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June 18, 1815: Waterloo

  • The cannibal has left his lair.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 9, 1815.
  • The Corsican ogre has just landed at the Juan Gulf.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 10, 1815.
  • The tiger has arrived at Gap.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 11, 1815.
  • The monster slept at Grenoble.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 12, 1815.
  • The tyrant has crossed Lyons.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 13, 1815.
  • The usurper was seen sixty leagues from the capital.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 18, 1815.
  • Bonaparte has advanced with great strides, but he will never enter Paris.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 19, 1815.
  • Tomorrow, Napoleon will be under our ramparts.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 20, 1815.
  • The Emperor has arrived at Fontainbleau.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 21, 1815.
  • His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered his palace at the Tuileries last night in the midst of his faithful subjects.
    • Le Moniteur Universel, March 22, 1815.

 

 

 

Napoleon was such a world spanning figure that it was fitting that he return for one last bow before he departed the stage of history.  As Wellington said, the battle was a “damn close run” thing, and it is quite conceivable that Napoleon could have won, but for blunders by him and his subordinates.  Would it have made any difference if he had prevailed?  Likely not.  Massive Allied armies were on their way, and a victory by Napoleon in 1815 in the Waterloo campaign would likely have meant as little as the many victories he won in 1814 prior to his forced abdication.  By his return from exile Napoleon had demonstrated that he still posed a danger to the status quo in Europe, and after more than two decades of war Europe was not going to tolerate that.

However, let’s play pretend for a moment.  Let us assume that Napoleon had stayed on his self-made throne, what then?  He was prematurely old and he believed his time for war was past.  If he kept France, I think he would have been content.  France would doubtless have benefited from the good government that he could have bestowed on it, especially when he was no longer distracted by wars and rumors of war.  The Austrians, ever the political realists, probably would have been willing to have allowed the return of his son and heir.

What would Napoleon have done with the time remaining to him, especially if that time were greater than what he achieved on Saint Helena?  Assuredly he would have written his memoirs, and what books those would have been, especially if he chose to be honest!  Perhaps he would have played schoolmaster of Europe, and conducted classes on the art of war.  Such classes would have drawn officers from around the globe, eager to sit at the feat of the master.

Perhaps he would have put his spiritual affairs in order, as perhaps he did historically during his last years.

Alas for Napoleon he had none of these opportunities.  In the immortal phrase of Victor Hugo, God was bored by him, and 200 years ago Napoleon’s stunning career came to an end.  Let us give the last word on his career to the Emperor: Continue Reading