His last battle...
In short, Napoleon, the french emperor, after having conquered most of Europe (but England) started to see the decline of his empire following the Rusian campain in 1812(Berezina is now a common expression)
He has finally been exiled a first time into the Isle of Elba.
He however managed to escape and to gather again the French around him. However he only fought back for 100 days. He has finally been defeated in 1815 during the battle of Waterloo by Wellington (English), Blucher (Prussian) and Guillaume of Orange (Dutch).
this time he was sent on exile in the middle of the Atlantic ocean (Saint Helena) where he died in 1821 (rumors say he could have been poisonned)
If you have a car visit the ruins at Villers Abbey
An unexpected and still impressive site, the Villers Abbey has been in ruins since the French revolution. From Waterloo, the ruins are a short drive away and worth the side trip. See their website (www.villers.be) for details.
For your GPS, plug in the address Rue de l'Abbaye 55, 1495 Villers-la-Ville (Belgium).
In 1815 the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Anglo-allied army, set up his headquarters in the village of Waterloo.
These quarters have now become a museum. It tells the story of the events leading up to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo.
Weapons, uniforms and documents can be seen in the museum, as well as a magnificent series of illuminated maps which recount the different phases of the battle.
The museum is situated in the city centre of Waterloo, approximately 5 km away from the 'Lion Hill'.
La Ferme du Caillou
The farmhouse where Napoleon and its staff spend the night of june 17th and 18th has now been turned into a museum. Four rooms in which you can follow the emperor's last moments before the battle and see artifacts such as his camp-bed.
"Major Battle site. But who won?"
I must return to the battle ground south of Waterloo to fully appreciate the activity which occured there on 18 June, 1815. (and at Ligny& Quartre Bras on the 16/17th).
Having read several accounts of the battle, I was looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere of such an important place in European history. We were fortunate that on our first visit an early thunderstorm struck the area, duplicating the conditions on the eve of the battle.
Despite being hampered by a recently broken leg&ankle, I climbed the Mound (226 steps) to better understand the lay of the land. Despite lightning having the reputation of hitting the highest point available, we survived our stormy visit. I think the storm was the highlight of the visit knowing how important that storm back in 1815 was to the conduct of the battle (wet ground delayed the start). British troops considered the storm a good omen as Wellington had fought & won several battles in The Iberian Peninsular in or just after storms.
Pity the topography has been changed by shifting material from the battle ground to build the Mound. Pity one has to use imagination to visualise & understand "the ground" & its importance to the battle. Pity the mound is about the Prince of Orange whose incompetence added much to the butcher's bill of battle ( as I understand).
Next time I'll walk the battleground itself.
My overall impression formed during just a half day visit was of slight disappointment.......It left me wondering who was/were the victor(s). Today, it seems to be all about the French!......& the Dutch & the locals. Very little about the critical involvement of the Germans either.
"Waterloo Reading List (only what I have read)"
Battle descriptions in novels: always a good starting point:
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo.
An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer
Sharp's Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell
More studious works:
Waterloo; A Near Run Thing, David Howarth
Wellington: The Years of the Sword, Elizabeth Longford
One Hundred Days: Napoleon's Road to Waterloo , Alan Schom (this one twice read & again before my next visit. Puts the battle in context. Reveals Napoleon's interaction with other major players of the time. A must read!)
"Royal Greenjackets Museum, Winchester UK"
If you have the chance to visit this Museum before you go to Waterloo do so. It features a diorama of the battle with 22,000 model soldiers and a light and sound display.