It seems that everywhere in Europe right now someone is having a tribute or exhibit about Waterloo. One of the most surprising was one the Engineer and I tripped over in rural Ireland. In the tiny town of Ballynamartre, there is a manufacturer named Prince August, and what they make is toy tin soldiers. I’m sure you know where this is going. Right now they have a diorama set up on a 10′ x 23′ table of the entire battle from the cannonade to the fight for Chateau Houhoumont to the famous cavalry charges and the final attack by the Imperial Guard and the timely intervention by General Blucher. Thousands and thousands of tiny soldiers and horses fill this landscape in precise rows and bristling squares. And there in place of pride is Hougoumont itself, which you can see in the picture. It’s an immense project.
The reason I particularly wanted to see it is that the designer duplicates the exact terrain that was contested that day: roads and orchard, the chateaus and muddy fields. But most importantly, the ridge that stretched from east to west between Hougoumont and LaHaye Saint at the British left flank. The ridge the Brits hid behind to wait out the cannonade. The ridge where the British cannons were lined up. The ridge which thousands of French thre themselves at in a futile attempt to wipe the British out.
You see, one of the people who fought was the young Prince of Orange, he who was briefly engaged to Princess Charlotte. His father, to commemorate the prince’s injury at the battle (which most historians agree was the best thing he could have done to ensure victory, since he was such a disastrous leader), built the Lion’s mound which you see on my blog logo. The problem is that to build his memorial, Slender Billy’s dad scraped all the earth away from the ridge to build the thing.Which means that it looks as if Waterloo was fought on a billiards table. But after seeing the diorama, I know better. I’ll be able to better envision it when I see the real thing.
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