Thursday, 12 March 2015

In the Shadow of Waterloo

Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles

An Anthology of Romance Stories Celebrating the Battle of Waterloo

Nine authors, of whom I am proud to be one, have joined forces to produce a collection of wonderful stories to celebrate the bicentenary of England’s most evocative military success.

From the battlefields of the Peninsular Wars, our National hero, the Duke of Wellington, took his depleted force of British veterans, their ranks swelled by a motley assortment of raw recruits, ‘unbloodied’ officers and allies of varying accomplishment, and defeated the over-confidence of the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The scene is familiar to anyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars. Wellington deployed his forces on the now-famous ridge, with a stalwart battalion of the King’s German Legion commanded by Major Baring at the influential farm of La Haye Sainte. He garrisoned the Hougoumont estate of chateau, barns, gardens, orchards, woods and parkland with four light companies of his best troops, the Guards, bolstered by seven hundred Hanoverians and Nassauers seconded in the woods. This meant Napoleon would have to divide his army in front of the Duke’s most accomplished forces in order to move up the winding hollow which passed beneath the walls of the house or to envelop Wellington’s right flank.

Below the ridge, fields of corn stretched across the valley of the River Ohain to the opposing hill surmounted by the red-tiled inn of La Belle Alliance, to which it owed its name. For the Allied Force, the sight of Napoleon’s mighty army, with helmets, cuirasses and weapons glittering in the June sunshine, must have been awe-inspiring. It is little wonder that the fresh-faced sons of the soil shook in their ill-fitting boots.

Yet, in spite of his military might and his parading on his white horse to cheers of ‘Vive l’Empereur!’, Napoleon made grave tactical errors, made the mistake of underestimating his opponent and, ultimately, paid the price.

The valiant Guards held Hougoumont against all the odds and in spite of some of the British cavalry losing discipline, resulting in the decimation of the Scots Greys among others (although it could be argued that without the devastating effects of Uxbridge’s charge, the French strength on Wellington’s left flank would not have been thus negated), the infantry were supreme. A daring and inspired manoeuvre by the first battalion of the 52nd, commanded by John Colborne (later Lord Seaton), so surprised the French Imperial Guard, Adam’s brigade was able to follow up the attack. Casualties were so heavy, the French ranks broke and fled.

In the face of overwhelming odds, the loss of life, both human and equine, was prodigious; the squadrons of foreign Horse proved to be of little use, refusing to charge against the heavy French cuirassiers, and even the British cavalry were reluctant at times, although there were several regiments, not least the 13th Light Dragoons and the 15th Hussars, who covered themselves with glory. If not for the courage and gallantry of all these men and horses, life for us today might be very different.

As dusk began to fall, the smoke lifted and rays of the setting sun glinted and gleamed, not only on the accoutrements of both exhausted armies, but also on the massed numbers of the Prussian forces as they swarmed on to the battlefield from the east. Despite the miscommunication and delay caused by the erroneous assumption that Napoleon was elsewhere, and the hours thus gained which allowed the Emperor to drive a wedge between Wellington’s and Blucher’s armies, the Prussians had arrived to reinforce a famous victory. The little Corsican may have ‘hum bugged me, by God!’, to paraphrase Wellington’s oft-quoted remark, and derided the Duke as ‘a bad General’ with ‘bad troops’, but it is doubtful that the Allies would have succeeded without him. If his recorded remark to Creevey appears arrogant, it could be said he was entitled to be.

‘By God! I don’t think it would have been done if I had not been there.’

Meeting shortly after nine o’clock at La Belle Alliance, from the back of his horse Blucher embraced his English Commander-in-Chief. “Quelle affaire!” he exclaimed.


Quelle affaire, indeed. Please join with us in saluting this glorious event in British history.

The stories in Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles are all set around Waterloo, its history and aftermath. All are sweet romances, written by international and best-selling authors.

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  1. Indeed!
    Bravo Heather! Bravo ladies! The event is well worth remembering.

    1. Thank you very much, Caroline. Thank you for taking the trouble to say so!

  2. Fantastic, post, Heather! Very well done. I am amazed at how well you encapsulated the battle.

    1. You are very kind, Angelina. Thank you for taking the trouble to comment!