One of the reasons I wanted to return to Waterloo was to see the new museum and exhibits that were put in place for the celebrations of Waterloo 200. The photos above in no way do justice to the scale and scope of the exhibits. The huge hall in the top photo displays a soldier from all of the British regiments on the right, the French on the right, and goes on for quite a ways.

In addition, the 4D film of the Battle was incredible – the closest any of us will ever get to the sights and sounds of the day. As you’ll see by the photo above, the design of the theatre puts you right in the middle of the action, complete with surround sound. Denise, Ian and I were the only ones in the theatre, in fact we had the whole place to ourselves. I knew we’d be seeing a 4D film, I understood this when I put the special viewing glasses on, and I anticipated the action when I took my seat. Still, I jumped a foot when the horse seemed to come charging directly at me. I think I may have even screamed a little.


Our next stop was the museum at Wellington’s Headquarters, the house Wellington returned to directly after the Battle and where he discovered his ADC Alexander Gordon laying mortally wounded. Gordon remains a touchstone of the personal losses attached to Waterloo, but there were many others who died or were horribly wounded that day, whom Wellington knew on a personal level. Waterloo cost Britain the best of its Army and exacted a toll on Wellington that will never be fully known.

From Wikipedia: “Gordon received brevet promotions to Major and Lieutenant-Colonel as a reward for carrying to London despatches announcing victory, first at the Battle of Corunna and then at Ciudad Rodrigo. After Bonaparte’s exile to Elba in 1814, Gordon was made a KCB. He was mortally wounded at Waterloo while rallying Brunswickers near La Haye Sainte, and died in Wellington’s own camp bed (above) in his headquarters during the night.

“The following is an account by John Robert Hume who was visiting the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo –

“I came back from the field of Waterloo with Sir Alexander Gordon, whose leg I was obliged to amputate on the field late in the evening. He died rather unexpectedly in my arms about half-past three in the morning on the 19th. I was hesitating about disturbing the Duke, when Sir Charles Brooke-Vere came. He wished to take his orders about the movement of the troops. I went upstairs and tapped gently at the door, when he told me to come in. He had as usual taken off his clothes but had not washed himself.

“As I entered, he sat up in bed, his face covered in the dust and sweat of the previous day, and extended his hand to me, which I took and held in mine, whilst I told him of Gordon’s death, and of such of the casualties as had come to my knowledge. He was much affected. I felt tears dropping fast upon my hand and looking towards him, saw them chasing one another in furrows over his dusty cheeks. He brushed them suddenly away with his left hand, and said to me in a voice tremulous with emotion, “Well, thank God, I don’t know what it is to lose a battle; but certainly nothing can be more painful than to gain one with the loss of so many of one’s friends.”

On the wall of the bedroom in which Gordon died is a typed transcript of the letter Wellington wrote to Lord Aberdeen the day after his brother’s death –

My Dear Lord,

You will readily give me credit to the existence of extreme grief with which I announce to you the death of your gallant brother, in consequence of a wound received in our great battle of yesterday.

He had served me most zealously and usefully for many years, and on many trying occasions; but he had never rendered himself more useful and had never distinguished himself more, than in our late actions.

He received the wound which occasioned his death when rallying one of the Brunswick battalions which was shaking a little; and he had lived long enough to be informed by myself of the glorious result of our actions, to which he had so much contributed by his active zealous assistance.

I cannot express to you the regret and sorrow with which I look round me, and contemplate the loss with which I have sustained, particularly in your brother. The glory resulting from such actions, so dearly bought, is no consolation to me, and I cannot suggest it as any to you and his friends; but I hope that it may be expected that this last one has been so decisive, as that no doubt remains that our exertions and our individual losses will be rewarded by the early attainment of our just object. It is then the glory of the actions in which our friends and relations have fallen will be some consolation for their loss.

— Believe me &c Wellington, Bruxelles, 19th June, 1815,

P.S. Your brother has a black horse given to him I believe by Lord Ashburgham which I will keep till I hear from you what shall be done with it.




In Part 3, we’ll continue on to the farmhouse at Hougoumont.





The Duke of Wellington by George Dawe

After completing the despatches and sending them off on June 19th,  the Duke of Wellington returned to Brussels to see some of the wounded and report to the King of the Netherlands. British troops crossed into France June 21, as did the Prussians. 

Lord Castlereagh

To make up for Wellington’s losses, Castlereagh promised reinforcements as more troops returned from North America.  But resistance was light on the part of the French.

On June 22, Wellington’s troops attacked Perronne, which soon surrendered; the French troops were sent home and replaced with a Dutch garrison.

