The Duke of Wellington defeats Napoleon’s forces to claim victory at the Battle of Waterloo.
The date is June 18. It is a Sunday, but warfare rarely respects the ‘rules’ of the working week. Napoleon Bonaparte leads a French army against two key members of the Seventh Coalition (an alliance formed between the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Hanover, Nassau, Brunswick and Prussia after Napoleon’s return to power in March 1815). The Duke of Wellington leads the charge for the Anglo-led Allied army, alongside Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, Prince of Wahlstatt, who spearheads the Prussian army. At Waterloo, the stage is set after coalition forces mobilise troops along France’s north-eastern border.
Napoleon seizes the initiative and attacks the two armies in the hope that he may quash any threat before other members of the Seventh Coalition arrive to prepare an invasion. He finds initial success against the Prussians at the Battle of Ligny, while fending off the British at the Battle of Quatre Bras. Wellington holds his own, but the plight of the Prussians forces the Duke to retreat towards Waterloo.
Fighting continues, with the Battle of Wavre being fought between Napoleon and the Prussian rear-guard at the same time as Wellington engages on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment across the Brussels Road. Things do not go to plan for the diminutive French leader, as fighting on multiple fronts leads to a fractious, frantic and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to gain the upper hand.
Napoleon throws his last reserves into the fray but is narrowly beaten back and Prussian troops break through French resistance on the right flank while Wellington’s army counter-attacked through the centre.
Napoleon abdicates four days later, before coalition forces enter Paris. Wellington describes the battle as “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”.