After 200 years since the historical defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig, Germany, thousands of war-gamers and history buffs gather to replay one of the bloodiest battle in the 18th Century.
The said battle lasted from October 16 to 19 during that year involving Prussian forces allied with Austrian, British, Russian and Swedish forces which delivered a major defeat against the forces mobilized by Napoleon. The forces of Napoleon have been weakened significantly after failing in their previous Russian campaign.
During the said battle, around 600,000 troops joined the ranks to face Napoleon’s forces. Of the soldiers, around 100,000 were killed.
The ABC News reports Around 6,000 actors will re-enact various roles that will relive the battle which occurred in October 1813. Around 30,000 spectators are expected to witness this large-scale spectacle.
Parisian Lawyer plays Napoleon
Frank Samson, a 46-year old Parisian lawyer, is set to be the star of the war spectacle playing the role of Napoleon.
Since 2005, Samson has played the role of Napoleon in many dramatic feats. And as with all the war-gamers, he is willing to play the role pro bono.
“It has sometimes been suggested that I get reimbursed. But for me, it’s a hobby,” Samson said. “In Leipzig, I pay for everything”.
Samson proceeds to relate that the uniform that he will be wearing during the play as Napoleon costs him around 1,000 to 1,500 euros ($ 1,300 to $2,000). But he says other uniforms of Napoleon are far more expensive than the figure claiming to cost around 10,000 euros.
This lawyer certainly takes his role seriously. Samson spent more than a year to learn to speak Napoleon’s mother tongue, Corsican. Samson claims that Napoleon did not speak the English language so he will speak Corsican.
Aside from learning another language, Samson also learned horse riding for almost seven years.
His height, at 1.72 meters, is also only 2 centimeters taller than the historical hero he plays.
The lawyer, who specializes in traffic offenses, also claims he is not new to “role playing” given his profession.
He internalizes the role of Napoleon by heart even learning Napoleon’s noted character of being “irritable and choleric”. He also learned that Napoleon is known for constantly shouting at his officers and for walking so quickly that his officers are constantly running after him. But it was also because of these that Napoleon was “worshiped by the soldiers”.
The lawyer proudly played Napoleon and took pleasure “to gallop in the snow at Austerlitz” in one of the many great victories of Napoleon in 1805. He certainly is poised not to miss playing the role of Napoleon in his epic final defeat in Waterloo, Belgium. Two years from now, the historic end of the Napoleonic domination will have its bicentennial.
Samson also has his wife and two sons as spectators to almost all his Napoleonic plays. Many of the volunteers have also rushed to fill up various roles including extras for the rank-and-file.
Show To Relive History
According to Michel Kothe, member of the organizing group of the Battle of Nations Association, the show is aimed to relive history outside the “dusty museum” to a much more authentic setting.
The show is not about the division of nations during the battle. It is about “reconciliation” of people according to Kothe. This time, people from 28 nations will camp in peace before the “battle”.
The battle in Leipzig was one of the most significant battles because it was the start of the end of the Napoleonic domination on the German states. Germany, then consisted of many states. After the battle at Leipzig, the states unified against a formidable enemy and culminated in 1871 with the leadership of the Prussians following the defeat of the French.
None other than Martin Schulz, German President of the European Parliament, said, “It [Leipzig battle] became a powerful national myth”.