As I mentioned in a previous post, my potentially Pulitzer Prize winning, globally best-selling new book Eyewitness Waterloo is due out in May. Just to whet the appetite, I have decided to start posting extracts in the run up to the big day. There are lots of first-hand accounts of the battle, its build-up and aftermath, but I decided to focus on the experiences of two very different people: Lady Magdalene De Lancey & Gunner John Edwards of the Royal Horse Artillery.
Magdalene De Lancey was 22-years-old at the time of the Battle of Waterloo and had married Colonel Sir William De Lancey, a veteran of the Peninsular wars, only three months earlier. When, after Napoleon’s escape from Elba, William was sent to Brussels to join Wellington’s staff she decided to join him there. Her account was written purely for her brother’s eyes, and wasn’t published till 1906.
John Edwards is a little harder to pin down as there were other soldiers of the same name at Waterloo. However, it appears he was born in Flintshire, Wales, a forty-year-old, experienced soldier. He was also writing to his brother, and I like his account because the original, eccentric spelling gives him a ‘voice’ and almost makes it seem like you can hear him telling the tale.
Magdalene De Lancey
I arrived at Brussels on Thursday, 8th June 1815, and was much surprised at the peaceful appearance of that town… Now and then a pang would cross my mind at the prospect of the approaching campaign, but I chased away the thought, resolved not to lose the present bliss by dwelling on the chance of future pain. Sir William promised to let me know as soon as he knew himself, everything concerning the movement of the army… We little dreamt that Thursday was the last we were to pass together, and that the storm would burst so soon.
Gunner John Edwards
It was at Brussels where Louis the 18th was. I seed him there 2 or 3 times. wee Remained there 12 Dayes. the Rout came at 11 o’Clock on the Evning of the 15 June. wee marched all that night and it rained verrey hard all that night the action of the 16th begun before wee could get up.