A Celebration of Waterloo: The Romance of Harry and Juana Smith

Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles:

A Celebration of Waterloo

June 18, 1815 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée was definitively routed by the ragtag band of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington’s Allied Army in a little Belgian town called Waterloo. The cost in men’s lives was high—22,000 dead or wounded for the Allied Army and 24,000 for the French. But the war with Napoleon that had dragged on for a dozen years was over for good, and the British people once more felt secure on their island shores.

The bicentenary of the famous battle seemed like an excellent opportunity to use that setting for a story, and before I knew it, I had eight other authors eager to join me,and to make a long story short, in a bit over two weeks our anthology of nine Waterloo-themed stories will be released to the world.

You are all invited to:

The Inspiration for Lost and Found Lady

In my preparatory reading for this project, I discovered the real-life romance of Harry Smith and his wife Juana while reading Georgette Heyer’s The Spanish Bride. Add to that my deep affection for Spain and the Spanish language, and the result is a story of a romance between an injured British soldier and the extraordinary young peasant girl who rescued him after the Battle of Salamanca.

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Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1787-1860)

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Harry was born in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, the son of a surgeon. He entered the army in 1805 and saw action in South America (1806-7), but it was his service in the Peninsular War with the 95th Rifles as a scout that brought him into prominence, and that’s where he met his wife. Prior to Waterloo, he served in the United States (witnessed the burning of the capitol in 1814), and after Waterloo, South Africa and India.

Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith (1798-1872)

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A descendent of Ponce de León, Juana was orphaned at fourteen and, deprived of all family property after the siege of Badajoz in April of 1812, she and her older sister approached the British Army for protection during the atrocious massacre (indiscriminate looting, killing, and raping of Spanish civilians by British and Portuguese soldiers following the heat of battle). It was love at first sight. Despite her youth (and marriage at that age was not uncommon in Spain at the time), Juana and Harry were married four days later, and remained devoted to each other the rest of their lives.

Despite her convent upbringing, Juana insisted on remaining with Harry throughout the war, bearing the privations of army life so cheerfully that she became the darling of the 95th Rifles. Wellington himself familiarly called her “Juanita”.

From The Autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith

Now comes a scene of horror I would willingly bury in oblivion. The atrocities committed by our soldiers on the poor innocent and defenceless inhabitants of the city, no words suffice to depict. Civilized man, when let loose and the bonds of morality relaxed, is a far greater beast than the savage, more refined in his cruelty, more fiend-like in every act; and oh, too truly did our heretofore noble soldiers disgrace themselves, though the officers exerted themselves to the utmost to repress it, many who had escaped the enemy being wounded in their merciful attempts! Yet this scene of debauchery, however cruel to many, to me as been the solace and the whole happiness of my life for thirty-three years. A poor defenceless maiden of thirteen years was thrown upon my generous nature through her sister, as described so ably in Johnny Kincaid’s book, of which this in an extract—

kincaid“I was conversing with a friend the day after, at the door of his tent, when we observed two ladies coming from the city, who made directly towards us; they seemed both young, and when they came near, the elder of the two threw back her mantilla to address us, showing a remarkably handsome figure, with fine features; but her sallow, sun-burnt, and careworn, though still youthful, countenance showed that in her ‘the time for tender thoughts and soft endearments had fled away and gone.’

“She at once addressed us in that confident, heroic manner so characteristic of the high-bred Spanish maiden, told us who they were—the last of an ancient and honourable house—and referred to an officer high in rank in our army, who had been quartered there in the days of her prosperity, for the truth of her tale.

“Her husband, she said, was a Spanish officer in a distant part of the kingdom; he might, or he might not, still be living. But yesterday she and this her young sister were able to live in affluence and in a handsome house; to-day they knew not where to lay their heads, where to get a change of raiment or a morsel of bread. Her house, she said, was a wreck; and, to show the indignities to which they had been subjected, she pointed to where the blood was still trickling down their necks, caused by the wrenching of their ear-rings through the flesh by the hands of worse than savages, who would not take the trouble to unclasp them!

