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So many of you have been sooooo kind to be thinking of my struggle to finish this book and wishing me well.

I’m not done yet…..and I’m not certain why it has been so hard. I’ve been working and working and unable to produce more than about 10 pages a day and sometimes I have to rewrite those. (and, of course, I’ve had to get my hair cut and other essential errands, like clothes shopping….)

My editor says I have until the end of the month but I really have until Thursday because I’m going out of town on Friday!

I figure you all wonder what this book is about. Well, it’s about this stuff:

Battle of Badajoz

Royal Academy of Art, Somerset House

Drury Lane Theatre

Cleopatra Portrait

Corn Bill riots


I know none of this makes sense…

How about you? Give us a progress report on your manuscripts or any goal or project you are working on.

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Today I’m talking about the ordinary soldiers, the kids who signed up for the king’s shilling out of patriotism, were fooled by unscrupulous recruiters, or because they had so few options. And they were kids–for the most part under twenty. Here’s a typical story of how a Waterloo veteran came to join the army a few years after his father was deported to Australia for sheep-stealing, when he found himself the head of the family at age fifteen.

One in four soldiers died that June day in 1815. Waterloo was an unusual battle because it was the bloodiest so far in British history; it was also unusual in that all survivors, of whatever rank, were awarded a medal.

There were no war memorials with the names of the fallen, however humble, erected in villages or town squares, although this memorial, composed of the battlefield dirt itself, was raised at the site in Belgium. Locals claim it’s haunted and full of bones, and they may be right. Ordinary soldiers didn’t count; as far as war reports went, they were anonymous, only numbers. Their corpses were raided by war profiteers for teeth–for years after, false teeth were known as “Wellington teeth.”

It’s heartbreaking to think of the families waiting and as time passed, realizing that their son, brother, or father had been killed. They might not even be lucky enough to receive a letter, such as this one from Private Charles Stanley to a friend in Nottinghamshire, describing the everyday life of a soldier. Almost certainly, they’d never know the circumstances of their loved one’s death.

We have one gud thing Cheap that is Tobaco and Everrything a-Cordnley Tobaco is 4d Per 1b Gin is 1s 8d Per Galland that is 2 1/2 Per Quart and Everrything In Perposion hour alounse Per Day is One Pound of Beef a Pound and half of Bred half a Pint o Gin But the worst of all we dont get it Regeler and If we dont get it the Day it is due we Luse it wish It is ofton the Case…I hope you never will think Of Being a Soldier I Asure you it is a Verry Ruf Consarn…

You can read more of his letter at Private Stanley was one of the many who didn’t come home.

Here’s an excerpt from the brilliant movie History Boys, where a poem about a young soldier who dies far from home, Drummer Hodge by Thomas Hardy, is discussed.

And here’s the poem:

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined–just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew–
Fresh from his Wessex home–
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellation reign
His stars eternally.

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Hi, it’s me again, hoping I did as good a job being Cara yesterday as Cara did being Diane. 🙂 Today, the actual anniversary of the battle, I’m going to talk about documentaries and films of Waterloo you might want to watch for research and/or to commemorate the event.

Like many of you, I like visuals. When reading about battles, I find myself frequently flipping to the maps as I try to visualize who attacked from which direction, etc… So I got onto Netflix and ordered the documentary 1815: THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO. At only about an hour long, it is limited in its coverage but it does provide basic descriptions of the roles of infantry, cavalry and artillery, some football-play-style depictions of the movements of armies with arrows and such, and footage from the 1970 epic film below to provide some pretty realistic scenes of cavalry charges, etc… If you want to understand the battle but have trouble picturing what is happening just from text, this is a good starting place.

Next I watched the 1970 epic, WATERLOO, directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, with Rod Steiger playing Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as Wellington. It was a box office flop; I suspect that it was not enough of a documentary for military history buffs and not enough of a drama for general audiences. Being as I enjoy a mix of both, I thought it quite good. The main characters were well-cast (yes, Christopher Plummer did bring up memories of Captain von Trapp but the Captain and the Duke do have a lot in common). I am not enough of an expert to comment on the accuracy of the battle scenes, but the scale was convincing. 20,000 men from a Russian army division were used to portray the massed armies. Cavalry and artillery were both depicted on a grand scale. Aerial shots are helpful to anyone who might have difficulty picturing infantry squares. Overall, I recommend it.

