The Waterloo Coin

Everyone has a gripe about something:

Belgium is issuing a new euro coin to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo -- one of the most painful defeats in French military history.

The French government does not like it at all. Paris objected when Belgium first unveiled its plan for a new 2 euro coin in February, arguing that it could "cause an adverse reaction in France" at a time when the eurozone needs to stand together.

Eurozone countries need the agreement of their partners to issue new coins. So Belgium set about destroying 180,000 coins it had already minted.

The 2 euro coin was my favorite coin when I lived in Europe. It is the easiest way to pay for small purchases and it is sorely missed. A two-and-a-half euro coin is crazy, though. Must be fun to be a Belgian store clerk.

Blame the Pandemic


Apparently, it was lice, not cannons, that defeated Napoleon in Russia.

I have also heard the theory about buttons--not sure if this is right or not. The theory has gone around that the greatcoats of the French infantry featured cost-cutting measures like buttons that would disintegrate and not hold the coat closed; for lack of brass or metal buttons, the French froze to death.

La Bataille de Waterloo

La bataille de Waterloo
The stacks upon stacks of historical paintings of the Battle of Waterloo could fill several libraries. There is no shortage of imagery and material, much of it very richly detailed and laboriously reconstructed from the historical record.

Clément-Auguste Andrieux painted La bataille de Waterloo in 1852. He had the ability, at that stage, to compare his work to the testimony of survivors. Although still very removed from the incident, it is a well-regarded depiction. Andrieux went on to illustrate the events of the Franco-Prussian War.

Silver medal of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Battle of Waterloo, by Emile Rogat


This is the commemorative medal issued by the English after Waterloo. The fallen eagle, depicted on the back, is surrounded by vultures, representing the British, Austrians, Russians and the Dutch armies. It was designed and engraved by a Frenchman, hoping to sell it on the British market.

Can it really be true that the 200th anniversary is a few months away?

An Account of Napoleon at Waterloo

Evening of Waterloo by Ernest Crofts.

The French army is in a route, and Napoleon is urged to leave the Battle Field, while the Old Guards protect his carriage.

There are numerous accounts similar to this one:
Napoleon, left the Elysée at four o'clock on the morning of 12 June to join the army, passing by Laon, Avesnes, Beaumont, Charleroi and Fleurus, where the first battle between the French and Prussians was fought. Having reached Laon at six o'clock in the evening, he mounted his horse and made a tour of the town and the defenses: at eight o'clock he returned to the Prefecture where he lodged; at four o'clock on the morning of the 13th, he again set out for Avesnes, his general headquarters. He remained there on the 13th and on the 14th, he proceeded on horseback at 10 a.m. to Beaumont where he slept: he rose very early and walked upon the balcony, taking note continually of the weather and conversing with his brother Jerome. On the 15th he climbed the hill at Charleroi, after having driven back the enemy who only surrendered it towards three o'clock in the afternoon. There he made the whole army march past him in column. At seven in the evening he proceeded to the outposts, returning at ten o'clock to sleep at a citizen's house in the Place de Promenade at Charleroi. During the night various officers of the staff kept coming and going to give Napoleon accounts of the movements made by the different army corps. From their investigations they reported to him that General Bourmont had joined the enemy. Napoleon considered it necessary to make fresh plans, being pretty sure that this General from his treachery would give the enemy an exact account of the position of the French army. Napoleon, therefore, left Charleroi at ten a.m. on the 16th and visited one or two places where he found strong columns of the enemy's army. He continued his observations until a sufficient force had arrived to enable him to commence the battle. Towards three in the afternoon the firing began with much fury and lasted until nine o'clock in the evening when the Prussians were completely defeated. Napoleon spent the evening on the battlefield, until eleven o'clock, when he was assured on all sides that the position had been taken. He passed through the ranks in returning to a village (Ligny) towards Fleurus where he slept. There several of the brave men who had accompanied him from the Isle of Elba, said to him, “Sire, Your Majesty has here, far from Elba, the brave men of Elba.” He replied “I rely wholly upon you and the courage of the brave army.” On his return in the evening, an infantry Colonel who had just had his arm carried away said to the Emperor, “Sire, I have one arm less, the other remains at the service of Your Majesty.” The Emperor stopped and asked him what regiment he commanded; he replied, “The first Grenadier regiment of your Guard.” He was carried to the village with Napoleon's orders that the greatest care must be taken of him.
On the 17th of June, Napoleon left the village where he had slept, and visited the battlefield of the evening before as he always did on the day after a battle. He went very quickly up the hill to Genappes where he remained making observations on the movements of his advance guard; the cavalry attached to which several times charged the British cavalry as it passed out of the town. At this time a violent storm threw into confusion the whole French army which, owing to their many days of rapid marching, lack of provisions, and want of rest was in a most pitiable state. At last the courage of the French overcame the horrible weather. The troops struggled on with unparalleled valor; in the evening Napoleon visited the outposts in spite of the heavy rain and did his utmost to encourage the men. At seven o'clock, p.m. he took out his watch and said that the troops had need of rest, that they should take up their positions, and that the next day early, they would be under arms.
At this moment shouts were heard from the British army, Napoleon asked what these could be. Marshal Soult (then Chief of Staff) replied “It is certainly Wellington passing through the ranks that is the cause of the shouting.” At seven o'clock, Napoleon said he wished to bivouac; it was pointed out to him that he was in a ploughed field and in mud up to the knees, he replied to the Marshal, “Any kind of shelter will suit me for the night.” He retraced his steps at its height owing to the passing of the whole of the Imperial Guard which was hastening to seek shelter from the bad weather. Napoleon went into a kind of Inn out of which the troops, who had installed themselves in it, were turned, and here he fixed his General Headquarters, because he did not wish to go to the town of Genappes, which was only a league distant, saying that during the night he would here receive more readily reports from the army. At the same time everyone had found the best available quarters in which to pass the night. Generals Corbineau, La Bedoyere, Flahaut, aides-de-camp on Napoleon's staff, spent the night in riding between the various army corps and returning to him to give an exact account of the movements which were taking place. 
On the 18th Napoleon having left the bivouac, that is to say the village Caillou on horseback, at half-past nine in the morning came to take up his stand half a league in advance upon a hill where he could discern the movements of the British army.