“For herself, she said, she cared not; but for the agitated and almost unconscious maiden by her side, whom she had but lately received over from the hands of her conventual instructresses, she was in despair, and knew not what to do; and that, in the rapine and ruin which was at that moment desolating the city, she saw no security for her but the seemingly indelicate one she had adopted—of coming to the camp and throwing themselves upon the protection of any British officer who would afford it; and so great, she said, was her faith in our national character, that she knew the appeal would not be made in vain, nor the confidence abused. Nor was it made in vain! Nor could it be abused, for she stood by the side of an angel! A being more transcendingly lovely I had never before seen—one more amiable I have never yet known!

“Fourteen summers had not yet passed over her youthful countenance, which was of a delicate freshness—more English than Spanish; her face, though not perhaps rigidly beautiful, was nevertheless so remarkably handsome, and so irresistibly attractive, surmounting a figure cast in nature’s fairest mould, that to look at her was to love her; and I did love her, but I never told my love, and int the mean time another and a more impudent fellow stepped in and won her! But yet I was happy, for in him she found such a one as her loveliness and her misfortunes claimed—a man of honour, and a husband in every way worthy of her!”

“That a being so young, so lovely, and so interesting, just emancipated from the gloom of a convent, unknowing of the world and to the world unknown, should thus have been wrecked on a sea of troubles, and thrown on the mercy of strangers under circumstances so dreadful, so uncontrollable, and not have sunk to rise no more, must be the wonder of every one. Yet from the moment she was thrown on her own resources, her star was in the ascendant.”

“Guided by a just sense of rectitude, an innate purity of mind, a singleness of purpose which defied malice, and a soul that soared above circumstances, she became alike the adored of the camp and of the drawing-room, and eventually the admired associate of princes. She yet lives, in the affections of her gallant husband, in an elevated situation in life, a pattern to her sex, and everybody’s beau ideal of what a wife should be.”

I confess myself to be the “more impudent fellow,” and if any reward is due to a soldier, never was one so honoured and distinguished as I have been by the possession of this dear child (for she was little more than a child at this moment), one with a sense of honour no knight ever exceeded in the most romantic days of chivalry, an understanding superior to her years, a masculine mind with a force of character no consideration could turn from her own just sense of rectitude, and all encased in a frame of Nature’s fairest and most delicate moulding, the figure of an angel, with an eye of light and an expression which then inspired me with a maddening love which, from that period to this (now thirty-three years), has never abated under many and the most trying circumstances. Thus, as good may come out of evil, this scene of devastation and spoil yielded to me a treasure invaluable; to me who, among so many dear friends, had escaped all dangers; to me, a wild youth not meriting such reward, and, however desirous, never able to express half his gratitude to God Almighty for such signal marks of His blessing shown to so young and so thoughtless a being. From that day to this she has been my guardian angel. She has shared with me the dangers and privations, the hardships and fatigues, of a restless life of war in every quarter of the globe. No murmur has ever escaped her. Bereft of every relative, of every tie to her country but the recollection of it, united to a man of different though Christian religion, yet that man has been and is her all…”

The Protagonists of Lost and Found Lady

Rupert Ellsworth, like Harry Smith is an explorer scout with the British Army in Spain. Also like Harry, he’s a younger son seeking to make his own way in life. He might have become a career soldier as Harry did, had his life not taken a different turn in 1812. When he meets Catalina, he’s not looking for love or marriage, and if he were, it certainly wouldn’t be to a penniless Spanish Catholic!

Catalina’s upbringing wasn’t at all like Juana Smith’s. Orphaned at birth, she is taken in by a couple who treat her as an unpaid servant. Her eagerness to learn attracts the attention of a local priest, who takes it upon himself to give her an education comparable to that of an elite gentleman. When she meets Rupert, she is reflecting on her limited options for the future and wondering if she could escape her humdrum life by becoming a nun. At eighteen when she meets Rupert, she’s older than Juana, but, like Harry’s wife, she’s reached a turning point in her life.

