Many authors of historical romance are passionate about military history and delight in studying every little detail. I have to admit that I was always bored in history class when we studied battles and dates and stuff. To me, history is the story is people and how they lived, what they thought, and how they struggled through life’s challenges. Which is why I love visiting historical homes and museums and imagining what it was like back then.
As much as Society tried to ignore the military conflicts and live their lives normally (much as we do even today), these wars—particularly the Peninsular War—directly affected them. As a Regency romance author, I don’t (or haven’t) written directly about this war with Napoleon, but it is important to know about it because my characters would have known about it, and it would no doubt have affected their thoughts and attitudes. Britain lost 15,000, the Prussians, 7,000, at Waterloo alone (Napoleon lost 25,000 and 8,000 captured). That’s not counting the losses in the previous years. And keep in mind that France was only an English Channel away, so there was a good chance Napoleon might try to invade Britain itself at some point. (It wasn’t quite like WWII where Britain was actually attacked by German warplanes, but it had to be a concern of the British people during the Regency era as well.)
For that reason alone, I embrace the study of this important battle, and why I returned to Apsley House (Wellington’s home) this weekend for the Waterloo Festival.
Imagine how the history of the world would have changed had Napoleon emerged the victor at Waterloo? Would he indeed have been able to conquer the world? There is no doubt that he was a military genius, but he was human and made some mistakes that contributed to his downfall. Of course, the heavy downpour the day before the battle was a contributing factor as well.
Apsley House is a beautiful home, full of portraits of Wellington and his cronies and important statesmen of the time. (Did you know he and Napoleon were born the same year?) I have a feeling Wellington actually admired Napoleon’s military acumen, in spite of his determination to thwart the man’s ambitions to rule the world. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful homes this summer, and I love to savor each and every piece, but the one thing that really impresses me about Apsley House is the numerous, extravagant gifts that were pressed upon the Iron Duke from grateful statesmen all over the world. The priceless silver pieces, the china and porcelain, the furniture, the sculptures—this extraordinary man did the world a tremendous favor by managing to stop the most cunning, determined, and ambitious man anyone of the time had ever seen.
Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was like a god!
Besides visiting the house itself, during the festival included various events. For example, I enjoyed watching the demonstration of the soldiers of the 95th Rifles. See the video here. I believe they will improve with practice! Then, in the ballroom, another “soldier” gave a rundown of the battle using vegetables, fruits, and baguettes. The end of the demonstration is here.
For more photos of Apsley House, Wellington, and Waterloo, check out my Pinterest page here.
Next year is the bicentennial. Are you up for a trip to London in 2015?