The road to Waterloo: Week 18 (22 – 28 June 2015)

The road from Waterloo: Napoleon abdicates
Following his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon chose to return to Paris on the afternoon of 21 June, instead of remaining on the battlefield with his shattered army.

4 days from Waterloo

On his return he found that he was no longer supported by either the legislature or the people.  The following day, 22 June, he abdicated in favour of his son Napoleon II, who was four years old.  The newly established Provisional Government proclaimed this fact to the French nation and the world and sent ministers to the Allied Powers to treat for peace.

The Battle of Waterloo has achieved status in the English language and is an idiom for a decisive and final contest.  However, affairs were not quite so clear cut in the days following the battle.  On 24 June, Wellington wrote to Prince Frederick of the Netherlands requesting that he take no notice of the news of Bonaparte’s abdication. [MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/471/29]

Both Wellington and Blucher feared Napoleon’s actions may be a trick – or at the very least they did not satisfy the requirements set out by the Allies in the treaty of 25th March.  Consequently they chose not to discontinue operations until they had achieved their aim of placing Napoleon “in a situation in which he will no longer have it in his power to disturb the peace of the world”. [MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/471/31]

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