Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Road To & From Waterloo. Week 18. The End for Napoleon, London Parties, The Country Celebrates

The Allies advanced, carrying with them such booty as Napoleon’s beautifully-fitted carriage (shown in the moment of its capture in the print below), while in Paris the first wounded had begun to arrive the day Napoleon abdicated. Some of the Old Guard were spotted on the streets on the 25th and newspapers and posters appealed for linen and rags to make bandages.
Napoleons carriageBeyond the problems of the wounded, things were looking up. French government stocks rose with the news of Waterloo and kept rising – the abdication and the approach of the Allies pushed it even higher. Labretonnière noted that Paris was taking on an “aristocratic look” and the Tuileries Gardens was filled with “brilliant society”. The English visitor, Hobhouse, was asked why he looked gloomy and wrote that it was strange that the only person not looking happy in the crowd was a foreigner when “you consider that the Square Vendome, close by, is covered at one corner with wounded men, laying on straw.”
On the 25th Napoleon moved to Malmaison, the Empress Josephine’s old residence, fifteen miles west of Paris. As the Allies drove on hard for the capital he fled again on the 29th to Rochefort, a port on the Charente estuary in the South West, hoping at first to flee to America, but eventually surrendering to the British..
On Friday 30th June the Allies opened fire on the plain of St Denis, wakening the Parisians with cannon fire. The French Commission of Government dithered, fighting went on – and, finally, the capitulation was signed on July 3rd. It was all over.
In London that Sunday 25th June, one week after the battle, Londoners were not short of reading material. The Examiner printed “The London Gazette Extraordinary” recapping the events from the arrival of Major Percy onwards and also “Miscellaneous Information Respecting the Late Battles”, filled with a hodgepodge of news gleaned from letters, dispatches and downright speculation.
The whole of London Society seemed to be throwing itself into balls, routs and parties, despite the number of deaths and injuries amongst officers aDuke of Brunswickt Waterloo, which must have touched almost every aristocratic and upper class family in the country. The Morning Chronicle’s Mirror of Fashion for Monday 25th June lists eleven forthcoming parties including the Marchioness of Douglas’s “elegant ball and supper”, Mrs Tighe’s “large rout” and Lady Saltown’s “large assembly”. The only mention of mourning I could find was that of the Princess Charlotte on behalf of her father’s cousin, the Duke of Brunswick.(Shown left)
To end this story in a far less sophisticated town – Bury St Edmund’s – there is a rather charming report in the local Bury and Norwich Post recording that, “The glorious news of Lord Wellington’s Victory over Bonaparte was first received here on Thursday evening, amidst the most general joy; and which was most happily confirmed on the arrival of the mail at six the next morning; when by the vigilance of our most worthy postmaster the several newspapers were instantly delivered throughout the town and its vicinity.”

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts tracing Napoleon’s route to Waterloo and how Londoners reacted to it. I began to be fascinated by the story when I was researching for a Waterloo trilogy of novels – The Brides of Waterloo – with two friends and fellow authors,Waterloo books Sarah Mallory and Annie Burrows. Inspired by the exploits of G Troop, Royal Artillery, the three novels are available as paperbacks and ebooks: why not visit our websites to find out more, including buy-links and snippets about research. http://www.melinda-hammond.co.uk , http://www.annie-burrows.co.uk , and http://www.louiseallenregency.com. Our heroes also tweet at @RandallsRogues!

