Wednesday, 18 June 2014

18 June in History

18 June 1815 Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, in present day Belgium.

Battle of Waterloo 1815
On June 16, 1815, Napoleon defeated the Prussians under Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher at Ligny, and sent 33,000 men, or about one-third of his total force, in pursuit of the retreating Prussians. On June 18, Napoleon led his remaining 72,000 troops against the Duke of Wellington's 68,000-man allied army, which had taken up a strong position 12 miles south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. In a fatal blunder, Napoleon waited until mid-day to give the command to attack in order to let the ground dry. The delay in fighting gave Blucher's troops, who had eluded their pursuers, time to march to
Waterloo and join the battle by the late afternoon.

Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22 abdicated in favour of his son. He decided to leave France before counterrevolutionary forces could rally against him, and on July 15 he surrendered to British protection at the port of Rochefort. He hoped to travel to theUnited States, but the British instead sent him to Saint Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Napoleon protested but had no choice but to accept the exile. With a group of followers, he lived quietly on St. Helena for six years. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon's body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides. (History Channel)

Butte du Lion

Today the battle field is one of the most popular tourist attraction of Brussels. The Butte du Lion is a visually stunning attraction and consists of a 100-meter high mound on which you can climb to the top. The monument is topped by a 28-ton concrete lion from where it got it name which means 'Hill of the Lion'. The mound was built by local women in a bucket brigade with soil taken from the battlefield. From the top you can see the sweeping fields and pastures that once was the site of the battlefield. It is difficult to imagine the horror of those days when you see the tranquility today. The area also hosts a museum, audio tour and many other things.

As you saw from my article Napoleon is the 4th most famous person in the world according to the mentioned criteria. When you search for Napoleon on Google you get 21,200,000 hits. I think he fascinates a lot of people due to his background and becoming one of the most powerful persons in Europe. He pops up both here and there. ABBA won the European Song Contest in 1973 with the hit Waterloo! There is a Swedish fish dish called Sole Walewska which is named after his Polish mistress. Quite good with sole and lobster and some other goodies inside!

Napoleon's favourite books!

In his final exile in Saint Helena it is said that Napoleon brought with him four hundred books.
One of his favourites was Homer's The Iliad which he compared to the Bible and the Book of Genesis as "the symbol and token of its age." "In composing it," Napoleon said, "Homer was poet, orator, historian, lawgiver, geographer, theologian: he was the encyclopedist of his era."

Some other favourites were: Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, a tragedy of banishment; Aeschylus's play Agamemnon; John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, the Bible, Beaumarchais' two famous comedies, The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville, comedies by Moliere, and Ossian, a Scottish epic poem. He liked reading the dramas of Corneille and Racine since they depict, in the French style, the heroes of antiquity who served as his role model for thirty years.

However, his most favourite books was Bernardin de Saint Pierre's 18th century novel Paul and Virginia. He had read it as a young man and he said that the story spoke to his soul. (from a research paper)

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