The road to Waterloo: Week 1 (23 Feb – 1 Mar 2015)

Napoleon escapes from Elba
“The tiger has broken out of his den”, so began a broadsheet circulated in Paris in April 1815.

Days to Waterloo

Napoleon and a small force of around 1,000 men left the island of Elba on 26 February 1815. They landed in the south of France, near Antibes, on the 1 March and from there made a rapid advance through France to arrive in Paris on 20 March. Napoleon was received in triumph in the capital, and swiftly re-established himself as ruler of France: the hundred days of his new rule had begun. On receiving news of his escape and progress, the representatives of the allies meeting at the Congress of Vienna, were decisive and united in their response, firstly they declared him an outlaw and then signed an agreement to supply troops to oppose the man they called their “common enemy”. With both sides gathering together forces, the road to conflict — which culminated with the clash on the plains of Waterloo on 18 June — was set.

Using material from the Special Collections, such as the Wellington Papers, at the University, this blog will focus on some of the significant dates on the road to the battle of Waterloo and on the events in the aftermath leading up to the restoration of Louis VXIII in July.

The Duke of Wellington, who was the British representative at the Congress of Vienna, received the news of Napoleon’s escape from Lord Burghersh on 7 March. He notes in a letter to Lord Castlereagh, the British Foreign Secretary, of 12 March 1815, the united response of the allies to support the Peace of Paris, which restored to Bourbons to the monarchy in France :

“We received here on the 7th inst[ant] a dispatch from Lord Burghersh of the 1st giving an account that Bonaparte had quitted the island of Elba with all his civil and military officers and about 1200 troops on the 26th of February.

I immediately communicated this account … and I found among all one prevailing sentiment, of a determination to unite their efforts to support the system established by the Peace of Paris…

The plenipotentiaries of the 8 powers who agreed the Treaty of Paris assembled this evening have resolved to publish a declaration in which they will in the name of their sovereigns declare their firm resolution to maintain the peace and all its articles with all their force if necessary…”

MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/453/7

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