Cornwell, Bernard

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Cornwell was born to an English WAAF soldier named Cornwell and a Canadian airman. His mother placed him in an orphanage and soon afterwards he was adopted by the Wiggins couple from Essex who belonged to the fundamentalist separatist sect, The Peculiar People. They adopted five children in all, with the intention of saving their souls (see also Jeanette Winterson).

In spite of the group's strictures, he left home to go to university and became first a teacher, then a television researcher. Eventually he became head of Current Affairs for the BBC in Northern Ireland. He married an American who could not live in the UK, so he emigrated to the USA where he had to become a writer, something he had always wanted to do anyway, because he was refused working permit. His first book won him a long-term contract with a publisher and he has been a bestselling author ever since. His most famous series is The Sharpe Books (20 titles so far), but he has written many more, outside the series.

When one of his books happened to be seen by his birth mother, she recognized his resemblance to his birth father in the dust jacket photograph, and she contacted him. He now uses his birth name.


British Broadcasting Corporation. "Desert Island Disks." [Includes p[ortrait]. Available at:
Cornwell, Bernard. "About the Author." [His own Website]. [Includes portrait]. Available at:


Uk/great Britain
20th Century
21st Century
Theater, Broadcasting, Cinema
Formal, American/European-Type Adoption
Birth or Infancy
Unmarried Mother, Single Parent (Mother or Father) Unable to Cope
For Companionship, or for Charitable Motives
Others ("Strangers")
Unmarried Mother
Birth Family Traced Adoptee/Fosteree
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