I also became intrigued by the tourists who flocked to the scanned medbattlefield from the day after the battle. The story of this phenomenon is told in the words of six of them – the Poet Laureate, a lady travel writer, a schoolmaster, a journalist, a friend of Sir Walter Scott’s and an adventurous young man – in To the Field of Waterloo: the First Battlefield Tourists 1815-1816. It is available as an ebook for Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VMQWN74/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VMQWN74/

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The Road to Waterloo: Week 17. The Battle is Fought, The Tourists Arrive, Napoleon Flees, The Regent Weeps

So much has been written – and is being written – about the battle of Waterloo itself that this post is not going to go into any details but will concentrate on what was known to be happening in London. The detail below shows the fighting on the left wing of the battle.
Waterloo left wing bottom strip
On the 18th Londoners were going about their normal Sunday business – attending church, followed, for the gentlemen, by reading the papers which had no up-to-date news from Flanders. Readers could safely turn to lighter matters such as the report in thElopemente Marriages column: “Some days ago, at Gretna Green, Capt. Bontein, of the Life Guards, son of Sir G.B. to the daughter of Sir E. Stanley. The parties rode out from Lady Bontein’s to take an airing before dinner; they took post-chaise and four at Barnet, and proceeded to Gretna Green, wither they were unsuccessfully pursued by Lady Stanley. The only objection to the match, was, it is said, the age of the bride, who is under fourteen and has a handsome fortune. The parties have since been re-married in London.” Where, presumably, Captain Bontein was enjoying the company of his child bride and her handsome fortune while his comrades plunged into battle.cattle on street
A glimpse into the state of the London streets, with vast herds of livestock being driven through them daily, is captured in the report that, “On Friday-forenoon, a large bullock that ran from a drove in Newgate-street, ran into the shop of Messrs. Baldwin & Co. booksellers, and the parlour door being open, he walked in, where there were three or four ladies sitting who were very much frightened…they were at length rescued… by a drover…all the furniture had to be piled in one corner to make room for the animal to turn around: he then walked out very deliberately.” The picture shows a detail from a print of Soho Square (Ackermann’s Repository 1812)
By Monday 19th there was still nothing in the newspapers, but rumours of three days’ fighting around Brussels were beginning to spread by word of mouth from the Channel couriers.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, the first tourists had arrived from Brussels, despite the desperate needs of the wounded in the city and on the battlefield, the state of the roads and the appalling scenes. In his Journal of the Waterloo Campaign, Kept through the Campaign of 1815, Cavalié Mercer, who commanded G Troop Royal Horse Artillery during the battle, records some of the very first tourists. On the morning of the 19th he recalls surveying the field, helping get water to the wounded and seeing his men were fed, surrounded by mangled corpses and the wounded. “We had not yet finished our meal, when a carriage drove on the ground from Brussels, the inmates of which, alighting, proceeded to examine the field. As they passed near us, it was amusing to see the horror with which they eyed our frightful figures; they all, however, pulled off their hats and made us low bows. One, a smartly-dressed middle-aged man, in a high cocked-hat, came to our circle, and entered into conversation with me on the events of yesterday. He approached holding a delicately white perfumed handkerchief to his nose; stepping carefully to avoid the bodies (at which he cast fearful glances en passant), to avoid polluting the glossy silken hose that clothed his nether limbs…With a world of bows my man took leave, and proceeded, picking his steps with the same care as he followed the route of his companions in the direction of Hougoumont.”
Finally some hard news reached the London papers on Tuesday 20th June, albeit four days out of date. Under the headline, “Commencement of Hostilities” the Morning Post reported, “Yesterday afternoon an Officer arrived with dispatches from the Duke of WELLINGTON, announcing the important fact of BONAPARTE having, soon after his arrival on the frontiers, put his army in motion, and attacked the Prussian outpost at Givet. This took place on the morning of the 16th, on the evening of which day a Prussian officer arrived in Brussels to communicate the intelligence to the Duke of WELLINGTON. His Grace lost not a moment in putting his whole army in motion…A general battle has in all probability ere taken place. In Heaven we trust that our confident hopes in regard to it will be speedily and completely realised.”
The Morning Post on the 21st reported rumours of a great battle and stated that, “an Officer was on the road to London with the official accounts, and in the meantime the report brought by MR SUTTON, the Packet Agent [ie in charge of the mail boats] was sufficiently circumstantial to prove its authenticity.” The article repeated the news about the 16th and stated that Wellington had brought Bonaparte into “a sanguinary contest” on the 17th. News of the death of General Picton was given, but all the details were unclear.
By now Napoleon had reached Paris and late that same evening Wellington’s exhausted aide Henry Percy arrived in London, having started out a few hours after the battle with the Duke’s dispatches and two captured eagles. He travelled day and night, with the eagles poking out of the chaise window, and reached Horse Guards between eleven and midnight. He found no-one in authority but eventually tracked Lord Liverpool down who insisted they go immediately to tell the Prince Regent who was dining with the Duke of York at Mrs. Boehm’s house (now no.14) in St. James’s Square.
Lord Liverpool, followed by footmen carrying the eagles, announced to the Prince Regent, “I have brought Major Percy, who comes with the news of a great victory for your Royal Highness.”
“Not Major Percy, but Lieut.-Colonel Percy,” said the Prince as Percy knelt and kissed his hand. ” We have not suffered much loss, I hope.”
“The loss has been very great indeed,” replied Percy and the Regent burst into tears. Major Percy was finally to escape and go to bed for the first time since the battle.
The second edition of the Morning Post on the morning of the 22nd carried “Official Bulletin of the Complete Overthrow of Bonaparte’s Army With a List of the British Officers Killed or Wounded.” The dispatch was brief and to the point, the list of casualties very long – and that was just the officers. Londoners would have been left in no doubt that a great victory had been won at enormous cost. The Morning Post wrote, “With hearts gratefully elate (sic) and all thanks due to Heaven for the event, we have this day the supreme happiness of announcing one of the most complete and comprehensive victories ever attained, even by British valour…While Bonaparte… coward at heart…narrowly effected his escape.”
As Londoners were reading the news, in Paris Napoleon was abdicating in favour of his son.
after the battle

