Book Review:
Battle of Maida,
Fifteen Minutes of Glory

By Richard Hopton

The battle of Maida in 1806 came at a time when the French seemed almost unbeatable on land in Europe.

Austria and Russia had been dealt knockout blows at Austerlitz the previous year and, Trafalgar aside, little appeared to be going the way of the anti-French coalitions.

In 1806 the only potential point of land conflict between the yet unproven British army and the seemingly invincible French troops was in the south of Italy where a small redcoat force protected Sicily from invasion.

Somewhat surprisingly the British were not in a defensive state of mind and looked to moving on to the Italian mainland and supporting the local rebellions occurring against the French invaders of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

When the attack did come, the British showed themselves more than equal to Napoleon's veterans and the best example was at the battle of Maida.

In The Battle of Maida: Fifteen Minutes of Glory, author Richard Hopton begins by explaining the importance of the Mediterranean Sea during the Napoleonic Wars and the political atmosphere that surrounded the French, Russian, British and Austrian situations.

This is excellent reading about an area of the wars that has not had the publicity of the more dramatic theatres of conflict.

Hopton has researched the period well and the details of the fight for Calabria in southern Italy are terrific.

Two thirds of The Battle of Maida: Fifteen Minutes of Glory is taken up with setting the scene for the battle and then it is into an explanation of how the British managed to defeat high-quality French troops - who included some of the victors of Austerlitz.

The battle detail is excellent and Hopton makes no bones about the fact the British plan was not perfect, but still the troops managed to win the day.

One issue I had with The Battle of Maida: Fifteen Minutes of Glory is Hopton's use of Jean-Louis Regnier for the French commander, when I am more used to him being referred to as Jean-Louis Reynier.

That aside this is a very good addition to any Napoleonic library as it covers an important clash of arms that doesn't jump to the fore when people consider battles of the Napoleonic Era.

Mind you, Maida did warrant having Maida Vale named after it - one of very few Napoleonic battles to be treated with such an honour by the British.

- Richard Moore


The Battle of Maida: 15 Minutes of Glory, Pen and Sword, ISBN: 850528453.

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