(One warning. The version I rented was produced in China and the subtitles were written by someone with little knowledge of English and less of the battle. “Quatre Bras” becomes “Catilba”, “Picton” becomes “Prekton” and in one memorable line of dialogue, Bonaparte says that Wellington has “bred to death.” And you can’t even turn the subtitles off. If you rent this version, I recommend sticking something across the bottom of the screen so you won’t be distracted by the sheer awfulness.)

As for SHARPE’S WATERLOO, well, I love Richard Sharpe and I love Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, but this film is painfully unconvincing as a depiction of Waterloo. Throughout the series, battle scenes suffered from being low budget and this one is worse than the others. Although much of the action is centered around the defense of the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, which can be depicted with a more modest cast, there are still many scenes that suffer from a sheer inadequacy of scale. If you enjoy the series and its characters, by all means catch this film. Just don’t expect it to give you a real flavor of the battle.

Have any of you seen these movies and if so, what did you think? If you’ve seen other films or documentaries of Waterloo, please share!


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Hello! Since Cara was Diane yesterday, I suppose I am being Cara today (though sadly without a Trusty Todd). I’m going to share some of the sources I’ve used while researching my current hero’s backstory. Please bear in mind that though I may call myself a History Geek (and certainly know more than the average person in the street), my knowledge of the battle is still evolving.

I began my research with WATERLOO: NEW PERSPECTIVES by David Hamilton-Williams. This book is immensely detailed and to the best of my knowledge, correct and scholarly; it is also very Napoleon-friendly. For instance, there are frequent references to Napoleon being “betrayed” by both his enemies and his officers and little or no mention of the physical ailments mentioned in other sources that might have impaired his abilities on the fateful day. Though I found it excellent and detailed, I found it off-putting that it treated the events more as a tragedy for Napoleon than for the tens of thousands who were killed or wounded and their families.

The next book I read had a different focus. WATERLOO: DAY OF BATTLE by David Howarth, provides an overview of the events, but places the emphasis on the experience of individual officers and soldiers, whose stories (for Waterloo is not one story but many) are traced through the battle and its aftermath. It draws heavily on firsthand accounts of the battle written by participants on both sides, is eminently readable, and may have you crying at points. (I did.) If you want to read just one book about Waterloo, this should be the one.

Some of my favorite references on Waterloo are firsthand accounts: letters, journals, memoirs. Beyond all the amazing details one cannot find in regular histories, I love the insights these accounts of Waterloo provide into the minds and hearts of those who fought there. Here are some quotes from ones I’ve read so far (there are many more on my TBR list).

From THE WHEATLEY DIARY by Edmund Wheatley:

“I concluded that you, my Dearest Eliza, you, whom I always regretted, I was certain was asleep innocent and placid. The pillow that supported you was unconscious of its lovely burthen. But the breast, then cold and chilled with the prospect of approaching dissolution, felt that morning one or two warm sensations. It is an awful situation to be in, to stand with a sharp edged instrument at one’s side, waiting for the signal to drag it out of its peaceful innocent house to snap the thread of existence of those we never saw, never spoke to, never offended.”

Wheatley fought in the King’s German Legion and participated in an ill-fated advance ordered by the Prince of Orange in a fit of idiotic stubbornness. The KGL, formed in line rather than square, were hacked apart by French cavalry; Wheatley’s commander, Colonel Ompteda, was killed; Wheatley himself was injured, taken prisoner and treated brutally by French before he managed to escape.


“[Sir James Kempt] called to me by name, where I happened to be standing on the right of our battalion, and desired ‘that I should never quit that spot.’ I told him that he might depend upon it: and in another instant I found myself in a fair way of keeping my promise more religiously than I intended; for, glancing my eye to the right, I saw the next field covered with the cuirassiers, some of whom were making directly for the gap in the hedge where I was standing. I had not hitherto drawn my sword, as it was generally to be had at a moment’s warning: but, from its having been exposed to the last night’s rain, it had now got rusted in the scabbard, and refused to come forth! I was in a precious scrape!”

“I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns.”

“The usual salutation on meeting an acquaintance of another regiment after an action was to ask who had been hit? but on this occasion it was, ‘Who’s alive?'”

Kincaid survived the battle without injury but wrote that it was “the last, the greatest, and the most uncomfortable heap of glory that I ever had a hand in”.