General Sir Charles Colville
Sir Charles Colville commanded the far right of Wellington’s troops at Halle during the Battle of Waterloo, so far to the west of the main action that his troops did not take part in the fighting. Wellington thus sent his troops to storm Cambrai on July 24, the only French fortress that did not surrender immediately. Sir Charles and his troops suffered only a few dozen casualties in taking the town.  Cambrai became Wellington’s headquarters for the occupation of France.

Farther west, the Prussians advanced toward Paris, reportedly plundering as they went, in retribution for former defeats at French hands.

Various engagements were fought with troops under French Generals Grouchy and D’Erlon, as the Prussians and Anglo-Allies approached Paris and commissioners of the Provisional French government sought a cessation of hostilities.


Blücher and the Prussians agreed with Wellington: Napoleon’s abdication made no difference; the only way in which the French could end the fighting was to restore the government of King Louis XVIII, the legitimate ruler, the king Napoleon had driven out.

Joseph Fouché, Minister of Police

Two men who changed sides repeatedly — from the time of the French Revolution through the Napoleonic Wars, the restoration, the Hundred Days, and now, choosing to work for another restoration of the Bourbon monarchy – spoke for the French at this crucial moment.  Whether either Talleyrand or Joseph Fouché had any bedrock principles (other than self-preservation) has long been debated.  But at this point, they were both clever enough to have played the game successfully.

Fouché (1763-1820)  early in the Revolution was an eager Jacobin who voted for the execution of Louis XVI. He later became a powerful advocate for centralized power as Minister of Police. Napoleon appointed him head of Internal Security, but alternatively distrusted, then re-appointed him. Fouché had dangerous networks of secret informants and spies.
      When Napoleon first abdicated and went to Elba, Fouché served the restoration government but maintained contact with Napoleon. During the Hundred Days, he again served Napoleon as head of security. Upon Napoleon’s second fall, Fouché acted for the provisional government in negotiation with the Allies for the second restoration. However, once the monarchists were in power again in 1815, he was sent off to Saxony as an ambassador, where his networks were no longer useful.


Talleyrand managed to make himself necessary to almost every faction that temporarily had power in France for the last twenty years. Though his influence declined during the second restoration, he remained in Paris, freely giving his opinions on policy,  After the July Revolution of 1830, King Louis-Philippe made him French Ambassador to Great Britain for the years 1830-34.

Wellington and Blücher ordered the French army to evacuate Paris and withdraw below the Loire River. Paris resistance collapsed July 5 and King Louis XVIII was again on the throne of France.

Pont d’Iena

Wellington kept Blücher from blowing up a Pont d’Iena, a bridge over the Seine (now near the Eiffel Tower), built to commemorate Napoleon’s victory over the Prussians in 1806.  Reportedly Wellington – the ultimate practical man —  said, “A bridge is a bridge.”

Duc de Richelieu by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1817, © The Royal Collection

After elections were held in France in August 1815, Armand Emmanuel,  Duke of Richelieu  (1766-1822), gained power as Prime Minister of France, succeeding Talleyrand.  Richelieu officially signed the peace treaties on behalf of his nation in November 1815. He was instrumental in negotiating the end of the occupation of France in 1818.

“Mopping up” took place elsewhere in France and abroad.  British troops retook Martinique and Guadaloupe in the Caribbean.  Even more important were the British actions in the Mediterranean, where the naval ports of Marseilles and Toulon were subdued in July 1815. The last hold-out, on the Luxembourg frontier, surrendered on September 13.

The Treaty of Paris of 1815 was finally signed on November 20, 1815.  The territorial terms were similar to those of the first treaty, signed after Napoleon’s first abdication, but included more sever reparations payments. Signatories were France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. Additional agreements covered claims by individuals, the neutrality of Switzerland, and most importantly, banning the slave trade: “abolition of a Commerce so odious, and so strongly condemned by the laws of religion and nature.”

 Marshall Ney (1769-1815) by Charles Meynier

Execution of Marshall Ney by firing squad;
painting by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1868

In November, Marshal Ney was tried for treason:  deserting Louis XVIII for Napoleon during the Hundred Days. Despite his heroism in leading the French troops at Waterloo, having several horses shot out from under him, Ney was executed by firing squad, declining a blindfold a
nd declaring his patriotism as the squad took aim — the Bravest of the Brave to the end.

In late 1818, the Four Allies met at Aix-la-Chapelle to discuss the withdrawal of the Army of Occupation of France. Agreement was reached and the foreign troops left French soil by the end of November, 1818. A number of other issues were discussed as well, regarding various problems in Europe. The conference set a new standard for the conduct of international affairs.

Congress Memorial in Aix-la-Chapelle (aka Aachen)

 French history in the 19th and 20 centuries saw many changes of government.  Louis XVIII died in 1824, succeeded by his brother, Charles X (1757-1836), from 1824 until 1830. Charles X had been long known as Comte d’Artois, youngest brother of Louis XVI. He spent a large part of his life in exile from France, and lived in Mayfair on South Audley Street from 1805-1814. After he was deposed in 1830, he again spent part of his exile in Britain before dying in Austria in 1836.

