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Palais d’Egmont

Did you wish you could have gone to the Waterloo Anniversary events? Our guest today, Regency author Sarah Eagle (aka Sally Falcon & Sally Hawkes), did and she’s sharing the experience with us this week and also next Wednesday in a two-part guest post. She’s also offering a book giveaway –read to the end to find out more!

Sally Hawkes spends her days as a librarian working with library computer stuff and databases. Headshot2011Her “evil twins” are responsible for writing romantic comedies. Sally Falcon uses the contemporary setting and takes advantage of the places that she had lived around the country. Sarah Eagle goes back in time to Regency England. Ms. Eagle has been nominated for Best Regency Comedy by Romantic Times and by the Colorado Romance Writers.
Her love of old movies (a TCM addict), travel and history have helped a great deal in creating her stories. Currently she’s exploring the world of mysteries and Steam Punk. She also contributes to the Novelist, Inc. writer’s group monthly newsletter. She has BS in Education from Bowling Green State University and an MLS from University of South Florida.     *  *  *

“You’re going where on your vacation?” The questioner’s expression changed from expectant, because I’d originally mentioned Europe, to one of bewilderment.
“I’m going to the reenactment of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo,” I had to repeat. With several people I had to remind them what Waterloo actually was. However, I know anyone reading this blog will understand the excitement of this journey.

Fellow author Eileen Dreyer and I decided 5 years ago that we would go, if possible. Phone calls began last fall. The first one centered on “Do you still want to go?” YES. Some of the planning was normal and some not.   Eileen called one night and said “We can go to the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball.” (I could tell that someone really wanted to go.) OK, add one Regency period ball gown to the packing. Another call came with Eileen thinking she had to talk me into joining a tour at Waterloo. Hmmm, 100,000 spectators (later numbers were 200,000) 5,000 reenactors, 300 horses and 100 cannon were scheduled to be on site. I’d been thinking the same thing. Finally the months of planning came to the day of departure.

After a few days in Amsterdam we took the train to Brussels for the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. We had our gowns, evening gloves, fans, ridicules, jewelry and, of course, our tiaras. Cinderellas Both gowns were made from vintage patterns. Eileen’s was made from sari silk and fully authentic. I had to tie her into it. Mine was an overdress made from curtain material. (“I saw it in the window and couldn’t resist.” -Carol Burnett)

We went to our carriage – a taxi – and realized we’d left the tickets in our room.   I got to stand very conspicuously at the curb while Eileen retrieved them. One lady asked if I was going to the opera. After the first false start our taxi driver didn’t have a clue about our destination – the Palace d’Egmont. With such an auspicious beginning, I wondered what was next. A spectacular evening!

The entrance was easy to find since two reenactors, resplendent in their uniforms, were guarding the entry. Once we showed our tickets they guided us to a photo area to have our picture done with a guard on either side. Then we were directed out in the courtyard. Courtyard2-EgmontPalaisWe walked across cobblestones between two curved lines of 10 reenactors on either side and a piper played. They were representing different regiments. Once across the way we were offered our first glass of English sparkling wine. Although the website had seemed to encourage period dress, Eileen and I were among about a dozen that followed through. It did turn out to be a wonderful conversation starter. We mingled, drank wine and ate lovely hors d’oeuvres as we talked to various guests while watching others arrive. (We didn’t know who we were rubbing elbows with sometimes.)

After an hour we were asked to move back to clear a good portion of the courtyard. I moved up the steps to the doorway and Eileen stayed on the cobblestones. She ended up near the Wellingtons. Sword danceThe reenactors exited stage right and the Royal Marine Band came out stage left to perform what our program called a Post Horn Gallop. Fantastic. Their display was followed by the Highlanders doing the traditional sword dance that had been done at the original ball in 1815. I’ve read about it many times, and it’s stunning in person.

