The road to Waterloo: Week 5 (23 – 29 Mar 2015)

Members of the Seventh Coalition unite against Napoleon
In the space of just three weeks, Napoleon had completed a triumphant return to Paris and was once again Emperor of the French. He moved swiftly to form a government and to re-constitute the French army.

85 days to Waterloo

At Vienna, Wellington held urgent conferences with the Allied powers to hammer out a military response, while the Allied armies – which had been dispersing – began to rapidly regroup. The Treaty of Vienna was finally agreed on 25 March. Wellington wrote to Lord Castlereagh: “I found it much more difficult than I imagined when I wrote my dispatch… to conclude a treaty with the Allies on the plan of the treaty of Chaumont, which work I have completed only this night” [printed in WD, xii, p. 278-9.]

The treaty bound all parties not to lay down arms until Napoleon had been completely defeated; thus it ended Napoleon’s hopes for a negotiated peace. It committed Austria, Russia, Great Britain and Prussia to putting 150,000 troops in the field, of which not less than 10% were to be cavalry, along with a suitable proportion of artillery. A separate article allowed Great Britain to use subsidies to pay for soldiers provided by the other powers, to make up her contingent. In addition, the Kings of France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, the Low Countries, Sardinia, Barvaria, Hanover, and Wurtemberg, were invited to accede to the treaty.

The following is a translation, from the French, of Article 1 of the treaty:

“The high contracting parties above mentioned, solemnly engage to unite the resources of their respective states for the purpose of maintaining entire the conditions of the treaty of peace concluded at Paris the 30th of May 1814; as also, the stipulations determined upon and signed at the Congress of Vienna, with the view to complete the disposition of that treaty, to preserve them against all infringement, and particularly against the designs of Napoleon Buonaparte. For this purpose they engage, in the spirit of the Declaration of the 13th March last, to direct in common, and with one accord, should the case require it, all their efforts against him, and against all those who should already have joined his faction, or shall hereafter join it, in order to force him to desist from his projects, and to render him unable to disturb in future the tranquillity of Europe, and the general peace under the protection of which the rights, the liberty and independence of nations had been recently placed and secured.”

[The original text is printed in WD, xii, pp. 282-3: blanks have been filled in from ‘Papers presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, April 25, 1815’, a copy of which is in University of Southampton Library, MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/492/7.]

Everyone at Vienna wished Wellington to take command of the Allied forces. On the 28th March 2015, Lord Bathurst sent Wellington his commission, signed by the Prince Regent, as commander of the British forces serving on the continent of Europe [WP1/452/43].  The following morning he left Vienna for the Low Countries. The scene was set for battle.

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