What happens when these two meet after the Battle of Salamanca? Hmm…

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Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles

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Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Charge

Emmaline Rothesay has her eye on Jeremiah Denby as a potential suitor. When Captain Denby experiences a life-altering incident during the course of events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, it throws a damper on Emmaline’s plans.

Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure and Pandora Wellingham is more than ready to spread her wings. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon she believes her stars have aligned.

Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady

Catalina and Rupert fell in love in Spain in the aftermath of a battle, only to be separated by circumstances. Years later, they find each other again, just as another battle is brewing, but is it too late?

Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel

Charged with the duty of keeping his friend’s widow safe, Captain Sam Lumley watches over Ellen Staverton as she recovers from her loss, growing fonder of her as each month passes. When Ellen takes a position as a companion, Sam must confront his feelings before she’s completely gone from his life.

Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue

On the night of the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Aimée, Lady Prescott, reminisces about meeting her husband in Bruxelles on the eve of the fighting. She had avoided the dashing scarlet-clad British officers, but she could not resist the tempting smile and spellbinding charm of Captain Robert Prescott of the 16th Light Dragoons who—dangerously to Aimée—wore blue.

Heather King: Copenhagen’s Last Charge

When Meg Lacy finds herself riding through the streets of Brussels only hours after the Battle of Waterloo, romance is the last thing on her mind, especially with surly Lieutenant James Cooper. However, their bickering uncovers a strange empathy—until, that is, the lieutenant makes a grave error of judgment that jeopardizes their budding friendship…

Christa Paige: One Last Kiss

The moment Colin held Beatrice in his arms he wanted one last kiss to take with him into battle and an uncertain future. Despite the threat of a soldier’s death, he must survive, for he promises to return to her because one kiss from Beatrice would never be enough.

Sophia Strathmore: A Soldier Lay Dying

Amelia and Anne Evans find themselves orphaned when their father, General Evans, dies. With no other options available, Amelia accepts the deathbed proposal of Oliver Brighton, Earl of Montford, a long time family friend. When Lord Montford recovers from his battle wounds, can the two find lasting love?

David W. Wilkin: Not a Close Run Thing at All

Years, a decade. And now, Robert had come back into her life. Shortly before battle was to bring together more than three hundred thousand soldiers. They had but moments after all those years, and now, would they have any more after?

11 thoughts on “A Celebration of Waterloo: The Romance of Harry and Juana Smith

    • Following after an army really doesn’t sound like a very romantic setting, does it? But Juana and Harry were both extraordinary people. Thanks for dropping by, Carly!

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  1. I’ve read Harry’s autobiography, many years back, and it was wonderful. Also amazing how much of it found its way into The Spanish Bride, which was Georgette Heyer’s story of the Peninsula War and Harry and Juana’s love affair. The pair are mentioned in many of GH’s books. So wonderful to find a true romance that was eminently successful throughout the marriage!

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    • I love his autobiography too, and The Spanish Bride. I did wonder what they would have done had she become pregnant, though. But apparently they didn’t have any children.

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  2. What a great love story. Thanks for sharing I enjoyed reading about them. It’s wonderful to see a true love story and a solid marriage.
    Lorraine

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  3. I’ve always loved the real life love story of Harry and Juanita Smith, there’s a lovely bit later in his memoirs when they are reunited in England and it’s so romantic.

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  4. I really enjoyed this. I’m going to read his Memoirs. So beautiful to see such love and devotion , especially during war. Thanks for sharing this.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  5. Pingback: Camp Followers During the Peninsular War by Susana Ellis | Kathryn Kane -- Romance

  6. The Spanish Bride has long been one of my all-time favourite books. Wonderfully told. I look forward to reading Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles. My Gt-Gt-Grandfather was at the ball, and at Waterloo. He was wounded at Hougemont, delivering a dispatch to Wellington.

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