England’s Triumph

Yet again, I have come across a very handy resource which I believe will be of value to many Regency authors. This book will be particularly useful to those who are writing about the events which took place between the first abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte in the spring of 1814 through the great victory celebrations held in Britain that summer. The details included in this book will enable a Regency author to set many a scene as though they had actually been there.

Some of the gems to be found in England’s Triumph . . .

The full title of this book is England’s Triumph:  being an account of the Rejoicings, &c. which have lately taken place in London and elsewhere. Including the Restoration of Louis XVIII., the Proclamation of Peace, the visit of the Emperor of Russia, and the King of Prussia, etc. Containing Several Original Documents. No author or editor is stated anywhere in the book, but it appears it was assembled from multiple sources by the owner, and/or the staff of the Hatchard bookshop in Piccadilly. The printer is given as J. Brettell, of Rupert Street, in Haymarket. On the title page, it is noted that the book was "Printed for J. Hatchard, Bookseller to the Queen . . . "

Though no specific sources are cited, it is clear that many of the articles in this book are reprints of newspaper, magazine and journal reports of the events which were published soon after the event took place. However, the book also includes a number of official British government documents as well as a group of private French documents. The first group of documents in the book are a collection of official dispatches from members of the government as the Allied forces were closing in on Napoleon in the early spring of 1814. Other dispatches and articles trace Napoleon’s abdication, his exile to Elba and the many peace celebrations which took place in Great Britain that summer. At the very end of the book, a set of "Original Documents" is included. These documents are described as a collection of private documents from members of Napoleon’s inner circle, which have been translated into English. Not surprisingly, none of them show the French Emperor in a good light.

The Preface to this volume is a remarkably florid and self-congratulatory essay to the English people upon the defeat of hated Bonaparte. It offers an insight into how the people of Britain felt after Napoleon’s first abdication, but also how heavy the spectre of war had hung over them. The British Sovereign was lauded, but though no name is mentioned, reading between the lines one suspects it is the still beloved, if mad, King George III, rather than his spoiled and reviled son, the Prince Regent. The authors, plural, for they refer to themselves as "we," state that they wished to bring all these articles together and to press quickly, " . . . whilst our impressions are still warm."

Fortunately, the book has a complete Table of Contents, which makes it easy to see at a glance which documents have been included in this compendium of articles. As noted above, the book opens with a set of dispatches from British officials as the Allies closed in on Napoleon. Other articles detail Napoleon’s first abdication, Louis XVIII’s plans to depart Britain for France, his public entrance into London, and the Prince Regent’s grand entertainments for the French royal party before their departure for the Continent in the royal yacht. This is followed by several articles related to Louis’s arrival in France and his triumphal entrance into Paris.

One of my favorite sections of this book is devoted to all of the illuminations which were set up in London when news of Napoleon’s defeat reached Britain. There are detailed descriptions of the specific illuminations put up by various private individuals, businesses, theatres, government offices and even some military headquarters, with occasional commentary on their elegance or patriotism. Many of them were remarkably elaborate, others were simple and understated, but clearly heartfelt. The detail provided in the majority of these descriptions enables the reader to get a very clear mental picture of how the streets of London must have appeared during those nights of relief and celebration. An author wishing to include the celebratory illuminations in a story set at this time will find a rich source of information here.

Naturally, the texts of the important proclamations which were made at this time are included. These are followed by several articles on the arrival of the Allied Sovereigns in Britain and the many royal excursions to various locations in southern England that June. There are also accounts of a number of the public celebrations held in London and the Thanksgiving services at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Descriptions of the placement of "peace officers" and other troops posted to protect and facilitate the processions to and from the cathedral are given in detail. There are several articles on Wellington’s arrival in Britain and some of his more public appearances in and around London, including his speech to the House of Commons.

Of course, my other favorite section in this book is that on the celebratory illuminations in London over the nights of the 9th, 10th and 11th of June 1814, while the peace celebrations were focused in the metropolis. These descriptions are just as detailed as those provided for the celebrations in April, when word of Bonaparte’s defeat reached Britain. Some of these illuminated displays were extremely ornate and complex, while others were quite restrained and simple. It was noted that the Spanish Ambassador’s residence was illuminated with candles only, because the Ambassador was away. The illuminations at Somerset House were very elaborate and covered the three entrance gates as well as the main structure, all with patriotic and sacred overtones. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Fleecy Hosiery Factory mounted a very complex set of illuminations, but with a much more commercial theme. These illuminations focused on the cultivation and manufacture of wool goods, which included a shepherd and a flock of sheep, though an angel does make an appearance, and the phrase "Thanks Be to God" crowned the presentation.

For Regency Authors on a budget, one of the best things about England’s Triumph is that a digital copy of the first edition is available for free at Google Books. Those of you who would like to add a copy of this book to your electronic Regency library can find England’s Triumph here. The book can be downloaded as a .PDF or an EPUB file. There are a number of reprints of this book offered for sale in a range of prices, but it appears that all of them are simply printed editions of this digital version. If you do want an actual paper copy of this book, you should be able to find it on offer from a number of online booksellers.

For Regency authors who are seeking details on many of the events which took place in the spring and summer of 1814, from the defeat of Napoleon through the many celebrations of peace in Britain, England’s Triumph is a very handy reference. All of the articles published here can be tracked down individually, but having them all together in one place, in roughly chronological order, is a tremedous time-saver. And, the "Original Documents" included at the end of the book, purportedly from members of Napoleon’s inner circle, do not appear to be available anywhere else, certainly not translated into English. This book is rather like a time-capsule of that euphoric period of the Regency, allowing those of us living today to get a flavor of the ways in which our Regency ancestors celebrated the end of nearly two decades of war.

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About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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7 Responses to England’s Triumph

  1. elfahearn says:

    Hi Kathryn, the book sounds like a wonderful resource, and I should rush out and get it, but I’m wondering if you could tell me what illuminations were. Fireworks? Projections?

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Illuminations were a form of celebration by which people would put lights, usually candles, in their windows for a few hours after dark. At the least, they would put one or more candles in their front windows. Many people put these candles behind transparencies on special occasions. For really important events, they would put up all kinds of images which were lit by candles or lamps. This form of decoration/celebration was collectively known as illuminations. If you download a copy of this book and read the sections on the illuminations of those months, you will better understand how unique they were.

      Regards,

      Kat

  2. Another great source, thanks a lot for sharing!

  3. Suzi Love says:

    Sounds like a great book. Adding it to my list of Google Books. Thanks.

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