An obscure figure from Indian colonial history, the Marquis de St. Jacques (pronounced ’Sa Jack’) was a French renegade, a mercenary, a scoundrel, and a great inspiration for a similar NPC at your table.
French artillerymen in period-appropriate uniforms
The Marquis de St. Jacques (all the sources I can find refer to him only by that name) was a soldier at the French fort of Chandernagore in Bengal in the mid-18th century. He was expelled from French service after “a fight over a woman,” which could very easily mean some sort of sexual assault.
St. Jacques found service as the commander of the artillery of Siraj ud-Daulah, the last nawab (king) of Bengal. As a mercenary, St. Jacques fought for the Nawab at the 1756 siege of Calcutta. According to some reports, St. Jacques had recruited other French gunners into the Nawab’s service. He may have offered them promises of higher pay, weak opposition in battle, or just relied on personal loyalty and friendship; it’s hard to say.
After the siege, the Nawab put St. Jacques in command of the Bengali garrison at Calcutta. At this point, St. Jacques disappears from the historical record. I have found no indication that St. Jacques was present at Calcutta when the British army attacked six months later. The defense was instead led from the back of a war elephant by an Indian named Manak Chand.
The details are scant, but they’re evocative. He’s a renegade nobleman mercenary commanding a specialized service and seducing others into his pay. We don’t know exactly what he did to get kicked out of French service, but we know he’s probably a bad dude. An NPC based on the Marquis de St. Jacques definitely works best as a supporting villain. He’s a danger on the battlefield. He may command your enemy’s artillery, special forces, dragon riders, or some other super-dangerous specialized unit. He’s an espionage threat too. He’s probably trying to bring some of your PCs’ allies over to his side using pay or personal connections. And he’s super memorable: a foreigner, a nobleman, and a scoundrel! The Marquis de St. Jacques screams ‘recurring NPC’.
Separately, this post marks the one-year anniversary of the Molten Sulfur Blog. To my 30 or so regular readers, thank you so much for your readership. It means the world to me. To those of you I saw at Gencon two weekends ago, it was a genuine delight to meet (or re-meet) you.
If you’re just now joining us, here are some of my favorite posts from the past year:
• Methanol Fires
• Mali’s Real-Life Adventurers’ Guilds
• A House-to-House Combat from 1756 Calcutta
• Abandoning Saint-Octave-de-l’Avenir
• What Aeneas Saw in Hell (parts one and two)
Don’t expect the pace of updates to slow anytime soon – I’ve got four months of buffer posts already written. But I am interested in your feedback! Is there anything you’d like to see from the Molten Sulfur Blog? Let me know on any of my social media streams (buttons below) or via email ('contact' link at the top of the page), and I’ll see what I can do.
Thank you for a great first year. I’m confident the second will be even better.
With enormous gratitude,