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The Road to Waterloo: Week 16. The Young Men Frolic, Napoleon Invades, the Duchess Holds her Ball – the Conflict Begins

Richmond 2
On June 11th Napoleon marched an army of approximately 120,000 men to war against Wellington’s 93,000 and Blücher’s 115,000 men. Wellington was still poised to invade France and was uncertain whether the French would halt at the frontier or whether he would have to meet them once they had crossed it. His main anxiety was to protect the “hinge”, the weak point between his army and Blücher’s.
Nick Foulkes in his engrossing social history of the months leading up to the battle, Dancing Into Battle, notes a “holiday atmosphere” amongst the Allied officers and the upper classes living in and around Brussels. “They may have been assembled to fight the most daunting military commander of the age, but in many cases the regiments were filled with and run by boys still in their teens and on their first trip abroad. They were young, they had foppish uniforms and they were having the time of their lives.”
Horse racing was a particular favourite amongst the young officers. The Earl of Albermarle (sixteen at the time) recalled that, “Races on a grand scale came off at Gramont on 13th June…Everyone was determined to make the most of the holiday.” The crowds numbered thousands.
The impact of so many spirited young men on Brussels was, probably, predictable. Wine, women, parties, petty vandalism (no statue was safe) and pranks kept the officers busy when they weren’t with their troops, and the charismatic teenage ensign James, Lord Hay, ADC to General Maitland, was one of the leaders of the mischief. “Very poor I hear…[but] very good looking I know and particularly gentlemanlike,” sighed one smitten young lady. He took to jumping the boundary fences of the Parc, the smaller-scale Brussels equivalent of Hyde Park, and reveled in being chased by the park keepers and the local gens d’armes. It was only when complaints were made to Wellington that he stopped.
On the 15th the French crossed the Sombre at Charleroi which placed their forces in the gap between the cantonment areas of Wellington’s army, to the west, and Blücher’s army to the east. Napoleon had found the weak spot in the Allies’ defenses with his usual tactical brilliance – Wellington had concentrated his forces at Nivelles, twelve miles from the Prussians who were at Ligny.
The news of the French move to the frontier reached the London papers on the 15th and the country must have been bracing itself for the news of the coming clash. The Morning Post reported receiving “advices from Paris of the 11th inst. stating that BONAPARTE had left the city for the head-quarters of the Army of the North and that orders for laying an embargo on all shipping had been sent off to several ports in the channel. The communication between this country and France was therefore expected to be immediately cut off. All accounts agree in stating that hostilities would commence about this time, and the present day (the 15th) is mentioned by some as the particular day, on which a blow would be struck, every arrangement for that purpose being complete. There has been no arrival of French Papers since Monday.”
Thursday 15th was, of course, the date set for the Duchess of Richmond’s famous ball, shown in an entertaining, but particularly inaccurate picture at the top of this post. The Duke, perhaps maintaining his pretense of insouciance, assured her it could go ahead, although by the evening rumours were already circulating around Brussels. Some officers were already leaving the city to go to their troops, others were coming in, unaware as yet of the increasing certainty that Napoleon was on the move. In the event the news hit the revelers at some time around 11pm. Lord Uxbridge announced, “You gentlemen who have engaged partners, had better finish your dance, and get to your quarters as soon as you can.” In full dress uniforms and evening slippers the young officers headed south.
By the 16th Wellington’s forces were still all attempting to concentrate around Quatre Bras to meet Marshal Ney’s troops – not all of them made it in time for the battle. Meanwhile Napoleon led the main French force against the inexperienced Prussian troops at Ligny. The Prussians suffered heavily, but thanks to Blücher’s generalship, and a chaotic French mix-up which sent 16,000 French troops marching from Quatre Bras to Ligny only to be immediately recalled, the Prussians were able to retreat in relatively good order.

