Whether it be a one hour guided tour, two hours, or even three, the Guides 1815 will tell you a compelling story of the history of this place, and what a story it is!
Having all taken the official training programme, under the auspices of the Walloon Region, our guides are passionate about the subject, all living a short distance from the battlefield. They will bring to life the Waterloo Campaign, including the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras on June 16th 1815, and of course the Battle of Waterloo itself on June 18th. On the actual ground where the battle was fought, in the fields south of Waterloo, you will visualise the unfolding of the battle, as we take you through one of the bloodiest events in European history (12,000 dead and 35,000 wounded). You will hear the trumpets and cannon fire, imagine the impetuous cavalry, sabres glinting in the sun, and from the top of the Lion Mound, you would be the first to see the arrival of the Prussian army: coming from Wavre, and having marched all day, they burst onto the scene, and are about to inflict upon Napoleon Bonaparte the same fate which the he hoped to inflict upon his adversaries. And you will hear about the retreat of the Imperial Guard…
Thus, you will learn why Napoleon lost this battle, and the consequences for Belgium, and Europe.
The different sites you can visit, such as the Panorama (a vast diorama 120 meters long and 12 metres high), the farmhouse of Mont-Saint-Jean (field hospital for the Allies), the farmhouse of Hougoumont, the Wellington Museum (Duke of Wellington’s HQ) or Napoleon’s “last HQ” (DQGN), will immerse you in the heart of the battle of June 18th 1815.
With the Battle of Waterloo, the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte was over. Bonaparte (45 years old) had been defeated by a coalition of armies on the “mournful plain” (as described by Victor Hugo): The Allies, under the command of the Duke of Wellington (also 45 years old), and the Prussian army under the command of Marshall Blucher, 72 years of age. The defeat of the French Emperor would bring almost a century of relative stability to Europe.
Having conquered most of Europe, Napoleon launched two campaigns (Spain and Russia) which weakened France both militarily and politically. After his defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, he abdicated in 1814, and was exiled to the island of Elba, to be replaced on the French throne by King Louis XVIII. He returns to power in Paris in March 1815, dethroning the King. All the powers of Europe (The 7th Coalition) align to stop him, and raise an army of 600,000 men to march on Paris. Napoleon, aware of this development, decides to attack the Allies (British, Germans, and Dutch-Belgians) based in Belgium, as well as the Prussian army who intended to attack France from the North. With the French invasion of Belgium on the 14th of June, the Waterloo Campaign begins, only to end on the 18th.
the Allies numbered 68,000 men and 156 cannons. The French were 72,000 strong with 252 cannons. Thirty-two thousand Frenchmen, under the orders of Marshall Grouchy, were engaged in fighting one Prussian army corps in the Battle of Wavre while the remaining three corps (87,000 men) were marching towards Waterloo in support of Wellington.
The battle, surely one of the most famous, unfolded in five distinct phases:
11:30AM, a diversionary attack at Hougoumont farmhouse (designed to cause Wellington to divert more troops from his centre) by the division commanded by Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother). Wellington does not respond in kind. Napoleon (who could have then flanked the Allies) is getting impatient.
1:30PM: Infantry attack by the French 1st Corps, under the command of Marshall Drouet d’Erlon to the east of the main road between the farmhouses of La Haie-Sainte and the Papelotte. Followed by a counter-attack by Picton’s heavy cavalry, under Somerset and Ponsonby. The 80 cannon French grand battery inflicts much damage on the British. The French 1st Corps reorganise to attack the Haie-Sainte farmhouse.
4:30PM: Charge of the French Cavalry (featured in the Panorama), led by Marshall Ney, against the centre-right of the Allied lines. The Allies form squares to resist them. In the meantime, Napoleon has had to commit his VI Corps and then his Young Guard, to defend the village of Plancenoit against the Prussian IV Corps, led by von Bulow.
6:30PM: Fall of the Haie-Sainte farmhouse to the French, who bring up cannons near the Allied line. Marshall Ney requests infantry reinforcements, but Napoleon has none. Wellington is now vulnerable.
7:30PM: The Prussian I Corps arrives and reinforces the left flank of the Allied line. Napoleon commits the last of his Imperial Guard to attempt to break the Allied lines. Wellington responds by bringing up two divisions of the Dutch-Belgian army who were in reserve behind the lines. They, with the help of Maitland’s Guards, push back the Imperial Guard. The Prussians swarm onto the battlefield, the French defeat now complete. It is 9PM.