There he dismounted, and with his fieldglass endeavored to discover all the movements in the enemy's line. The chief of the staff suggested that they should begin the attack; he replied that they must wait, but the enemy commenced his attack at eleven o'clock and the cannonading began on all sides; at two o'clock nothing was yet decided; the fighting was desperate. Napoleon rode through the lines and gave orders to make certain that every detail was executed with promptitude; he returned often to the spot where in the morning he had started, there he dismounted and, seating himself in a chair which was brought to him, he placed his head between his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. He remained thus absorbed sometimes for half-an-hour, and then rising up suddenly would peer through his glasses on all sides to see what was happening. At three o'clock an aide-de-camp from the right wing came to tell him that they were repulsed and that the artillery was insufficient. Napoleon immediately called General Drouet in order to direct him to hasten to reinforce this army corps which was suffering so heavily, but one saw on Napoleon's face a look of disquietude instead of the joy which it had shown on the great day of Fleurus. The whole morning he showed extreme depression; however, everything was going on as well as could be expected with the French, in spite of the uncertainty of the battle, when at 6 o'clock in the evening an officer of the mounted Chasseurs of the Guard came to Napoleon, raised his hand and said “Sire, I have the honor to announce to Your Majesty that the battle is won.”
“Let us go forward,” Napoleon replied, “We must do better still. Courage mes braves: Let us advance!” Having said this he rode off at a gallop close to the ranks encouraging the soldiers, who did not keep their position long, for a hail of artillery falling on their left ruined all. In addition to this, the strong line of British cavalry made a great onslaught on the squares of the guard and put all to rout.
It was at this moment that the Duke of Wellington sent to summon the Guard to surrender. General Kembraune replied that the Guard knew how to fight, to die, but not to surrender. Our right was crushed by the corps of Bülow who with his artillery had not appeared during the day but who now sought to cut off all retreat.
Napoleon towards eight o'clock in the evening, seeing that his army was almost beaten, commenced to despair of the success which two hours before he believed to be assured. He remained on the battlefield until half-past nine when it was absolutely necessary to leave. Assured of a good guide, we passed to the right of Genappes and through the fields; we marched all the night without knowing too well where we were going until the morning. Towards four o'clock in the morning we came to Charleroi where Napoleon, owing to the onrush of the army in beating a retreat, had much difficulty in proceeding. At last after he had left the town, he found in a little meadow on the right a small bivouac fire made by some soldiers. He stopped by it to warm himself and said to General Corbineau, “Et bien Monsieur, we have done a fine thing.” General Corbineau saluted him and replied, “Sire, it is the utter ruin of France.” Napoleon turned round, shrugged his shoulders and remained absorbed for some moments. He was at this time extremely pale and haggard and much changed. He took a small glass of wine and a morsel of bread which one of his equerries had in his pocket, and some moments later mounted, asking if the horse galloped well. He went as far as Philippeville where he arrived at mid-day and took some wine to revive himself. He again set out at two o'clock in a mail carriage towards Paris where he arrived on the 21st at 7 a.m. at the Elysée whence he departed on the 12th, in the same month.
Certified correct by me,
Jardin Ainé;
Equerry to the Emperor Napoleon

