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The Duke of Wellington in command at the Battle of Waterloo. Illustration: North Wind Picture Archiv The Duke of Wellington in command at the Battle of Waterloo.

Never mind the first world war and D-day, how will we commemorate the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo (18 June 2015)? Presumably we join with the Germans (Prussians), but should we invite the French?

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, June, 18 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. A French Army under the command of Napoleonwas defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, comprising an Anglo-allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von BluGebhard von Blucher.

Upon Napoleon’s return to power in March 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies. Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign  and Napoleon’s last. According to Wellington, the battle was «the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life». The defeat at Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French, and marked the end of his Hundred Days return from exile.

Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18 June to allow the ground to dry. Wellington’s army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon’s right flank. At that moment, Wellington’s Anglo-allied army counter-attacked and drove the French army in disorder from the field. Pursuing coalition forces entered France and restored King Louis XVIII  to the French throne. Napoleon abdicated, and travelled to Rochefortintending to flee France for the United States, but was persuaded to surrender to Captain Maitland  of  HMS Bellerophon, part of the British blockade, and was exiled to Saint Helena where he died in 1821.

The battlefield is located in Belgium, about 8 miles (13 km) south by south-east of Brussels, and about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield today is dominated by a large monument, the Lion’sMound. As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the part of the battlefield around the mound has not been preserved.