This time last year we all blogged about Waterloo for a week (I wrote about the ordinary soldiers), and so since June 18 is the exact anniversary of the battle I thought I’d find some material we didn’t cover then.
In 2004 the European community made the decision to restore the battlefield, providing a visitor center and other amenities to honor the site and attract visitors. Like many battlefields, it’s spread out over a large geographic area. Here’s the official Waterloo site.
There’s also a site for the official reenactment of the battle, which takes place every year, with some beautiful photographs, all under copyright and in a flash format, of reenactors–Napoleon and Wellington among them. And yes, this year’s reenactment is going on right now!
If you happen to be going over to London, there’s a celebration at Apsley House, the home of the Duke, with special events this weekend.
And if you’re not planning to travel this weekend, you can play the Battle of Waterloo game (no, I haven’t tried it out, and don’t blame me for the timesuck this undoubtedly is).
Restoration of the battlefield continues, the most recent effort being the restoration of Hougoumont Farm, where a strategically important part of the battle took place. The current Duke of Wellington, now in his 90s, is an enthusiastic supporter of Project Hougoumont. The opening of the Farm is timed for the two-hundred anniversary in 2015.
For a modern perspective on the first Duke and his descendents, Lady Jane Wellesley wrote a book published last year, Wellington: A Journey Through My Family. There’s a review here with this quote:
I reflect on the indiscriminate, humbling power of war, and its aftermath, the way it plays havoc with people’s destiny.
Further proof that there are still treasures to be found hidden away in old houses, the Scotsman reported last year that Walter Scott had done some souvenir hunting at the battlefield:
Larry Furlong, custodian of the trust, said the banners – one French and three British – had been stored in a cupboard between Scott’s study and his library.
It is believed only a handful of people have been aware of their existence since they were brought to Abbotsford.
Have you visited Apsley House or Waterloo, or are you saving pennies for 2015? Do you enjoy reenactment activities, as participant or spectator?
SSP in fine print: New website and contest. Check it out.
I read a book where the main character did Civil War re-enactments and thought “Boy that sounds like fun”. Although really I wouldn’t want to re-enact the battle as much as I’d like to re-enact the ball the night before. That would be a great time. Who do I have to call to get that started?
I’m already saving for 2015. I was going to say I’ll definitely be there, but since in my experience “definitely” is almost as dangerous a word as “never,” I’ll just go back to my Alabama roots and say I’ll be there if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.
And I’ve wanted to take up reenacting for years and just haven’t yet had the time. Maybe someday…that same dreamy, far-off someday where I’m no longer trying to juggle a full-time job, a family, and writing aspirations, giving me time for fencing lessons and learning to speak French and play the violin!
I’ve seen Apsley House and Stratfield Saye, Wellington’s country estate. I am dying to go to Waterloo in 1815.
I’ve done a lot of reading about Hougoumont for this book and knew about the Hougoumont project. Amazing it was not restored before.
There’s a Regency era reenactment close to you, Janet.
At Jefferson Patterson Park on Sept 19 The 1814 Battle of St Leonard Creek is reenacted. I’ve attended that event with Mary Blayney and our friend Julie. It was great fun!
Hello, Diane! Because I have the very slightest and merest of passing fancies in the Duke of Wellington, I’ve been looking forward to 2015 myself. However, clearer thoughts have since prevailed and I’m seriously considering doing it in 2010, instead. Much less craziness and crowds. Of course, I could always return in 1815 . . . . .
Sorry, sorry, forgot to say that the post above was from Kristine Hughes.
Hi, Kristine!!!!!! How well I know you and I would “duke” it out over Wellington! Whatever happened to our Wellington fan club…or whatever it was going to be called?
I’d love to go to Waterloo in 2010 and in 2015, which, you are right, might be a crowded time.
So good to hear from you.
Diane – As to our Artie fan club, interest within the Napoleonic (fie!) community wasn’t what you could call enthusiastic. It lagged and lagged and now there’s a new president. I’ve been meaning to initiate a dialogue with him and restart the effort, but you know what they say about the best intentions . . . I always find something else to do instead. Sigh. I’m really excited about the fact that you can now book grandstand seats for the battle recreation, but when I click the link on the Waterloo Reenactment site to reserve seats, the page opens up in French. Alors! Anyway, I’m waiting for the excitement of this year’s event to die down and will then begin actively planning to be in Brussels next June. I’d like to do a few days in London and a stop at Walmer Castle beforehand, take the boat from Dover to Calais and then the train to Brussels and recreate the actual trip as much as I can almost 200 years later. I will think of you whilst walking the Castle ramparts a la Artie and Charles Arbuthnot. And, of course, while hoisting a pint in every pub I fall into on the way. Hubby says he’s going with me, but I can’t imagine it. He might enjoy the actual battle re-enactment (well who wouldn’t?)but I just can’t see him getting any ejoyment/enthusiasm from schlepping around to all the sites that would comprise a true Artie pilrimage. I can just see the look on his face when I show him the grave where Henry Paget’s leg is buried. . . . Ha!
