1815 – Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo

So much in life depends on the slightest chances, and nowhere moreso than in war. The Duke of Wellington, who commanded the winning forces at Waterloo, later stated that the battle was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life.

Napoleon commanded a French army 69,000 strong, while Wellington led a force consisting of 24,000 were British troops, with another 6,000 from the King’s German Legion, 17,000 Dutch troops, 11,000 from Hanover, 6,000 from Brunswick, and 3,000 from Nassau. Compared to Napoleon’s more disciplined and experienced force, Wellington’s was much less organised and coherent, especially the Prussian forces that were in the midst of a reorganisation.

But in the event, and despite the inevitable chaos and mischance of battle, the Anglo-Prussian Alliance was victorious. Defeat at Waterloo was the final reverse for Napoleon. From ruling most of Europe, he was reduced to a life lived in exile in St Helena, where he died six years later.

Referenced in:

Waterloo – ABBA
Waterloo – Iced Earth
Huogoumont – Judicator
Slattery’s Mounted Fut – Percy French
Lydia the Tattooed Lady – Groucho Marx

1808 – Asturias declares war on Napoleon

Although Napoleon’s forces had originally met with considerable success in this war, conquering and subjugating several provinces, it was on this day that the Peninsular War started to go badly for Napoleon, at least symbolically.

The tiny province of Asturias, located on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, declared war on Napoleon and cast out its French governor. Within weeks, it had been joined by every other Spanish province. By August, French forces withdrew by Portugal, by October, they controlled only the two northernmost provinces of Spain, those closest to France. But here the tide turned once more, as Napoleon had fresh armies to draw upon and the Spanish none.

Referenced in:

Mark Knopfler – Done With Bonaparte