During the summer of 1814, the Prince of Wales, as Prince Regent, planned a series of celebrations in London to mark the victory of the Allies over Napoleon — a temporary victory it turned out to be, but nonetheless, after so many years of war, everyone was eager to celebrate.  Napoleon had surrendered and was sent off to exile in Elba. The Prince Regent invited the heads of the Allied governments to London, but it did not turn out exactly as he wished. The guests often had ideas of their own for entertainment and some of the great fireworks displays turned into conflagrations, though the crowds viewing the extravaganzas did not seem to mind.

Czar Alexander of Russia came with his sister, the Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, who was rather obstreperous to say the least.; Prussian Field Marshal Blücher and Austrian Chancellor Prince Metternich, among others came to town and were feted by the Prince Regent and many, many others. 

A view of the Temple of Concord, in the Green Park; erected for the Grand Jubilee in Celebration of the Peace 1814. Artist: Augustus Charles Pugin; Ackermann Print, 1814 © Museum of London

Not only were there great celebrations in London. many eager tourists flocked across the Channel to enjoy the sights of Paris after the twenty years of war with France.  It needs no spoiler alert to point out that the Peace did not last until Napoleon escaped from Elba, had his Hundred Days, and lost at the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, a year later.  The second time, the Allies sent him farther away, to St.Helena.

Sir John Soane’s Museum, one of my favorite spot in London, is holding an exhibition, beginning June 20, 2014, on the results of that first peace in 1814. 

Peace Breaks Out! London and Paris in the Summer of 1814

20 June – 13 September 2014

Their website can be found here.

The museum describes their exhibition:  “In the summer of 1814 celebrations were held in London and across Britain on the occasion of the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 30 May. The treaty saw peace return to Europe after some twenty years of conflict with the exile of the Emperor Napoleon to Elba and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. The various events staged across the United Kingdom were the first such nation-wide celebration to mark a significant event – such as the Treaty.”

According to the museum, “The exhibition will include material from a private collection as well as material from the Soane. Soane was involved in the celebrations held for the official guests invited to London. He then travelled to Paris as soon as the peace of 1814 made such trips possible for British travellers (he made another, similar journey in 1819).  As one contemporary writer put it, the summer of 1814 saw: ‘the English popping across the Channel like champagne corks released from a bottle, eager to visit a country that had been so long out of bounds…’as one author has put it. The Paris that confronted them was one of marked contrasts between the splendours of its architecture, the metropolitan pleasures that it offered and the destitution of many of its inhabitants caused by two army occupations.”

Sir John Soane by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Here is further information from Dr Jerzy J. Kierkuć-Bieliński, Exhibitions Curator at Sir John Soane’s Museum:  “The Peace of 1814 and the subsequent congress of Vienna in 1815, after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, laid the geo-political framework of the European Empires that would dominate the Continent and much of the globe up to the outbreak of the First World War. The Allies who celebrated the signing of the Treaty as guests of the Prince Regent in London, would, almost exactly one hundred years later face each on the battlefields of Europe – this time as enemies. In many ways, to understand the origins of the First World War, one has to look at the events of 1814 and the false promise of lasting peace that it offered”

I am looking forward to visiting the exhibition this summer.  You can follow Sir John Soane’s Museum on Facebook here.


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