Sharpe's Regiment (TV programme)

Sharpe's Regiment is a British television drama, the ninth of a series that follows the career of Richard Sharpe, a British soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. This episode is based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Cornwell.

Sharpe's Regiment
Written byBernard Cornwell (novel)
Charles Wood
Directed byTom Clegg
StarringSean Bean
Daragh O'Malley
Abigail Cruttenden
Theme music composerDominic Muldowney
John Tams
Country of originUK
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Malcolm Craddock
Muir Sutherland (exec.)
Editor(s)Keith Palmer
Running time100 min.
Original release1 May 1996
Preceded bySharpe's Sword
Followed bySharpe's Siege


It is 1813. The First Battalion of the South Essex Regiment has suffered terrible losses in the fighting in Spain and the entire regiment is in danger of being disbanded as a result. Major Sharpe (Sean Bean) and Sergeant Major Harper (Daragh O'Malley) are sent back to England to find out why replacements have not been sent. Sharpe is told that the Second Battalion of the South Essex is drawing pay for over 700 soldiers, but when he arrives at the Second Battalion's barracks, he finds only eleven men, even though there is regular recruiting for the regiment. Sharpe senses something is amiss and is determined to get to the bottom of things.

During an audience with the dimwitted Prince Regent (Julian Fellowes), Sharpe is introduced to Lord Fenner (Nicholas Farrell), the man responsible for the regiment's troubles. Fenner insists that the second battalion of the South Essex exists only on paper as a means of paying troops who have been scattered for various reasons until they can be placed into a proper unit. Fenner sends Lady Anne Camoynes (Caroline Langrishe) to sleep with Sharpe and ascertain his intentions. When he finds out, he sends assassins to solve his potential problem, but Sharpe and Harper dispose of them instead. Their bodies are tossed into the river and rumours are spread that Sharpe and Harper have been killed.

Meanwhile, the two men "enlist" in the South Essex's Second Battalion to find out what happens to the recruits. They learn that they are being trained by the brutal and effete Lieutenant Colonel Girdwood (Mark Lambert) and then auctioned off to other regiments by Sharpe's old enemy, Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane) with Fenner getting a kickback. Simmerson's niece, Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden), helps Sharpe and Harper escape afterwards.

Sharpe goes to Horse Guards to see the Commander in Chief of the Army, the Duke of York, but learns that the Duke is not in London. Sharpe sees his old friend, Sir William Lawford in whom he confides. Lawford, on his own initiative, approaches Fenner and proposes a solution—the South Essex will get its men and Sharpe will be given command of a Rifle battalion in North America. Lady Camoynes overhears and contacts Sharpe. She tells him that he needs proof of the sales and tells him that she wants to ruin Fenner, who expects sexual favors from her as a way of paying off the debts of her late husband, whom Fenner ruined.

Sharpe and Harper return to Girdwood's training camp and take over (claiming authority that they lack), placing Girdwood under arrest, but they are unable to find any paperwork documenting the sales. (Harper does complete the paperwork necessary to make the recruits officially part of the South Essex, however, so they cannot be auctioned.)

Girdwood, however, escapes and goes to Simmerson's estate, where he collects the incriminating paperwork, and then heads to Simmerson's London house. Sharpe arrives at Simmerson's house too late to stop Girdwood, but he sees an invitation to a party to be hosted by the Prince of Wales. Sharpe also learns from Jane that Simmerson regularly beats her (Simmerson has little regard for her given that she is a marital relative whose father was a lowly saddler), and Sharpe rashly proposes marriage as a way of enabling her to escape Simmerson's power. Jane agrees to go to London to try to steal the paperwork from Simmerson's house there. Sharpe forms up the recruits of the Second Battalion, tells them to throw away their leather neck collars, and marches them off to London where they march in on the Prince of Wales's party and with Sharpe bearing the eagle he took at Talavera, the recruits dramatically present themselves as volunteers dedicated to the Prince, placing his feather in their shakos. (In fact the feathers are from chickens they purchased on the march). The Prince gleefully claims them as his own, making the regiment the Prince of Wales Own Volunteers (POWOV), instead of the South Essex.

Sharpe confronts Lord Fenner, but does not have any proof, as Simmerson gave the paperwork to Fenner who ordered it burnt. Just in time, Lady Camoynes shows up with ledgers—which she saved from the fire—detailing the crimes and uses them for blackmail for herself and for Sharpe. Simmerson, due to his influential friends, once more escapes prosecution. To shelter Jane from Simmerson's wrath, Sharpe becomes engaged to her, declining an offer of a return to Lady Camoyne's bed.

Thanks to Lady Camoyne's blackmail of Fenner, Sharpe gets the men he came for and goes back to fight in Spain, saving the regiment from being deleted from the army list. The regiment is now under the command of Colonel Girdwood, which Sharpe also specifically requested. In Spain, Girdwood has a close encounter with a French artillery round during an attack on the French border and suffers a mental breakdown as a result. He is invalided home, and Sharpe takes command of the Prince of Wales Own Volunteers, leading them on to victory. One of the POWOV men is asked "what regiment?" His response sums up the episode: "Sharpe's".

The Prince of Wales Own Volunteers regimental colors differ from those of the South Essex regiment, as seen in Sharpe's Eagle. In Sharpe's Eagle, the POWOV's regimental colors are a circular floral device on a yellow background. The POWOV's regimental colors are a chained French imperial eagle, surrounded by laurel branches, on the same yellow background, honoring the regiment's capture of the eagle at Talavera.




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