Flashman deserves his reputation.
Flashman tells us that his laurels were earned through base cowardice, conniving and lechery, but can we believe him? The popular cliche is that a true hero isn't a fearless man, it's a man who faces his fear - and Flashy does exactly that in a lot of the books. He frequently goes into insanely dangerous situations despite pant-wetting terror because, he claims, it's the only way to save his reputation.
He's kidding himself.
He goes into those situations because there's a job that needs doing, and he's the one who can do it. He's afraid not because he's a coward, but because he's not an idiot - but he has courage enough to see it through.
Unfortunately, being A) Victorian and B) British, he's surrounded by people who never, ever, talk about their feelings.
So he genuinely believes he's the only person present who finds the situation terrifying, and therefore condemns himself as a coward. His firm belief in his own cowardice then colours his recollection of events - maybe he charged past the Russian guns and into the Cossacks because he was confused, or maybe he did it because he was angry but, in hindsight, can't believe anger could make a coward like him so stupid.
Note that, while brave, Flashman does
have a strong sense of self-preservation and is extremely Genre Savvy
. As such, he's not going to take stupid risks. Again, his biased recollection colours this good sense as cowardice.
Flashman was responsible for the loss of Order 191.
We'll never know the details of Flashman's involvement in the American Civil War. We know he fought on both sides and was praised by both Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln, and claimed that, but for his incompetence, the South would have won at Gettysburg. But there are many mysteries of the war that he might have taken part in, and one is Order 191, the Confederate order found wrapped around cigars by a Union soldier, which led to the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg. No one knows how it was lost, but odds are Flashman had something to do with it.
Oh come on, you knew this was coming.
- Wouldn't that be pre-incarnation?
- And McAuslan is the pre-incarnation of Jurgen.
Flashman - unknown to himself - has mutant superpowers that make him a Pornomancer
As a handsome The Casanova
he naturally has a great deal of luck with the ladies but at times his ability seems to go beyond this and even women who have every reason to hate him fall under his spell. In Flashman and the Redskins
he claim's that he would have been able to talk a vengeful ex-lover into forgiving him for selling her to the American Indians if she hadn't gagged him - and that she only gagged him because she realised he could get to her. In the same book he admits he can't fully explain his power over women.
Flashy's abilities seem to fall under the Charm Person
trope. He doesn't
have a Compelling Voice
- he gets women to fall for him faster and deeper if he can speak but a look alone can do a lot.