Captain Yakovlev was a Russian landowner who was caught in Moscow after the French invasion. His mistress had just given birth to a son, Alexander. After a personal interview with Napoleon, Yakovlev and his family were allowed to leave the city, on the condition that he convey a letter from Napoleon to the tsar in St Petersburg.
Yakovlev called his illegitimate son Herzen, from the German meaning 'of the heart'. Alexander Herzen grew up to become a famous writer and thinker, known as the founder of Russian socialism, who campaigned for the emancipation of the serfs and founded the Free Russian Press from his exiled home in London.