Charles X by Pierre-Narcisse Guerin
After only six years on the throne, the July Revolution brought Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans, into power as the King of France. Louis-Philippe was part of a “cadet” branch of the Bourbons, a cousin of Louis XVIII and Charles X.  He had been in exile during the Napoleonic era, traveling extensively including in the US.  He was proclaimed King by the Chamber of Deputies in August 1830. Two years later in 1832, Louise-Marie, his daughter, married Leopold I of Belgium 

King Louis-Philippe (1773-1859)
by Francis Xavier Winterhalter
During the February 1848 revolution in France, part of the revolutionary movement that swept Europe that year, Louis-Philippe abdicated and fled to England (where he lived at Claremont House, Surrey, once the home of his son-in-law King Leopold o Belgium when he was married to the late Princess Charlotte).

Claremont House, Surrey
Om France, the Second Republic began, and who should they elect as President but Louis Napoleon, son of Napoleon’s brother Louis and Hortense, daughter of Napoleon’s first wife Josephine.  (Are you keeping score??).  In 1852, Louis Napoleon dissolved the elected Republic and declared himself Napoleon III, thus establishing the Second Empire, which lasted until the Franco Prussian War in 1870-71. Napoleon III followed repressive policies and limited freedoms, but it is his reign that gave us most of the beauties of Paris we enjoy today, a legacy we can appreciate without admiring his other policies. 

Napoleon III by Alexandre Cabanel

When Napoleon III was a captive of Prussia, deputies in Paris declared a government of national defense, which tried to continue the war against Prussia, but within a few months, capitulated and ended the war. The Third French Republic was declared but stiff war reparation payments and other issues led to the Paris Commune.

The two-months of the Paris Commune in 1871, one of many uprisings of Paris workers and socialists during the century, was defeated by the regular army by the end of May 1871. Its short life became an inspiration to communist leaders such as Lenin and Mao. It was not until the 1880’s that the quarrels over re-establishment of a monarchy with competing claims of various pretenders was overcome

The Third French Republic continued until the Fall of France in 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government. We leave Postwar France to the contemporary historians.

Roses blooming in Josephine’s gardens
Malmaison, 2014


Across the crazy traffic circle in front of Apsley House, the Wellington Arch stands in isolated magnificence.  With some exceptions we will note further along.

To read what Victoria wrote about the history of the Wellington Arch last year, click here.

Looking through the arch toward Buckingham Palace
Our Guide Clive points out the Wellington statue nearby.
The doors bear the royal crest.
Decimus Burton, architect of the arch and the Hyde Park Screen across the street, also 
designed the iron doors, cast by Joseph Bramah & Sons of Pimlico. They are painted to resemble a bronze patina.

For information on the exhibitions at the Arch, go their website, click here.

We elevated to the top of the arch for the daily parade of guards and were excited at the view.  Took many  many pictures!

Through the screen and into the park beside Apsley House.

The Quadriga by Adrian Jones, finished 1912, replaced the monumental statue atop the Arch. The equestrian statue of the Duke had provoked considerable controversy, even ridicule, before it was dismantled and moved to its present location in Aldershot.
The monumental equestrian statue (8.5 metres high, aka 28 feet) overwhelmed the arch.
Completed in 1846, the statue was cast from 40 tons of bronze, mostly from melted down French cannons, at a cost of  £30,000. Though everyone was unhappy, it was raised on the arch, where it stood until the necessity for moving the location of the arch itself in the late 1880’s.
Gigantic size!
In its present position atop a hill in Aldershot, Hampshire, near the Military Museum, the statue has found a suitable home. The responsible artist was Matthew Coates Wyatt (1777-1862). It was restored in recent years.
Today on the grounds of the Arch.

Wellington Statue near the Arch, by Joseph Boehm, 1888

Apsley House from atop the Arch

Close up of the capital of the Corinthian Columns

Apsley House from the traffic circle

The Wellington Arch, illuminated during the celebration
 of the Battle of Waterloo Centenary, 2015

After a fond farewell to the Wellington Arch and its nearby statue of the Duke of Wellington, our tour group proceeded to the bus and our drive across London to the Tower.


