At the beginning of the series, Richard Sharpe ( Sean Bean ) is a sergeant in the 95th Rifles serving in Portugal in 1809. When he singlehandedly saves the life of General Sir Arthur Wellesley ( David Troughton in the first two films, then Hugh Fraser ) from a group of French cavalrymen , Wellesley gives Sharpe a battlefield commission , promoting him to lieutenant. Sharpe is placed in charge of a detachment of the 95th Rifles - a group of elite riflemen ("chosen men"), among them Sergeant Patrick Harper ( Daragh O'Malley ), who eventually becomes his best friend.
Wellesley and his various spymasters, first Major Michael Hogan ( Brian Cox ), followed by Major Nairn ( Michael Byrne ), Major Mungo Monroe ( Hugh Ross ) and Major General Ross ( James Laurenson ), find Sharpe to be an extremely capable and cunning officer and give him progressively more important tasks. Despite their backing, he has to fight against the strong prejudice of aristocrats (who often owe their army positions to money and social connections rather than military skill) against an uncouth commoner raised from the ranks. He makes a number of dangerous enemies, such as French Major Pierre Ducos (FÃ©odor Atkine) and Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson ( Michael Cochrane ), and encounters one from his prior service in India, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill ( Pete Postlethwaite ). However, Sharpe's successes gain him steady promotion. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Waterloo , he is Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe.
Along the way, Sharpe has a number of romances. During the course of the series, he marries the Spanish guerrilla leader Teresa Moreno ( Assumpta Serna ), with whom he has a daughter. Teresa is killed by Hakeswill. Sharpe then marries Jane Gibbons ( Abigail Cruttenden , Bean's real-life wife for less than three years), who deserts him, steals his hard-earned money, and takes a lover. He finally settles down with Lucille Castineau ( CÃ©cile Paoli ), a Frenchwoman who passes away some time after Napoleon's final defeat, leaving Sharpe free once more. (However, according to the Starbuck Chronicles , another series of Cornwell books, she survives Sharpe.)
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