Code of Honour

polishlancersoftheguard

When Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Joséphine tries to seduce him and refuses to join her husband in Italy, Peter Branicki faces a dilemma; a quandary that is compounded when he discovers that her former lover, powerful Deputy Paul Barras, is trying to undermine Bonaparte. But with battlefield successes in Italy against Austria and Piedmont-Sardinia and the spoils of war pouring into a bankrupt French Treasury, Bonaparte’s position is unassailable. Sworn to fight for Polish independence and to recover the legendary Grunwald Sword, Peter’s relationship with Bonaparte becomes ever more vital, and with help from the secretive Brothers of Dobrzyń, he creates an embryonic Polish Legion to fight alongside the French army. Having beaten back the Austrians, Bonaparte attacks the Papal States, but when the Pope sues for peace, Peter provides the key to a lucrative armistice. He then leads the Polish Legion and intercepts a king’s ransom of golden guineas sent to Vienna from England, but when Austria attacks again, Peter and the Legion must fight their way through Austrian lines. An inspired bluff by Peter avoids Bonaparte’s capture and he is sent to Paris with a call for more troops. Although promoted to colonel, Peter is quickly immersed in a fierce political struggle between Deputies Barras and Carnot. However, society hostess Madame de Staël and enigmatic Charles Talleyrand help Peter outwit Barras and secure reinforcements. Peter returns to Bonaparte with orders for a new campaign. Joséphine though already knows all about his visit to Paris, and determined to protect her relationship with her new hussar lover and her lust for power she makes an attempt on Peter’s life. It is thwarted though by the intervention of his loyal friend Raoul. With the Army of Italy ordered to head north, Peter chances upon the main Austrian army, then intent on relieving Mantua. Engaging the enemy, he alerts Bonaparte who defeats the Austrians, driving the survivors into the besieged city. Bonaparte then sends Peter to Paris to present captured enemy colors to the Directory, and to make another request for troops. Peter is again involved in the ongoing political war in Paris but outmaneuvers Deputy Barras and secures Bonaparte’s reinforcements. On his return though, a duel with an old rival is only avoided with help from canny Raoul. In recognition of the success of Peter’s mission and the contribution made by the Polish contingent, Bonaparte presents the Legion with his personal color, and pledges that the return of the Grunwald Sword would be an integral part of any armistice with Vienna.