Waterloo: June 18, 1815
Last week, we told the story of one of Napoleon’s first great victories, the Battle of Marengo — a victory that ended almost in defeat. This week we tell of his last battle, Waterloo, where he went down in definitive defeat. This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.
Following his return to the imperial throne, Napoleon failed to make peace with the allies. He had offered to respect the boundaries of France drawn up by the Congress of Vienna if it would recognize his government; but the allies ignored him and resolved on war. Perhaps Napoleon’s greatest sorrow, however, was the Austrian court’s refusal to return his son to him. And very bitter too was the news that Empress Maria Louisa had sworn never to see Napoleon again.
Though sorrow had seemed to rob Napoleon of some of his old energy, he did not neglect preparations for the war he knew would come. By June, he had gathered an army of 200,000 men. On June 12, Napoleon left Paris to lead this army against the Seventh (and last) Coalition of his foes. They had gathered an army of 500,000 in Belgium in order to rid Europe, once and for all, of Napoleon Bonaparte. Continue reading