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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK
Invasion heroine's records find
A painting at the Royal Oak in Fishguard of Jemima Nicholas
The Royal Oak pub put up a painting of Jemima Nicholas' story
A college lecturer believes he has found proof that the woman said to have played a key role in defeating the last army to invade Britain really existed.

Pembrokeshire man Andrew Thomas claims he has found the baptism records of Jemima Nicholas, who tricked French troops into surrendering in 1797.

Nicholas told local women to dress in a black-and-red traditional costume, and the French thought they were soldiers.

But the origins of the heroine, who died in 1832, have never been proved.

Mr Thomas was researching his family when he found what he claims is Nicholas' baptism records.

The county's records office in Haverfordwest has a record which shows a Jemima Nicholas was baptised in the parish of Mathry on 2 March 1755.

This would have made her 41 at the time of the French invasion, close to contemporary accounts which put the Fishguard shoemaker at 47.

The baptism record is about the right date and it fits in with everything else we know about her
Pembrokeshire archivist Nikki Bosworth

Nicholas became part of Welsh folklore for her part in the deception of 1,200 French troops, who landed in west Wales with plans to attack Bristol and London, but who quickly descended into a drunken rabble.

She was said to have single-handedly rounded-up a dozen of Napoleon's finest while armed with only a pitchfork.

The army's surrender was said to have been negotiated in the Royal Oak pub in Fishguard.

Nicholas is buried at St Mary's Church in the town, yet few records were thought to have survived which shed light on her life, until now.

Father-of-two Mr Thomas said he had found a personal connection to the Nicholas family through its eastern branch at Nevern, and began exploring the records of its western end earlier this year.

He said: "At first when I saw the record it did not sink in. I had to draw back at bit before I realised what I had found. It's very exciting."

The baptism record shows that Nicholas' parents were William and Elinor Nicholas from Llanrhian. They also had a son, Isaac, who was baptised at Llanrhian two years later.

The Last Invasion Tapestry
The Last Invasion tapestry marked the event's 200th anniversary

Pembrokeshire County Council archivist Nikki Bosworth, who helped Mr Thomas with his research, said: "I'm pretty sure it's her.

"It's fascinating. This is something people have been talking about for a long time, particularly since the last invasion bicentenary celebration in 1997.

"The baptism record is about the right date and it fits in with everything else we know about her.

"The name Jemima was also very uncommon at the time so it seems likely to have been her."

In 1997, the 100ft long Last Invasion Tapestry, sewn by 78 volunteers, was created to mark the 200th anniversary of the events.

New home planned for tapestry
09 Aug 04 |  South West Wales
Invasion pub signs ordered down
09 May 03 |  South West Wales
Fishguard tapestry homeless
31 Oct 01 |  Wales

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