From A BRITISH RIFLE MAN, by George Simmons:

“I had an impression I should not be touched, and was laughing and joking with a young officer about half-past four in the afternoon. At this time I was a little in front of our line, and hearing the word charge, I looked back at our line, and received a ball, which broke two of my ribs near the backbone, went through my liver, and lodged in my breast. I fell senseless in the mud, and some minutes after found our fellows and the enemy hotly engaged near me.”

Simmons had to ride twelve miles to get back to Brussels and the house where he’d been billeted earlier. His life hung in the balance for a time and he worried mightily about his large family, to whom he’d been sending a good portion of his modest earnings. But he was nursed carefully and ultimately made a recovery.

Later Kincaid gives this account of his fellow officers post-Waterloo.

“Beckwith with a cork leg; Pemberton and Manners each with a shot in the knee, making them as stiff as the other’s tree on; Loftus Gray with a gash in the lip and minus a portion of one heel, which made him march to the tune of dot and go one; Johnston, in addition to other shot-holes, with a stiff elbow, which deprived him of the power of disturbing his friends as a scratcher of Scotch reels on his violin; Percival with a shot through his lungs; Hope with a grape-shot lacerated leg, and George Simmons with his riddled body held together by a pair of stays, for his was no holy day waist which naturally required such an appendage lest the burst of a sigh should snap it asunder, but one that appertained to a figure framed in nature’s fittest mould to ‘brave the battle and the breeze!'”

I hope you found this interesting. Do you have any favorite Waterloo references to share?

Tomorrow I will blog again (as Elena this time!) on films dealing with Waterloo.


Bow your heads in honor of the 47,000 brave men who fought and perished June 18, 1815, 192 years ago today at the Battle of Waterloo: 15,000 British, Belgian, Dutch and German soldiers; 7,000 Prussians; 25,000 French. Inconceivable numbers of men lost in a battle that changed history.

When I first decided to write Regency historicals, I immersed myself in as much of the history as I could. My library had a nice collection of audiobooks, and I used to listen to them driving to and from work. One of those books was Waterloo: Day of Battle by David Howarth (published in Great Britain under the title A Near Run Thing: The Day of Waterloo, 1968).

Waterloo: Day of Battle tells the story of Waterloo through the eyes of the soldiers who fought in it, making it a very personal story, very real and emotional. Howarth says the individual soldier experienced the battle “half-blinded by gunsmoke, half-deadened by noise, and either half-paralyzed by fright or driven to a kind of madness by exaltation and the hope of glory.” It is a wonderful book, available used on sites like

There are some good online sites that tell of the battle:
Waterloo for the Uninitiated – June 18th 1815
or more in depth The Battle of Waterloo

From I’ll show some highlights of the battle memorialized in paintings. You can purchase some of these prints at

Early in the battle the British cavalry, including the Scots Greys shown here, charged the French, at first overwhelming the French, but intoxicated with their success, they advanced too far and did not hear or heed the bugles to retreat. French Cavalry, fresh in the battle, soon cut them off. The regiments were almost completely destroyed.

On the western side of the Allied line was the chateau and farm of Hougoumont, 3,500 men were charged with the defense of Hougoumont to protect the Allied forces from being outflanked by the French. Hougoumont was one part of the battlefield that Napoleon could see clearly and perhaps it is for that reason he poured many French resources in attempting to take it, unsuccessfully.

French General Ney ordered his cavalry to attack what he thought were retreating Allied troops, but he found instead solid British squares, and though his cavalry attacked again and again, the squares held. The movie Waterloo , starring Rod Steiger as Napoleon; Christopher Plummer as Wellington, shows an wonderful aerial recreation of this cavalry attack.

In spite of the brave, heroic, and stubborn British forces, the day might have gone to Napoleon had not the Prussians under General Blücher arrived in time.

After the battle, two square miles were covered with those 47,000 dead and dying, their shrieks and cries could be heard throughout the night as more horror assaulted them. Looters, primarily from the British and Prussian armies plundered the dead and killed the dying for their loot.

Throughout Howarth’s Waterloo: Day of Battle, he weaves a love story. Colonel Sir William De Lancey, on Wellington’s staff, had married Magdalene Hall three months earlier and she had followed him to Belgium. When word came to her that he was wounded, she searched for him and found him in a cottage near Mont St, Jean, no more than a hovel. She stayed by his side, nursing him for eleven days. At his request she lay next to him one night. The next day he died in her arms.

Read more about Lady de Lancey in Lady de Lancey at Waterloo by David Miller.

What are your favorite Waterloo books or websites?

There are some terrific fictional accounts of Waterloo, as well. What are your favorites?

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