When I heard Fiona’s call on the Marian Finucane Show, an Irish radio program, at the beginning of this year, I was immediately inspired. Here was an idea, to trail in the paths of great lives, that would allow me to write (a childhood ambition in itself) about something that has fascinated me all my life — the Napoleonic era.
I grew up surrounded by the meticulously hand-painted Airfix armies of my older brother. He taught me all there is to know about the history of the Napoleonic wars and about the art of wargaming. We were joined in our enthusiasm by my cousin and my best friend René, and in an era before computer games, we spent entire school holidays amassing miniature armies and re-enacting historic battles in our attic in Rotterdam — my brother invariably emerging as the winner, but that’s another blogpost. Waterloo featured on a regular basis, needless to say — my brother even built a model of the battlefield.
Our fascination with Waterloo extended beyond playing wargames — it also involved trips to the Army Museum in Leiden and the model soldiers shop “La Grande Armée” in The Hague, among other things. When my mother bought her first car in the early 70s, her first real trip took our family and my cousin — at this stage an honorary member of our family — to Waterloo.
The proposition to write about a “great life” in the context of the Let’s Trail series left little doubt whom I should write about. Napoleon’s life touches on way too many locations to cover in any single trip or book, however. This is why I decided to write about the best known time in Napoleon’s life, the leadup to and the events surrounding the battle of Waterloo, known as The Hundred Days. The result will be published soon as another issue of the Let’s Trail series.