King, Ship, and Sword is the 16th and latest of Dewey Lambdin’s naval adventures chronicling the career of Alan Lewrie.
We left Lewrie in Baltic Gambit in the aftermath of the Battle of Copenhagen as the captain of HMS Thermopylae. He survives the battle with his professional reputation enhanced but staring the wreckage of his marriage and close friendships in the face.
King, Ship, and Sword picks up with Thermopylae on close blockade of the Dutch ports as peace becomes more and more inevitable. Lewrie, as usual, is in a state of disfavor with the powers at Whitehall and his ship is one of the last to be called home and paid off when the Peace of Amiens is signed.
Lewrie is rudderless. For the first time in years he is on half-pay and he is in such foul odor with the First Lord of Admiralty that he doubts he will ever get back to sea, even if the war does resume. He faces the unpleasant prospect of returning to his rented property at Anglesgreen and resuming life with his very estranged wife, Caroline, with her relatives in close proximity.
Perhaps because he temptations are so few and far between in Anglesgreen, Lewrie is able to reach something of an armed truce with Caroline. His sons are ecstatic to have their hero-father home but his young daughter has imbibed deeply from Caroline’s well of bitterness and wants nothing to do with him.
As Caroline and Alan achieve something of a rapprochement they decide that a second honeymoon would be just the thing to turn over a new page in their relationship. They choose Paris as a destination.
Lewrie has a dual personal/professional purpose for going to Paris (nice alliteration, eh?). During the late war he has collected the swords of five French captains who did not survive their encounter with his various ships. Had they done so he would, as a matter of course, returned their weapons after surrender. He wants to take these to the French equivalent of the Admiralty and have them returned to the next-of-kin. And then there is the matter of his own sword given up to a young Corsican officer on a beach near Toulon in 1793. He wants to ask that Corsican, how now styles himself Emperor of France, to return it to him.
As the Lewrie’s depart a restaurant on their first night in Paris they pass a disfigured cripple who is taken aback by seeing Lewrie. He is none other than Lewrie’s old nemesis, Guillaume Choundas (King’s Privateer, King’s Commander, Havoc’s Sword), now a civilian and eking out a very bleak existence on a small pension.
He sets Caroline out on her own, or rather accompanied by an unsavory guide, to spend her way out of her residual anger at Lewrie’s philanderings while he visits the British consulate to pursue his plan.
Caroline finds her way to the most exclusive parfumerie in Paris. Unfortunately, it’s proprietor in none other than Lewrie’s paramour from Toulon, Phoebe Aretino. (HMS Cockerel; A King’s Commander) Caroline instantly recognizes her name thanks to the poison pen letters she received from another of Lewrie’s love random conquests.
Caroline lets her opinion of Aretino’s character be known rather loudly. As fate would have it another of Lewrie’s lovers, Charitė de Guilleri.
Charitė de Guilleri is still nursing her rage over being used in all manner of ways by Lewrie in New Orleans. She has become a leading voice advocating France recovering Louisiana from Spain and takes her discovery of his presence directly to the head of the National Police.
Her disclosure of his affiliation with the British Foreign Office hits at the same time the office is evaluating the British Consulates’s request to have Lewrie meet Bonaparte to exchange swords as a sign of improved Anglo-French relations.
In the meantime, the Lewrie’s have struck up a relationship with an eccentric British couple, Sir Pulteney and Lady Imogene Plumb.
The Lewries are presented to Napoleon and swords exchanged but not without incident. The upshot is that the head of the National Police orders the Lewries to disappear. Choundas and Charitė de Guilleri are sent along on the mission because they both can recognize Lewrie.
Charitė de Guilleri is upset that Caroline is going to be snuffed as well as Lewrie and that she has inadvertently labeled Aretino as a possible enemy of the regime.
As it turns out the Plumbs were active in smuggling Royalists to England during the Terror and are visiting France during the peace to relive those heady days vicariously. Sir Pulteney still has highly placed contacts and hears that Lewrie has been targeted for assassination. He brings his old network back into action.
Lewrie and Caroline return to England. Choundas meets his end at Lewrie’s hands. Charitė de Guilleri and Phoebe Aretino are ?? we don’t know.
Lewrie returns to England as the nation begins mobilizing for war as the Peace of Amiens unravels. He is given command of a large 38-gun frigate, HMS Reliant and hastily sent to sea as part of a four-ship squadron tasked to prevent French troops from arriving in New Orleans to take possession of Louisiana for France.
Lewrie’s seniority makes him second in command and much to his surprise his advice his heeded by his commodore. A trans-Atlantic chase ensues which ends with the British squadron taking the French squadron at the mouth of the Mississippi.