The Red Cloak


The spoils of war go on display:
Items seized at the Battle of Waterloo including Napoleon's red cloak are to go on display at Windsor Castle to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle.
The ankle-length cloak was worn by Napoleon on the night before the French defeat and was looted from his carriage after the victory by Allied troops.
The embroidered red felt cloak has been in the Royal Collection since 1837.
A great deal of treasure was left on the battlefield, and then discarded during the retreat. How much of it ended up in private hands, I wonder.

The 8th Duke of Wellington


If you're following this sort of thing, please note that the title will continue:
The 8th Duke of Wellington has died at his home in Hampshire, aged 99.
Arthur Valerian Wellesley died peacefully at Stratfield Saye Estate, near Basingstoke, surrounded by his family, a spokesman said.
Also known as the Prince of Waterloo, the duke was a descendant of the 1st Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo.

Gamers Will Sustain History


I don't know what to vote for, but history isn't kept alive in books. It's kept alive in the popular culture--movies, music, art and now games.

Computer gaming is still in an infancy stage that requires a lot of imagination and suspension of disbelief. The games being played today will seem like the games of twenty years ago--and so on and so forth. As the sophistication level of gaming increases, so will the integration of history.

The Chappe Telegraph


The Chappe telegraph was yet another modern convenience that began during the French Revolution and then quickly died off when someone came along and "invented" the actual telegraph.

Claude Chappe's invention worked wonders:
Napoleonic semaphore was the world's first telegraph network, carrying messages across 19h-Century France faster than ever before. Now a group of enthusiastic amateurs are reviving the ingenious system. 
Before the web, before the computer, before the phone, even before Morse code, there was le systeme Chappe. 
Not for the first time or for the last, at the end of the 18th Century France made an important technological advance - only to see it overtaken by newer science. 
In this case, it was the world's first ever system of telegraphy.

In the event of the breakdown of technology and electronic communications, we could easily go back to this system:

Of course, no one is willing to actually learn how to use it, except for the people in France restoring the system. Brilliant.

History Repeating Itself Over and Over Again

Fouche, Napoleon's dreaded Chief of Police
All of this talk about being under surveillance and privacy--please. We are mere amateurs when it comes to keeping track of what people say and do.

Here are two wonderful pieces of history from Alan Forrest:

What recourse did anyone have under the rule of law? None. And America is the originator of evil in the world? They used to say that about Napoleon as well. His enemies were everywhere and he knew it.

The police state is over two hundred years old, and counting. It certainly did not begin with Napoleon, but his chief of police, the dreaded Fouche, is the predecessor of so many bad men of history that it is impossible to count them all.


And so, we must conclude that even the President is being spied upon. And, remember. Only Americans do bad things to their people.

Napoleon on PBS


I'm not a huge fan of the PBS method of making documentaries. This informal language, which is meant to be relatable and entertaining, is not really how you want to describe the Napoleonic era. It's fine if you're talking about America, or America's wars, but it doesn't carry any weight when it comes to describing the carnage of the wars in Europe from 200 years ago.

Anyway, this piece is about the Battle of Ulm, and it makes me wonder if they didn't actually put a Legoland where the battle was fought (probably not). This is a wonderful part of Germany, and I wish I had been able to visit the actual battlefield.

Another Napoleonic Era Artifact Disappears Into Private Hands


Yet another artifact from the age of Napoleon vanishes into the hands of a private collector. Will it ever be seen again? What else, out there in private hands, is there?