We were called into dinner and moved up the marble stairway.  Tables had the last name of an officer who had fought at Waterloo. We dubbed our table the Colonials’ table since we had two Australians, two New Zealanders and us out of 9 people at the table. I had talked to two ladies from Texas earlier and they were at the next table. The abundance of glassware and silver sparkled while we all shared our reason for being there. It wasn’t too surprising that most everyone had read Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army. (Eileen wore sandals and painted her toenails gold and homage to Barbara Childe the female lead.)
At the table was a goody bag that included a monograph of Alasdair White’s Dancing in the Time of War: The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball 15 June 1815, a history of the British Charitable Fund (founded by Wellington after Waterloo) and a list of the auction items for the evening. Two of the top items were 4 tickets to the opening ceremony of the newly renovated Hougoumont and a tea with Hugh Grant at the Savoy. They went for 3,000 and 2,500 Euros respectively. Dancing? There was only modern music for a band but since it was a beautiful night, we returned to the courtyard for coffee, drinks and cake. It was a night I will remember fondly for a long time.


Anniversary Ball Committee (Front L-R: British Ambassador to Belgium, Duke & Duchess of Wellington)

The next day we rested and did some sightseeing, then left for Bruges. The ball was on June 13, a Saturday, and the reenactments would be the following weekend. * * *

Sally’s story will continue next Wednesday with Part 2 of her adventure at Waterloo, and more pictures. Would you have liked to be at the anniversary ball with Sally? Would you have wanted to be at the original event on the eve of battle? Why do you think the Duchess of Richmond decided to hold a ball that night in 1815?

Sally is offering a book giveaway to one commenter randomly chosen from among those who comment either this week or next. (Some of our Risky followers may be off at RWA National this week!) The book she’s offering is LADY VENGEANCE, the first Regency Historical she wrote for Harper Monogram (1995) after writing traditional Regencies for Berkley. Romantic Times called it: “Fast-paced and brimming with humor.” Library Journal said: “this sexy historical with well-researched Regency roots combines the ambiance and wit of the traditional Regency with the passionate sensuality of the historical.” Please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing! LadyVengeance-330

1200px-The_Duchess_of_Richmond's_Ball_by_Robert_Alexander_HillingfordI am down to the last week before my current WIP will (hopefully!) be done and am getting close to the Battle of Waterloo. My hero and heroine are both in Brussels and are planning to attend the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, that famous ball that took place the evening that Wellington learned that Napoleon was on the march in Belgium. So I’ve been immersing myself in Waterloo Youtube videos and reading about the ball.

Did you know for years the actual location of the ball was the subject of debate? It was long thought to have taken place in the Hotel de Ville in the Grand Place in Brussels, not because there was any evidence to that fact, though.

Other locations suggested were the Duke of Richmond’s coach house and stables. In the Illustrated London News in the mid-nineteenth century, the location of the ball was listed as being at the Maison du Roi, the king’s palace, a grand location, but, again, totally false.


The true location is described by a very credible source–The Duchess’s daughter who was present at the ball.

She says:

My mother’s now famous ball took place in a large room on the ground floor, on the left of the entrance, connected with the rest of the house by an anteroom. It had been used by the coach builder, from whom the house was hired, to put carriages in, but it was papered before we came there; and I recollect the paper — a trellis pattern with roses. My sisters used the room as a schoolroom, and we used to play battledore and shuttlecock there on a wet day.*

The house the Richmonds rented was on the Rue de la Blanchisserie, so named because a laundry once existed on the site. Wellington used to refer to the residence as “the Wash House,” which he thought was pretty funny and the Duchess of Richmond, a prickly sort of woman, didn’t. In any event, her daughter’s description was pretty clear that it wasn’t any of those other places.

For a beautiful description of the ball, see Amanda’s 2008 Risky Regencies blog

By the way, in my YouTube viewing I discovered two other pretty blatant errors. In one video, they stated the date of the Battle of Waterloo to be July 18, 1815 instead of June 18 (who am I to remark upon that? My book Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress contained the same mistake, a typo, in my case). Another video kept calling Wellington the “future Duke of Wellington,” but he received that title in 1814 after Napoleon’s first abdication.

And while we are on the subject, I am ALL ENVY at Susanna’s plans to attend the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo!!!

*from The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball 15 June 1815 by David Miller

Have you come across any grievous historical errors lately?