Luckily there’s plenty of imaginary Wellington to go around…not that that stops me from grabbing my own version and yelling “MINE!” whenever this comes up…
Well! All I can say is that now I know how poor Mrs. Arbuthnot must have felt! Really, it is vexing in the extreme to encounter such poseurs and hangers on seeking to claim a close association with the Duke when all of society knows in what repository his most intimate affections and warmest loyalties, not say affections, reside. Tell me, Miss Wilbanks, are you perchance a close personal acquaintance of Harriette Wilson’s?
I most certainly am NOT acquainted with That Person (though one cannot avoid a certain Curiosity about the contents of her Memoirs).
Incidentally, I am a Mrs. Wilbanks. I find that the Married State gives one a certain Freedom in these matters, would you not agree?
I do beg your pardon, Mrs. Wilbanks and grudgingly agree that a husband’s protection entitles a lady to some freedoms. Though I cannot say that they extend to anything connected to Miss Wilson. I have not personally read her “Memoirs” and never shall (nor do I need to, as simply everyone is talking about them. I shall deny to the grave ever having said that). Do write me a line next you are in the City. I believe that a meeting might prove of interest to us both. It appears that you and I might have quite a few things in common, my dear.
Oh my gracious, how am I to compete for darling Artie’s affections when Susan will be able to discuss every aspect of each battle he has fought and Kristine will know EVERYTHING else? I’m truly just a hanger on, gazing in rapt adoration whilst the two of you compete.
This is dreadful in the extreme!!
It is indeed always delightful to discover those with whom one shares a common interest, and I should love to meet and compare our knowledge!
And…dropping back into my 21st century persona, where do you live, Kristine? I’m in Seattle. I’m hoping to be in a position in 2015 to take a sabbatical from work and spend most of the summer in Europe. I’d like to start out in Portugal and Spain, see some Peninsular War sites, and maybe have my husband and daughter (who’ll be 11 then) meet me somewhere around Paris. After Waterloo, we’d finish up the trip with a week or two in England and Ireland.
Dreadful, indeed. Shall there be blood? I vow to play fairly, Diane. Might I suggest a compromise? Being that Mrs. Wilbanks knows all about his military affairs, I propose that Mrs. Wilbanks will enjoy the Duke’s attention whilst he’s in uniform, and I shall enjoy them when he is out of uniform.
I cannot wait to see the quips this comment generates.
Oh, Jeez, et tu? Would your husband actually enjoy Waterloo? I live in southwest Florida. It’s 90 something (per usual) and humid as Hell. I would love to do Portugal. Do you know Vicky Hinshaw? She’s got some great stuff on her website re: Peninsular War sites, Portugal in particular. The more I research, the more I think Portugal might just made a great vacation spot in and of itself. Your 2015 sounds like heaven!
Susan, omigosh that trip sounds like heaven! Yours, too, Kristine. Do either of you need a lackey? A ladies maid? I’m willing to go along!!!
Well, being able to do my dream extended version of the trip would require an understanding boss (since I’m not a professor or anything else that normally gets sabbaticals). Or, as long as I’m dreaming, having the book I’m currently working on (an alternative history featuring Wellington, as it happens!) actually sell and be a huge success so I can write full-time. Which is only slightly more likely than winning the lottery, I suppose, and that only because I don’t actually play the lottery!
And my husband will probably enjoy Waterloo. He’s nearly as much of a history geek as I am, and he’s picked up a certain interest in the Napoleonic Wars just from being around me.
I do wonder when I should start making reservations. Six years seems ridiculously far out, and yet I know things like that can book up. The husband and I visited Cooperstown a few years ago (tracking one of HIS obsessions, though I’m enough of a baseball fan that I was far from bored) and the proprietors of the B&B where we stayed said that every time a major player (think Cal Ripken) announces his retirement, they’re booked up for the Hall of Fame weekend five years later within 24 hours.
Thanks for the tip on Vicky Hinshaw’s website. I don’t know her know her, but I’ve seen her around the internet.
Jane – Here’s a link to a re-enactment society. Perhaps they’d be a good place to start re:staging the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. As I get further into making my plans, I’ll post here if I find any other likely suspects.