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When my father died, one of the things he left me was a box of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ novels. I’d watched the TV series, of course, but never read any of the books. And much to my surprise, not being a history buff, I enjoyed them.
But one thing grated. Sharpe was very critical of his British cavalry comrades; something that didn’t sit well with one who’s been involved with horses for much of his life. They could not have been that inept, could they? So I started to read more about horsemen in the Duke of Wellington’s day; contemporary and modern histories, diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, anything relevant I could find, in fact. And what I mostly found was the same old disparaging attitude.
In the meantime, fed up with typical wife-grumbles (‘you’re not romantic anymore/never buy me flowers/we don’t do anything different etc, etc.) I decided the most effective riposte would be to deliver flowers, on our anniversary, on horseback, dressed as a 19th century hussar, followed by a carriage drive to lunch. This entailed making a full set of reproduction period horse-tack, a job I thought would not be too difficult for someone who works with leather. However, I soon discovered that patterns for equipment available in the early 1800’s were non-existent, forcing me to work from period illustrations and paintings. A useful knock-on effect of this turned out to be requests from historical re-enactors for other reproduction leather items – my latest project is a crupper (strap to stop the saddle sliding forward) to fit an 1805 pattern hussar saddle.
All the extra research I’d done to enable me to make a Napoleonic hussar’s equipment convinced me I was right: that historians’ attitudes to the cavalry of the time were grossly unfair. And because I’m no historian, but have always believed I can tell a good story, I thought I must write something to challenge the Duke of Wellington’s often-quoted view that his cavalry were an uncontrolled rabble who merely resorted to ‘charging at everything’.
Unfair comment based on misinformation, and widely reported: that is the reason I started to write what became ‘Walls of Jericho.’
And I'm still writing. See the second book in the series (published by Bretwalda Books) here: