Waterloo’s other hero

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Yesterday was the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, when on 18 June 1815 Wellington finished off Napoleon for good. But today, the day after the battle, is remembered in my family as the day that our relative arrived too late.

Field Marshal Prince Michael Barclay de Tolly is the Russian commander of Scottish descent who timed his arrival at Waterloo to perfection. His army got there just when the last shot was fired, the enemy was defeated, his men were safe, and yet he still basked in the glory.

Barclay de Tolly was already famous for running away, having invented the scorched earth policy. His strategic withdrawals, burning the land as he went, starved Napoleon’s army, but unsurprisingly proved unpopular with Russian farmers.

In any case, Barclay de Tolly saved Russia twice, was elevated to a prince by the Czar, and his legend passed down through my family for the next 200 years. That makes the day after Waterloo a lot more memorable for some.

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