With just over a month to go until Poldark comes back onto our screens, and I know I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait for our dashing Cornish man of action to be throwing himself around Cornish cliffs, and smoldering out through the television screens. With not much revealed about this eagerly anticipated second seasons, many questions have risen up. How will Poldark and Demelza cope through their grief? Will Poldark go shirtless again? Are Ross and George Warleggen ever going to become friends? Will Poldark go shirtless again?
Here at myCornwall, we know how popular the main character is. But the real question is, was Ross Poldark real? Is he entirely a work or fiction, or is there more?
The answer comes in the figure of Richard Hussey Vivian. Cornishman, Battle of Waterloo veteran and Truro politician.
Although Winston Graham, author of the Poldark series, did reference Richard Hussey Vivian in his notes, there is little in the way of proof that Ross was properly inspired by Vivian. However, there are similarities, as Dr. Jayne Wackett, curator of the now-finished Royal Cornwall Museum exhibition (The Campaign Trail: Sir Hussey Vivian = From Waterloo to Westminster) explains.
‘Like many great characters from fiction, we can see parallels to people from real life, whether it’s intentional or not. There are certain similarities between Ross Poldark and Richard Hussey Vivian, starting with the fact that they were both strong Cornishmen’.
But who was this military figure? myCornwall delves into the world and history of Sir Hussey Vivian, and gives you all the facts so you can decide whether he was Poldark’s real inspiration.
Life and Early Military Conquests.
Born in Truro in 1775, Vivian was educated in Cornwall before continuing his education in Harrow, London. His family, who had lived in Cornwall for many generations, were wealthy. His father owned a successful copper smelting and mining business, and it was assumed Vivian would continue the business. However, Vivian decided the military was more his forte, and within a manner of months, Vivian had purchased the rank of lieutenant in the 54th Regiment of Foot (a commonplace practice for men of a wealthy family during this time). His military career grew from strength to strength during the years, and Vivian led campaigns in Spain to great success and his valour was highly respected by both his men and the military establishment.
The Battle of Waterloo
One of the most famous battles in British history, the Battle of Waterloo was the climax of fighting that began two days earlier. Vivian played an important part in the battle when he led the sixth cavalry in charges that helped decimate the French forces and led Napoleon’s defeat. Vivian was then mentioned in dispatches and received several more awards.
Back to Cornwall and Political Reforms.
After returning to Cornwall a hero for his military career, Vivian saw that Cornwall needed a reform due to the industrial revolution, and how the voters were primarily made up of the wealthy. Becoming a local Member of Parliament was what Vivian needed to become. However After losing initially, Vivian started a campaign for election in a very modern way. By taking out advertisements, giving speeches to a wider public and making the general population feel included in the vote (even though they still weren’t allowed), Vivian represented a modern man. He grew in confidence as a politician, and a year before his death, he became the First Lord of Truro.