Peninsular War road trip

As I think I’ve mentioned here on several occasions, this summer Mr Fraser, our daughter (who turns 11 in two months), and I will be going to Europe this summer, among other things to attend the bicentennial reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo.

We’re going to be there for nearly four weeks, so there will be far more to our trip than just Waterloo. While some of the trip has nothing to do with my Regency research interests–e.g. the five nights we’ll be spending in a cottage in the Dordogne River valley near Sarlat–we’re planning a week in Spain that’s turning into The Frasers’ Excellent Roman Ruins and Peninsular War Battlefield Road Trip Adventure.

I’m still researching the details, but at this point it looks like I’ll get to feed my Wellington obsession at the following sites:

Vitoria, where in June 1813 Wellington trounced Jourdan and the British army captured the French baggage train, laden with treasure Joseph Bonaparte and his courtiers had seized from Madrid–the incident that opens my 2013 novella, A Dream Defiant.

Salamanca, where Wellington, who is primarily regarded as a brilliant defensive general, proved himself pretty damn capable on the attack as well. As Maximilien Foy, one of the French generals there, put it:

“This battle is the most cleverly fought, the largest in scale, the most important in results, of any that the English have won in recent times. It brings up Lord Wellington’s reputation almost to the level of that of Marlborough. Up to this day we knew his prudence, his eye for choosing good positions, and the skill with which he used them. But at Salamanca he has shown himself a great and able master of manoeuvring. He kept his dispositions hidden nearly the whole day: he allowed us to develop our movement before he pronounced his own: he played a close game: he utilized the oblique order in the style of Frederick the Great.”

Badajoz, site of a bloody siege and storming followed by brutal and shameful pillaging in April 1812–and another battled that’s shown up in my writing, in my 2010 debut, The Sergeant’s Lady.

Talavera, the 1809 victory that first raised Wellington to the nobility as a viscount.

And last but very far from least, we’ll end up in Madrid, where we’ll visit the Prado and I’ll be able to see many of Goya’s works, including ones like the above illustrating the horror and brutality of war–something I try my best never to forget even as I write adventurous romances with soldier heroes.

I’m more thrilled than I can say that this trip I’ve been planning and dreaming of for a decade is now just a few short months away, and I can hardly wait to come back with pictures and stories to fill months of blog posts!

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7 Responses to Peninsular War road trip

  1. Elena Greene says:

    I wish I could go too! Looking forward to hearing all about it and seeing the pictures.

  2. diane says:

    I am all envy, Susanna! This sounds like the trip of a lifetime!!! I am so glad you can share it with your daughter and husband, too. What a memory this will make!

    • I’m hoping the girl will enjoy it. She’s a fun kid, but she’s also getting to be an adolescent with all that entails, and we’re jerking her out of her familiar routine, expecting her to eat strange foods, sleep in strange places, go along with her parents’ history obsessions, etc. We’re starting out with a few days in London at least in part to give her a soft landing and a chance to see some sights she’ll be familiar with from watching the entire run of the new Doctor Who, and I expect she’ll enjoy the art and architecture side of things–she’s very much her father’s daughter with her interest and talent in the visual arts.

  3. Color me deep, dark forest green with envy! This sounds like an amazing trip! Cannot WAIT for a full report !

    • I’ve reached the stage where I’m obsessing over all the things that could go wrong to prevent it! I bought trip cancelation insurance along with our plane tickets because to do otherwise felt like a jinx waiting to happen.

  4. HJ says:

    That sounds epic!! I would never have heard of these places if I hadn’t read various novels set there during the Peninsula War.

    I for one will also be interested to hear about the Roman ruins. I have in mind to one day visit the various sites in southern France mentioned in Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk?

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