I don't know what value such a ring would be to the people of France; it's not as if every jewel from that era ended up in the hands of the state. Far from it--numerous items have been lost to history in the aftermath of the overthrow of Napoleon's government. How many treasures were carted away by the victors? We'll never know.

Don't Make This


Steven Spielberg's adaptation of AI ruined it; I hope they don't make this project.

Napoleon, and the era in which he lived, would be great fodder for untold numbers of stories and a miniseries and films and whatnot; the subject matter is definitely worth mining. Is there any enthusiasm for what Spielberg would accomplish here? I doubt it.

If Kubrick envisioned the project as a film, and if he had the scale of Barry Lyndon in mind, then any deviation from that will require padding and changes that would dilute his original intention. Add in Spielberg's penchant for melodramatic nonsense, and you have the makings of a ruined project that adds nothing of value. Of course, it could go the other way and be brilliant, but I doubt it. I probably won't ever see Lincoln simply because I cannot abide the historical stylings of Doris Kearns Goodwin. I'm probably alone in this sentiment.

Kubrick's vision should stay with his legacy. Who could possibly reinterpret his work properly?

The Importance of Little Details


Well, that's not a real cannon.

It's a picture of one taken at Disneyland Paris. You can see that it has been cast or fabricated to look real, but it isn't.

Or is it?

If you were going to go out and get a fake cannon, where would you go? And why wouldn't you just buy an old one and dress it up and make it look real.

This is the actual coat worn daily by Napoleon:



But, then again. What's genuine and what's fake?

The reason why this project has, literally, taken forever is that I have so much source material to go through and I'm doing this so that I can get most of this right.

Whose Slippers?


Scattered all throughout Europe are trunks and chests full of treasures; of this I am certain. When something like this is examined, the question I always want to know is, what's missing? What were the really valuable items that ended up being pawned off during the war (s) and what was filched out of there by a thieving relative?

Items from two or three hundred years ago are commonplace enough in small museums in Germany; really, you can go to any stadt museum and see excellent pieces. I'm sure it's that way throughout the continent; maybe not, but I suspect that there are trunks needing a good dusting all over. Perhaps that is oversimplified and overly romantic.

In America, if it's a hundred and twenty years old or more, people lose their mud over such an "antiquity." The American way is to tear it down, pave it over, get rid of it. We do not preserve much of anything in this country.

To call Napoleon's sister a princess is to acknowledge her marriage to a man of limited title who abandoned her for a mistress; she became Paulette when the family arrived in France and was loyal to her brother to the end of his days.



I think that the article should have reflected more of her status as a wholly created royal with the same commoner's blood as her brother. If you consider the painting above, someone had to have been cruelly inclined to give her too long of a neck. What an unflattering portrait.

A Threat Never Carried Out


Nothing could be more horrific to consider than the destruction of Napoleon's army in Russia; I have deliberately avoided researching it or going into it because I wanted to limit my focus to the last two battles of the Napoleonic era in Europe where we end it all at Waterloo.

It is interesting that this particular letter, concerning a threat that never happened, went for 150,000 euros. Did someone drive up the cost? Is it really worth that much?

My guess is that there are so few remaining privately held documents like this that it was worth every penny to whomever wanted to preserve it.

One Hundred Days by Alan Schom


This is one of the last books that I will read before The Chasseurs project is transitioned from a research project to a more proper blog about history and the Napoleonic Era (it's been in the works for long enough).

Alan Schom's book is brimming with excellent pieces and facts that are done in a very scholarly fashion. The quality of his details really rank up there with the best scholarship on this era. Gathering together the historical works on Napoleon would take a dozen blogs a dozen years; there's simply way too much that is way too good to ignore. There are hundreds of books written over a hundred years ago that are extremely valuable; Google Books is a good source for those.

What Schom does is follow the money and the trail of events. It's not enough to know what was happening when Napoleon landed in France after escaping Elba; he makes note of the messages that went back and forth between the panicked officials who were sensing, probably from the outset, that the new King of France, Louis XVIII, was simply going to run for the border (and, of course, he did).

It is an excellent read. I cannot proceed until I've finished it.


Sir John Keegan's The Face of Battle


In the wake of Sir John Keegan's passing, I would be remiss if I did not say that his book, "The Face of Battle," has been essential in my research so far.

Virtually all of the comments I've seen hold that book in very high regard; the section on Waterloo is fascinating.