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On this day. Waterloo: the breakfast stuck in Napoleon’s throat

“Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad troops, and this affair is nothing more than eating breakfast,” Napoleon stated while having breakfast on the day of the Battle of Waterloo. However, by the end of the day it turned out that he had miscalculated his chances. Due to the defeat of the French army at Waterloo on June 18, 1815, the political and military career of the French leader came to an end and a new era began in Europe. Some scholars claim Napoleon’s defeat was significantly due to his dreadful piles and also – according to a recent theory – to a misprinted map.

Exiled to Elba in 1814, Napoleon succeeded in escaping from the Mediterranean island in 1815 and, enjoying the support of the public, he was crowned emperor again. Although he tried to maintain peace, European rulers saw his return as a major threat to the continent. The Seventh Coalition was soon forged, another war was imminent.

The decisive battle took place at the village of Waterloo south of Brussels. Napoleon wanted to launch his attack even at 10.30 in the morning, but because of the drenched soil, thanks to heavy rain the previous night, he postponed the main offensive until the afternoon. His decision proved fatal. The Anglo-Allied army led by the Duke of Wellington, comprising British, Dutch and German forces, repulsed the French attacks with great effort – the arrival of the Prussian troops commanded by General Blücher finally tipped the balance against the French who suffered a decisive defeat. In his memoir, Colonel Baudus, who took part in the battle, wrote that he saw some teardrops in the retreating Napoleon’s eyes. The Emperor resigned again on June 22. This time the British exiled him to the remote island of St. Helena where he died in 1821.

Meanwhile, Wellington was greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm everywhere. Despite this, the general soberly assessed his situation. When he was asked in Brussels whether he liked the sight of the frenzied crowd, he openly replied: Not in the least. “If I had failed, they would have shot me”.

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joseph-chabord-equestrian-portrait-of-napoleon-i-1810

Napoleon Bonaparte. Portarit of Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821 at the battle. Detail of a painting by Joseph Chabord 1786-1848. Museo Napoleonico, Rome Italy

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