When historian Dan Snow was six years old, he and his father Peter went to the site of the Battle of Waterloo and promised they would return for the battle’s 200th anniversary.
This year they fulfilled their promise – with one extra surprise. Dan and his father visited the battlefield, and were joined by his long-lost half brother… who is French.
Broadcaster Peter Snow found out he had a son called Matthieu in 1997, the result of a relationship with a French woman in the 1960s before he was married. He and Dan hadn’t known about this extra member of the family until Matthieu made contact with him almost 20 years ago.
Dan explained at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that they couldn’t possibly leave Matthieu out during their return to the French battlefield this summer.
“I went as a six-year-old to the Battle of Waterloo,” Dan explained with his father on stage. “Dad took me, and we did the maths and realised we could go back for the 200th anniversary of Waterloo. It was very exciting: we made a deal right there on the battlefield. I realised I was going to be 36 years old. Mind blowingly weird for a six-year-old!
“This year we went back for the Battle of Waterloo,” he said. “But we had an unexpected addition to our party, because in the meantime it emerged that Dad had a love child in the 60s we didn’t know about. He and his son came to Waterloo with us – and he’s French!
“So we had a family reunion symbolising the union that now exists between our once erstwhile enemies.”
Dan and Peter have co-authored a new history of the Battle Of Waterloo, but it’s reassuring to hear that two of television’s great British historians have an entente cordiale of their own.