Quatre Bras
On the 17th Wellington had held back Ney at Quatre Bras (above), but with the Prussian defeat at Ligny he now had the French army on his eastern flank. Fortunately the Prussians were retreating northwards to Wavre, not east back to their base, and the armies were able to stay in contact while Wellington fell back to the ridge at Mont St Jean. That evening the heavens opened in a thunderstorm of epic proportions. As Private Wheeler of the 51st Regiment wrote later, “The ground was too wet to lie down…the water ran in streams from the cuffs of our jackets.” The exhausted men of both sides faced spending the night soaking wet, cold and muddy with the prospect of battle the next day.
That day the London papers were confidently predicting that the first action in the conflict would be the Allies invading France. Meanwhile the social round in London continued unabated with the society pages full of routs and balls.

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A Blue Plaque for Georgette Heyer

An absolute favourite writer for most lovers of the Regency is Georgette Heyer, and the great news is that on Friday 5th June English Heritage unveiled a Blue Plaque at 103, Woodside, Wimbledon, where Georgette was born on 16th August 1902.
I’ve been a Heyer fan as long as I can remember, and I particularly get a thrill when I’m in the History stacks at the London Library in St James’s Square and recall that this was where she did so much of her research.
Heyer’s novels are a treat for anyone who loves Georgian London and my favourite is Frederica, with its priceless image of the dreadful dog Lufra chasing the cows in Green Park, even if it does contain one of Heyer’s few research failures when she located the Soho Foundry, not in Birmingham, but in…Soho.
For anyone who is inclined to dismiss her writing as romantic froth, I would recommend Jenny Haddon’s post http://jennyhaddon.com/?p=973 “The Space Between the Words” on the understated power of her writing. And if you haven’t already read it, Jennifer Kloester’s biography Georgette Heyer, is the perfect accompaniment to her books.
I’ll leave you with a picture of two books from my collection, including one of my precious first editions. And if you like to see a (good) feature film, made of one of her novels, why not sign the petition http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/georgetteheyerfilm
Heyer_0002

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The Road to Waterloo: Week 15. Napoleon Swears An Oath, Wellington is Laid Back & London Boycotts French Bonnets

