Ferreira alias Ferregus, a Portuguese criminal and black marketeer.
- Fractured skull from a grazing musket ball wound. A fragment of his skull had to be pulled back into place by a Navy surgeon.
- Bullet wound to the inner thigh from the seven barrel volley gun, fired by Hakeswill.
- A through and through bullet wound suffered in the same action fired by the French.
- A minor wound from a French officer's sword.
- Bullet wound to the abdomen that almost proved fatal, he was, in fact, placed in the death room by surgeons who thought him mortally wounded. He was almost two months in recovery.
- Gouged right palm from wielding a broken telescope as a weapon.
- Knife wound to left hand.
- Severely beaten with a cobbler's mallet by Spanish civilians before they realized he was English and not French.
- A carbine ball graze across his forehead resulting in concussion and blood loss.
- Bayonet wound to the hip.
- Shot with a horse pistol loaded with three bullets which broke his shoulder, his thigh, and tore off the top of one ear.
- Savaged by a guard dog, taking a bite wound to his wrist.
- Sliced open his palm with his sword fighting off the guard dogs.
Throughout the novels, it was made clear that Sharpe had only one object he valued; a telescope. He was neither rich nor privileged, and could not afford such things as most of his fellow officers could buy, but the telescope had been a gift and was prized. In Sharpe's Fortress, it was revealed that Wellesley thought he had perhaps made an error in promoting Sharpe, that a fiscal reward might have sufficed, and sought to find something to present as a fungible reward since being an officer was an expensive proposition. He decided upon a new telescope with a shallow eyepiece which had been a gift to him from the merchants of Madras. He had his aide replace the presentation plate and it was presented to Sharpe with his compliments. The telescope was an excellent instrument made of brass by Matthew Burge of London and set with a plaque reading In gratitude A.W. September 23rd 1803.
Ducos took it from him in Sharpe's Honour when he was captured, knowing he prized it. Ducos hated Sharpe, and it rankled that he had deliberately destroyed Ducos' only comfortable pair of spectacles. In revenge for the insult to him, he destroyed Sharpe's telescope by beating it against a stone wall, then stamping on the pieces while Sharpe watched in anger and frustration. Sharpe, however, made one last use of his telescope, using the jagged remains to stab his guard/torturer in the groin and escape.
Helene Leroux offered him a replacement telescope at the end of the novel in a highly polished rosewood box lined with red taffeta. The instrument had an ivory barrel trimmed with gold. It slid open with extraordinary smoothness and was set with a plaque: To Joseph, King of Spain and the Indies, from his brother Napoleon, Emperor of France. Sharpe called it beautiful. It was taken as evidence during the court of inquiry convened during Sharpe's Revenge, and apparently never returned.
In Waterloo, Sharpe's telescope is "a battered sea captain's telescope" which was both awkward and heavy.
- "He'll fall in love with anything in a petticoat.
Got the sense of a half-witted sheep when it comes to women"
- — Patrick Harper
In 1799 while stationed in India, Sharpe asks for permission to marry Mary Bickerstaff, the 22 year old half caste widow of Sergeant Bickerstaff. She later leaves him (Sharpe's Tiger) for another man and he wishes her well. While serving in Seringapatam, he had an arrangement with a local prostitute. He later has brief affairs with Simone Joubert and Clare Wall (Sharpe's Triumph, Sharpe's Fortress).
His first real love was Lady Grace Hale, with whom he entered into an affair in 1805, which results in the birth of his first child, and Grace's death. The child, a son, dies a few hours later, leaving Sharpe in profound mourning.
Sharpe has a brief affair with Astrid Skovgaard in Copenhagen in 1807. She was the first woman who had let him think beyond Grace's death. She is later murdered on the orders of British spymaster, Lord Pumphrey. Sharpe is unaware of her fate for several years. (Sharpe's Trafalgar, Sharpe's Prey)
During the early years of the Peninsula Campaign, Sharpe briefly becomes infatuated with Louisa Parker, who refuses his proposal. He then pays court to both a Portuguese courtesan, Josefina Lacosta, and then partisan leader, Teresa Moreno (Sharpe's Eagle, Sharpe's Gold).
Teresa bears Sharpe a daughter, Antonia (Sharpe's Company), in 1811, and marries him in 1812. She is killed a year later by the renegade Obadiah Hakeswill (Sharpe's Enemy). Sharpe leaves his daughter to be raised by Teresa's brother, Ramon, and his wife Lucia.
Sharpe conducts brief affairs with an English governess, Sarah Fry (Sharpe's Escape), Caterina Veronica Blazquez, a high flying courtesan (Sharpe's Fury), and the French spy Hélène Leroux (Sharpe's Sword, Sharpe's Honour). Note: an affair that takes place only in the television movies includes the runaway novitiate nun, whom he calls Lass (Sharpe's Sword).
In 1813, he has a brief affair with dowager countess Anne Camoynes during Sharpe's Regiment. He is infatuated with, and elopes with, Jane Gibbons (Sharpe's Regiment), in love with what she represents perhaps, more than with her. He, however, remains faithful to his second wife, resisting such concerted efforts as Catherine de Maquerre (Sharpe's Siege), until Jane betrays him. She embarks on an adulterous affair with Sharpe's former friend, Lord John Rossendale and steals the fortune Sharpe had accumulated. Sharpe never meets with or speaks to her again.
Lucille Lassan Castineau, the widow of a French officer killed in Russia, becomes his last and most stable relationship. (Sharpe's Revenge, Sharpe's Waterloo) Although unable to marry while Jane lives, Sharpe and Lucille settle on her family estate in Normandy and raise two children, married in all but name.
He eventually retires to Normandy, France with his common-law wife, Lucille. They have two children; Patrick-Henri, who eventually becomes a French Cavalry officer, much to his father's chagrin, and Dominique, who ultimately marries an English aristocrat.
The family lives comfortably on the contents of a sea chest full of plunder Sharpe acquired on his last adventure, Sharpe's Devil.
In the television movies, Sharpe's upward trajectory began far later than in the novels - it wasn't until he rescued Wellington from a French patrol during the Peninsula Campaign in Sharpe's Rifles that he was promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant.
- Sharpe likes to star watch. When he and Harper were slightly drunk, he admits that just as Harper likes birds, he likes the stars. (Sharpe's Company)
- While waiting through a shelling, he once admitted he had always wanted to learn to play the flute (Sharpe's Havoc), this was reiterated in Sharpe's Siege, and again after coming down from a battle rage, he made a non sequitur remark about wishing he could play the flute. (Sharpe's Company)