In writing Book 2 of my Three Soldiers Series, I’ve again read Waterloo Days on Google Books. The complete title:
Waterloo Days: The Narrative of an Englishwoman Resident at Brussels June 1815 by Charlotte A. Eaton

(Waterloo Days is one of three memoirs from the Waterloo Campaign included in Ladies of Waterloo)

Charlotte Eaton traveled to Brussels with her brother and younger sister, arriving in the the city 194 years ago today. Her narrative of this trip was first printed two years later and again in 1852. It remains a vivid account and an exciting story, with such immediacy it could have been written yesterday.

This week is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the grand battle that finally ended the reign of Napoleon, so it seemed fitting for me to address what it was like in Brussels on June 15, 1815, three days before the battle.

Here, are Charlotte’s words:

We had not entered the hotel many minutes, and had not once sat down, when we recognised our pleasant compagnon de voyage. Major Wylie, standing in the Place Royale below, encompassed with officers. He saw us, took off his hat, and, breaking from the people that surrounded him, darted in at the door of the hotel, and was with us in a minute. Breathless with haste, he could scarcely articulate that hostilities had commenced! Our amazement may be conceived: at first we could scarcely believe him to be in earnest.

“Upon my honour,” exclaimed Major Wylie, still panting, and scarcely able to speak, from the haste with which he had flown up the hundred steps, “it is quite true; and the troops are ordered to be in readiness to march at a moment’s notice; and we shall probably leave Brussels to-morrow morning.”

In answer to our eager inquiries, he then told us that this unexpected intelligence had only just arrived; that he had that moment left the Duke of Wellington’s table, where he had been dining with a party of officers ; and that, just as the dessert had been set upon the table, a courier had arrived, bringing dispatches from Marshal Blucher, announcing that he had been attacked by the French, but although the fighting was hot, it seemed to be Blucher’s opinion that it would most probably be nothing more than a mere skirmish.

While the Duke was reading the dispatches, the Prince of Orange, General Mufflin, and some other foreign officers had come in. After a short debate, the Duke, expecting that the blow would be followed up, and believing that it was the enemy’s plan to crush the English army, and take Brussels, immediately ordered the troops to be in readiness to take the field at a moment’s notice.

“And when did all this happen? when was this attack made?” we anxiously inquired.

“It took place this afternoon.”

“This afternoon !” I exclaimed, in astonishment, and, I suppose, with looks of consternation, which drew a good-natured smile from Major Wylie, for we had not been used to hear of battles so near, or fought the same afternoon.

“Yes, it happened this very afternoon” said Mayor Wylie ; ” and when the express came away, they were fighting as hard as ever, but after all, it may prove a mere trifling affair of outposts nothing at all.”

“But are the French in great force? Where are they? Where are the Prussians ? How far off do you suppose all this fighting is?” were some of the many questions we asked.

The fighting was in the neighbourhood of Charleroi, about half a day’s march from Brussels; nothing certainly was known of the force of the French. In fact, nothing at all was known, except that the French had this very day attacked the Prussians, when they were totally unprepared, at a short distance from us.

“However, after all, this may end in nothing,”said Major Wylie, after a pause; “we may have to march to-morrow morning, or we may not march these three weeks, but the Duke expects another dispatch from Blucher, and that will settle the business:”

And so saying, Major Wylie went away to dress for a ball. Yes, a ball ! For the Duke of Wellington, and his aides-de-camp, and half of the British officers, though they expected to go to a battle to-morrow, were going to a ball to-night, at the Duchess of Richmond’s; and to the ball they did accordingly go. They seemed to say, or to feel, with the Scottish Chief in Douglas:

Tills night once more
Within these walls we rest; our tents we pitch
To-morrow in the field. Prepare the feast!
Free is his heart who for his country fights:
He on the eve of battle may resign
Himself to social pleasure: sweetest then,
When danger to a soldier’s soul endears
The human joy that never may return.

Would you like to have been in Brussels on June 15, 1815?
What do you think it would have been like to attend the Duchess of Richmond’s ball?

Visit my website and enter my contest! Next prize (to be chosen today!) is my RITA winner, A Reputable Rake. So hurry.

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