On Sunday 4th June Napoleon presented his new army with regimental colours and on the 6th he ordered his generals to begin to assemble on the Belgian border. Perhaps critically, he decided to leave behind his “Iron Marshall”, Louis-Nicolas Davout, to be Minister of War. One of his most experienced generals, Davout’s presence on the battlefield as chief of staff in place of Marshal Soult might have made all the difference to the outcome of the battle.
On Wednesday 7th Napoleon opened Parliament, swearing on the Bible to uphold the troubled new French constitution which made him a constitutional monarch.
parc mapMeanwhile in Brussels Wellington was putting on a masterly show of relaxed imperturbability, entertaining, attending balls, strolling in the Parc (shown left) and flirting with ladies. Besides this attitude being good for morale in Brussels (except possibly for the husbands of his flirts), he would also have been aware that spies were reporting his behaviour back to Paris and he must have seemed to Napoleon (or Buonaparte as Wellington always dismissively referred to him) to be over-confident or simply dangerously unaware of what he was up against. Meanwhile Wellington let it be known that he was planning a grand ball for the 21st June to celebrate the second anniversary of his victory at Vittoria.
In London readers of Sunday’s Examiner would have found several items of interest in the Deaths column including the report of the decease of Mr Steele of Round Green, Durham, aged 102, leaving over one hundred descendants living. James Hare, labourer of Beaconsfield, died of hydrophobia from a dog bite, despite having been dipped in the sea to cure it. This was a considerable journey from Beaconsfield and, as a result, the paper concluded, the delay resulted in this usually reliable cure for the bite of a mad dog not being effective.
The Examiner also contained a lengthy report on fashions, including the essential information that “The only novelty in colour this month is that called the Maria Theresa, which is as yet too little known to be generally adopted. The most prevailing colours are lilac, peach blossom, imperial-green, Saxon-green, pale pink, straw or primrose.” It quoted the patriotic opinion of The British Ladies Magazine that, “Our fair countrywomen are to be congratulated on the improvement made to the fashions this month. Those frightful French bonnets etc have given place to the more simple but elegant English taste.”

The print is from Ackermann’s Repository for June 1815 and shows a lady in a Carriage Dress, apparently viewing pictures at an exhibition.
June 1815 carriage dressOn Monday the most recent Paris newspapers in the hands of the London press were those for June 1st, so as far as readers were concerned, Napoleon and his troops were still in Paris. On Friday the report of the House of Commons showed a remarkable lack of concern about the French threat, with debates about a petition against nude bathing in the Thames, the increase of begging in London and the building of ships by the East India Company. The House spent some valuable time considering the vexed question of the importation of clover seed.
Friday’s papers also included a report of the Prince Regent’s Levée held the previous day at St James’s Palace with the band of the Coldstream Guard appearing in a magnificent new court uniform. The American Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s, John Quincey Adams, was “most graciously received” by the Regent and presented his credentials. (To this day, foreign ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St James’s and not Buckingham Palace.) The U.S. Legation in those days consisted of the Envoy and two secretaries based in a small office in Craven Street. The post was not well paid and Adams and his wife lived a house called “Little Boston” in the village of Ealing to save money to spend on the expensive trappings required by the court. Adam’s later move to the White House must have made an interesting contrast in accommodation.

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It’s June and the Pictures Are On the Wall

JuneFor the first of June here is another of Cruickshank’s delicious drawings of London life month by month. It shows the Royal Academy’s Summer Show with the gawping crowd of connoisseurs, fashionable types and sightseers, all jammed in to look at the pictures hung floor to ceiling in the fashion of the time. This was one of the major events in the London Season and has been held every year since 1769.

Here is Henry Alken’s view of the same event, drawn in  1821. Summer showThe Royal Academy was initially located in Pall Mall, then moved in 1771 to the first completed wing of New Somerset House, in the Strand. In 1837 it occupied the east wing of the recently completed National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and in 1868 it moved to its present location, Burlington House, Piccadilly. The plate below from Ackermann’s Repository for May 1810 shows the “Hall at the Royal Academy, Somerset House” with an artist sketching one of the plaster casts of Classical statues.

Royal Ac

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