Last week, we left Napoleon Bonaparte and Captain Maitland on board the Bellerophon, anchored off Torbay in Plymouth Sound. While boatloads of people were ferried out to the vicinity of the ship to get a glimpse of the former French Emperor, the ministers of the British government were busy trying to find a legal means by which they could put away "The Great Disturber of the Peace" for good. In the end, they were able to accomplish their goal, with a combination of special legal rulings and the cagey tactics of those who held Bonaparte in custody.
Bonaparte’s last days on the Bellerophon . . .
Rather ironically, Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last day and night in France on Friday, 14 July 1815, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris. Known in France as Fête nationale (French National Day) or simply as Quatorze juillet (The Fourteenth of July), it is usually celebrated with fireworks and parades, similar to the 4th of July, or Independence Day in the United States. Though Napoleon did not participate in any celebrations on that day, it was to be the last day of liberty he would ever enjoy. The following day, he stepped aboard HMS Bellerophon and quite literally into the custody of Britain. He would remain in their custody for the rest of his life.
Bonaparte on the Bellerophon . . .
Two hundred years ago, this coming Monday, while still in France, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote a letter to the Prince of Wales. Though that letter has often been referred to since then as Napoleon’s letter of surrender, the erstwhile Emperor of the French considered it no such thing. In his mind, he was simply requesting asylum, as much from those who had taken control of the French government, as he was from the Allied leaders. He considered the English the most honorable and trustworthy of his enemies. He was soon to be proven wrong, but that is a story for next week.
The odyssey of Boney’s letter to Prinny . . .
Last week was discussed here the loss of Lord Fitzroy Somerset’s arm at the Battle of Waterloo. This week will be discussed the loss of Lord Uxbridge’s leg. Unlike Somerset’s amputated arm, which was given a decent, and permanent, burial soon after its removal from his person, Lord Uxbridge’s leg went on to lead a series of macabre adventures for over a century. As had been the case with Somerset, Uxbridge would be instrumental in the development of a new option for amputees which would improve their lives for decades.
This week, the adventures of Uxbridge’s leg . . .
The arm belonged to Lord Fitzroy Somerset and the leg belonged to Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge. Both were lost at the Battle of Waterloo. The arm’s loss is believed to have resulted in a new sleeve design while the leg would be involved in a series of notorious adventures for over a century before it was ultimately reduced to ashes. Curiously, the owners of both those limbs also had connections through marriage to their commander, the Duke of Wellington, and each was near him on the battlefield when they were wounded.
This week, the tale of Somerset’s arm . . .
As most of you are probably aware, yesterday was the bicentennial of the epic Battle of Waterloo. A battle which, in effect, was to result in peace for most of Europe for nearly half a century. If you are interested in the history of that battle, or the events which led up to it, there are plenty of sources of information available, so there is no point in rehashing that here. Instead, I would like to highlight the long relationship of mutual trust and respect between two friends which was to have a direct bearing on that crucial victory. A victory which came on the birthday of the least appreciated of those two good friends.
How Bob set the stage for Art to save the world . . .
This coming Monday will be the two-hundredth anniversary of perhaps the most famous social event in history, the ball hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Richmond in Brussels on the same day news came of the French army’s advance from the south. Three days later, less than ten miles south of the city, would be fought the momentous Battle of Waterloo, which would drive Napoleon Bonaparte from power once and for all.
The night Wellington was humbugged . . .