• Gareth Williams

Inspiration - The Hundred Days

So, I left off writing about what inspired me to write a novel about Napoleon with him safely in exile on Elba. A generous prison for the ogre who had disrupted Europe for so long, the British thought. But Napoleon had other ideas. He could not accept this was the end. He still believed the French people loved him and yearned for his return (many didn't!) He escaped the island, slipping away with a thousand supporters to land on the French coast between Cannes and Antibes.


Without firing a shot his small party grew into an army (so there were some who still believed in him!) Confronted by Royalist (Louis XVIII - the restored Bourbon monarch) troops near Grenoble he stepped in front of them, tore open his coat and said, "If any of you will shoot his Emperor, here I am!" The soldiers joined him.


He entered Paris to find Louis XVIII had fled. Many of his former generals joined him.


The Great Powers were meeting in Vienna to determine the future of Europe now they had finally defeated Bonaparte. They were astonished and alarmed by the news that he was back! They began planning an invasion of France. Napoleon decided he would not wait for that but go on the attack instead. That, in short, is what led to the battle of Waterloo.


Hostilities really began on 15th June 1815. His forces won two victories on 16th June. Waterloo was fought on 18th June. Napoleon showed none of his usual brio. He left much to his subordinates and his decisions lacked finesse. He tried to pummel Wellington's line until it broke. It didn't, the Prussians arrived to reinforce him and the final French reserves were destroyed.


On 22nd June, now back in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated for a second time, ostensibly in favour of his son, Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte. This time his exile was to be final. He was banished to a tiny speck in the South Atlantic, the island of St Helena. He died there on 5 May 1821.


So, why the book? Because he could have fought a different battle at Waterloo! As it was, Wellington described it as "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life". What if Napoleon could be persuaded to act differently? To give different orders? To plan on the Prussians arriving? I first asked these questions when I was about twelve. They stayed with me. They are why I wrote this book.


Next time, some thoughts on where some of my fictional characters came from....




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