by Alison Stuart
The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo fell on June 18th this year, and the occasion was marked at the battle site itself with a weekend of re-enactments, presentations and memorial unveilings attended by 100,000 people. Church services and commemorations were held in London and Brussels (but in France it passed with barely a murmur. In fact, I suspect, the French probably think they won the battle.)
And I was there… or nearly! My husband and I were fortunate enough to visit the Battle Site the week before the commemoration. The new Visitor’s Centre (which is AMAZING!) had just opened and workmen were frantically laying paths and putting up the bleachers… and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves on a very warm, sunny day.
After a longish bus ride in a stuffy local bus from central Brussels, we had a whole day on our hands and we took the time to visit the Wellington Museum in Waterloo itself (the inn where Wellington stayed the night of the battle and from which he wrote his famous Waterloo despatch). At the site of the battle, we spent ages in the Visitors Centre, climbed the 200 steps to the top of Butte de Lion and walked the line of the ridge to Hougemont Farm with its brand new English Oak gate. Sadly without a car, time did not permit a visit to Napoleon’s headquarters.
Back in London we visited the Guards Museum which hosted an exhibit on Hougemont Farm (where the Guards regiments distinguished themselves), the National Portrait Gallery which had a whole exhibition devoted to Wellington, Apsley House on Waterloo Day and in Paris… at the Hotel de Ville (the military museum), there are galleries devoted to Napoleon’s glory years but blink and you miss any mention of Waterloo!
So… Waterloo is very much on my mind and I am thrilled that in honour of Waterloo, my ‘Waterloo’ story Lord Somerton’s Heir will be 99c (on Amazon and iBooks) from 4 -13 July only.
As I picked up a few little bits and pieces on my travels, I will be offering a Waterloo Commemoration prize as part of a Rafflecopter contest that will run all week (details are on my website at www.alisonstuart.com). But wait… there’s more… sign up to my Readers’ Group newsletter and not only do you get extra points in the contest, you will receive a short story, the ‘prequel’ to Lord Somerton’s Heir… SEBASTIAN’S WATERLOO.
Enough preamble… there is something about Waterloo that captured and held public attention like very few other battles in history. Why? I would be interested in your comments…
In the meantime, here are some facts about Waterloo…
- It is the only battle in the long Napoleonic campaigns in which both Napoleon and Wellington faced each other.
- The Prussians wanted to call the battle Belle Alliance after the village where Napoleon had his headquarters. Wellington’s practice was to name battles after the village in which he spent the night before the battle… hence Waterloo.
- The casualties numbered 200 000 men, 60 000 horses (apologies to horse lovers!), and 537 guns were in action, contributing havoc and destruction on an enormous scale. The action was fought in a relatively small space (5 square miles) and at 2291 casualties per square mile, Wellington’s losses were greater than the 234 casualties per square mile over the 120 days of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
- Tourists flocked to the battlefield from the day after the battle and are still flocking.
- Napoleon blamed General Grouchy for his defeat. Grouchy had misinterpreted an order from his commander. Napoleon’s Chief of Staff had scribbled ‘The battle is commenced’, intending for Grouchy to join in. Grouchy read the word ‘engagée’ (commenced) as ‘gagné’ (won)and stayed put.
- A good trade in false teeth went on for years after the battle – with the teeth of the dead being set in hippo bone and used as dentures.
- Three days after the battle, in Paris, Napoleon attempted to commit suicide by swallowing poison. His doctors saved him but it is possible it hastened his death on St. Helena only a few years later.
And was it such a splendid victory? Well in the opinion of two old army officers (self and husband) it was indeed, as Wellington said, a ‘near run thing’.
- IF Grouchy had not misunderstood his orders…
- IF Ney had not led his cavalry off on a wild charge unsupported by artillery and infantry…
And, most importantly,
- IF the Prussians had not turned up when they did, the outcome would have been totally different!
From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams — only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.
Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. Except, her dreams are soon shattered from beyond the grave when she is not only left penniless, but once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.
But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?