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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

VICTORIA AND KRISTINE GO TO WATERLOO REDUX

Victoria here, writing about the presentation I am making on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, to the Beau Monde conference in San Antonio: The Battle of Waterloo and A Visit to the Battleground, June, 2010.

Hero of the day, the 1st Duke of Wellington

We have written many times on this blog about Waterloo, the battle, and our visit.  The most complete account is here.  I'll be using many of the same pictures in my talk in San Antonio.


Wellington, portrayed at the decisive moment of Coalition victory
Robert A. Hillingford Artist

However my emphasis for the writers of Regency-set Historical Novels is a bit broader.  What led up to Waterloo and what did it mean in the grand sweep of history? A bit of analysis and a lot of significance.


Napoleon in Exile


After almost a century of war among the European powers, particularly between Britain and France, Napoleon abdicated in June 1814 and was sent to Elba where he was to rule just one relatively small island.


Meanwhile, the European Powers convened the Congress of Vienna to decide what to do with the  lands Napoleon had attempted to annex to his empire.  In the midst of the Vienna consultations, in February 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France.  Within a short period he had reestablished his reign, returned to Paris, and assembled an army. The Congress declared him an outlaw, set up a new Army of the 7th Coalition, and continued its deliberations.

In June, 1815, Napoleon and his army marched north into Belgium (then the Kingdom of the Netherlands) where he hoped to take Brussels as the first step in reasserting his imperial powers.  Two of the 7th Coalition armies were nearby; Napoleon hoped to prevent them from joining together.

In the two days of battle and maneuvers that preceded Sunday June 18, Napoleon was almost successful.

But on the fateful day, Wellington's forces were able to hold off and ultimately defeat the French; the Prussians under General Blucher arrived in the nick of time. For all practical purposes, Napoleon was forever finished.


Waterloo after the battle by Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (1775–1851), Tate Britain

Turner's painting portrays the horrors of the aftermath, the wounded and dying men and horses, the mud, the searching and grieving friends and relatives, the scavengers, the essential darkness. To stand before it is to feel in your bones the horror of war.

The re-enactors of 2010

In June of 2010, Kristine and I toured the battlefields of the three-day campaign, visited the encampments of the re-enactors from all over Europe, and watched the actual staging of part of the battle itself.

June 18, 2010


Cavalry charges

After Napoleon surrendered once again, he was sent to the remote south Atlantic island of St. Helena where he died in 1821. The settlements signed at the Congress of Vienna were put into effect and there was a general peace, with short intervals of smaller wars, until the outbreak of World War I, almost a hundred years later. In fact WWI prevented any important commemorations of Waterloo, so next year will be a particularly important tribute and memorial.

For more information on Waterloo200, click here.          

A modern take of what enabled the Coalition victory under Wellington over Napoleon is here (50 mins, from Youtube).  It gives a modern take on why the French were defeated.

Monday, July 21, 2014

ACROSS THE CHANNEL

Victoria here, doing a few web searches on what I want to see on my upcoming trip to Paris and cruise on the Seine.

Arc de Triomphe

Hubby and I have been to Paris several times, so we really don't need to re-visit The  Louvre, the Musée Carnavalet, Place des Vosges, Montmartre, or the Eiffel Tower.  We've seen Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides, the Pompidou Center, Musée'Orsay, and the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral and the nearby Sainte-Chapelle.  Not that we would be disappointed in seeing any of those wonderful places again, but with so much more available, we need to wander a bit farther afield, find things out of the ordinary.  Anybody have any suggestions??

le Tour Eiffel

I'm thinking about some of the small museums such as the Musée Cluny with its Medieval treasures.

15th C. tapestry, Lady and the Unicorn

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People

 The Musée Delacroix is housed in the building in which he lived and died in 1863. 

 Musée Rodin.

The Rodin Museum looks like fun, if just for the building alone, much less the opportunity to get up close and personal with The Thinker! 


Musée Gustave Moreau 

I saw an article in the NY Times a while ago about a fascinating small museum called Musée Gustave Moreau  (to read it click here).  We will try to find that one too.

I am hoping to take a day to go to Josephine's Malmaison, just on the edge of the city.  She is such an interesting character, and I am fascinated by her life.  I have read -- and believe -- she was able, in the midst of all the French-British wars, to receive her beautiful English roses for her garden.  Both sides of the Channel apparently would do anything for her!

Chateau de Malmaison

Josephine's bedroom at Malmaison

There is a very amusing irony in the love of the British for all things French.  And in the fascination of the French with all things British.  Even after decades of war and managing to defeat Napoleon, the Prince Regent (later George IV) accumulated all sorts of furniture, decorative arts, paintings and sculpture from France.  Tours of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace clearly indicate the royal preferences for the styles of Louis XIV, XV, and even XVI.

Buckingham Palace White Drawing Room

Which makes me think of Versailles. It's on our schedule -- I was there once, but spent almost all my time inside.  This visit I intend to emphasize the gardens. 


Versailles

Attendez!  Wait! We'll be in Paris.  Why go anyplace other than a café?  A bit of people watching and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc?  Parfait!!  Merci beaucoup. Plenty of cafes for a different one every day.