By Guest Blogger Nicola Cornick

There can be few places more appropriate than Windsor Castle to hold an exhibition to commemorate the 200thanniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Originally founded by William the Conqueror at the end of the 11th century, Windsor has been home to 39 monarchs and is the oldest royal residence in the British Isles. At various points in its history it has undergone major remodelling and one of these took place in the late 18th and early 19th century with the creation of a new grand staircase and state apartments. During the Peninsular Wars when there was a threat to the country from republican France, Windsor was recognised as a symbolic bastion of the British nation and the monarchy.
It was George IV who created the Waterloo Chamber in celebration of the allied victory of 1815, and the room was completed by his successor William IV. It is a vast pace filled with Sir Thomas Lawrence’s imposing portraits of those who were instrumental in the victory, including the Duke of Wellington. A portrait of George himself is placed at the centre of the room and thus as the focal point of the victory.

The “Waterloo at Windsor” exhibition is running throughout this year and I was lucky enough to go and see it a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fascinating mixture of prints, drawings and archive material from the Royal Collection, which explore the battle and its aftermath. The introduction to the exhibition is via the Drawings Gallery where there is a display of maps of the battlefield and paintings that were in some cases produced in the immediate aftermath of the battle, showing tourists already visiting the site.  I also loved the collection of Rowlandson cartoons depicting Napoleon as a Corsican bloodhound and it was interesting to see some French propaganda cartoons and pictures, showing him from a very different perspective, that of the peacemaker of Europe. I also learned some fascinating facts; that amongst the memorials planned after the battle was one for a pyramid as high as St Paul’s Cathedral, which would have cost a million pounds in the currency of the day. Like many of the proposed memorials it was never built.

Elsewhere in the staterooms are a whole host of artefacts with connections to the battle. By far my favourite was Napoleon’s burnous, a red felt hooded cloak lined with yellow silk brocade and decorated with silver braid (above). This had been found amongst Napoleon’s baggage train on the field at Waterloo and was presented to the Prince Regent by General Blucher.  Also taken from Napoleon’s belongings was a leather travelling desk, decorated with gold bees and the monogram “N.” It contained two inkpots, a sandbox, a candlestick and bell. Napoleon certainly didn’t travel light!
It was the little details of the exhibition that I enjoyed the most: The drawing of the Waterloo Elm, which had been Wellington’s command post during the battle, and the story that it was subsequently stripped of its leaves and branches by souvenir hunters and turned into a chair! The gorgeous silver gilt tea service and toast racks that Napoleon gave to his adopted daughter Stephanie on her marriage… Each item had a different story to tell and a different light to shed not only the Battle of Waterloo itself but also on the enigmatic Emperor who continued to be a figure of fascination even in exile.
Throughout 2015, Waterloo at Windsor: 1815–2015 will combine a themed trail through the State Apartments with a display of prints, drawings and archival material that explores the battle and its aftermath.

The trail will highlight objects seized on the battlefield by the victors, including silver, furniture, weapons and the beautiful red cloak belonging to Napoleon, presented to George IV by Wellington’s ally, Field-Marshal Gebhardt von Blücher.

You can visit guest blogger and USA Today Best Selling Author Nicola Cornick’s website here. 


National Portrait Gallery aims for “fuller picture” of the Duke of Wellington on Waterloo anniversary

A young officer’s diary destined for his sweetheart 200 years ago, a daguerreotype portrait by Antoine Claudet and Goya reworks enforced by military honours will be among the highlights when the first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington’s life opens next year, the National Portrait Gallery has announced.

Marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the display of 59 portraits aims to reveal how the art world took on the political, military and personal life of the Duke, including Goya’s view of Wellington entering Madrid, started in 1812 but modified twice to reflect his later honours and awards.

Francisco de Goya, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1812-14)© National Gallery, London

Thomas Lawrence’s portrait was painted in the year of the Battle of Waterloo, becoming the basis for the British £5 note for 20 years from 1971.

A work by John Hoppner, of the Duke as a youthful soldier, will be one of several rarely-seen loans from the family of the Marquess of Douro, as well as the Claudet portrait, from Wellington’s 75th birthday, in 1844, and a drawing of his wife, Kitty, made by Lawrence and described as “beautiful” by curators.

A key concern of the exhibition will fall upon the soldiers who fought in Wellington’s armies, represented by eyewitness accounts and prints based on sketches by servicemen. Several satirical prints published during the Duke’s two spells as Prime Minister will also appear.

“The Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo is well known,” observed Paul Cox, an Associate Curator at the gallery.

Benjamin Robert Haydon, The Duke of Wellington showing the Prince Regent (later George IV) the battlefield of Waterloo (circa 1844)© Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust

“This exhibition provides the opportunity to examine less familiar aspects of his life, including the long political career during which he saw through important forward-looking legislation, but suffered a dramatic loss of popularity.

“I hope that visitors to the exhibition will gain a fuller picture of Wellington as a man, rather than simply as a hero. ’”

  • Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions is at the National Portrait Gallery, London from March 12 – June 7 2015. Part of the Waterloo 200th Anniversary Commemorations, visit waterloo200.org.