Waterloo in popular culture

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Because of its pivotal role in European and world history the Battle of Waterloo has a prominent place in military history and is frequently mentioned in popular culture.

Commemorative memorials and places[edit]

For a comprehensive list of places named Waterloo see Waterloo (disambiguation).

There are many memorials and places named after the battle, perhaps the most famous is Waterloo station in London. In the 1990s, after Waterloo station was chosen as the British terminus for the Eurostar train service, Florent Longuepée, a municipal councillor in Paris, wrote to the British Prime Minister requesting that the station be renamed, because he said it was upsetting for the French to be reminded of Napoleon's defeat when they arrived in London by Eurostar.[1]

Books[edit]

Fiction[edit]

  • Clarke, Susanna: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a fantasy novel in which the battle of Waterloo is described from the point of view of a magician who aids the Duke of Wellington. For example, it is thanks to the magician's weather control that heavy rain falls before the battle, aiding the Coalition forces.
  • Cornwell, Bernard. Sharpe's Waterloo or Waterloo: Sharpe's Final Adventure Campaign is a novel which sets Cornwell's fictional hero Richard Sharpe at the battle on the staff of the non-fictional Prince of Orange. The book was later adapted for television by the ITV and starred Sean Bean as Sharpe.
  • Doyle, Arthur Conan The Adventures of Gerard (1903): This novel contains a chapter "How the Brigadier Bore Himself at Waterloo", about his fictional hero Brigadier Etienne Gerard. The chapter consists of two short stories which were originally published separately. Project Gutenberg:The Adventures of Gerard (Audio Book)
  • Gilbert, William Schwenck: In his burlesque "La Viviandière" (1868) Gilbert pillories the bad manners of English tourists in France when Lord Pentonville says: "When Frenchmen have conversed with me or you, We've always turned the talk to Waterloo."[2]
  • Goscinny, René (stories) and Uderzo, Albert (illustrations), Asterix in Belgium: The entire battle between Julius Caesar and the Belgians in Asterix in Belgium is a parody of the battle of Waterloo. The arrival of Caesar and his troops resembles a similar painting depicting Napoleon and his army. In the French version, the text which accompanies the battle on paper is a parody of Victor Hugo's poem about the Battle of Waterloo. Asterix, Obelix and Vitalstatistix lead a surprise attack on Caesar's troops just when the Romans seem to win the battle. This is of course, exactly what happened to Napoleon in Waterloo.
  • Graham, Winston. The Twisted Sword. This novel, the penultimate book in the Poldark series, deals extensively with the fictional Poldark family members' involvement in Waterloo.
  • The Battle of Waterloo is covered in some detail from the viewpoint of the fictional Morland family in The Campaigners, Volume 14 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.
  • Heyer, Georgette. An Infamous Army. This novel details the battle (and the days leading up to it) as seen through the eyes of a fictional officer. Heyer consulted both primary and secondary sources, and produced a work of such insight and accuracy it has been used in military history lectures at Sandhurst.[3]
  • Hugo, Victor Les Misérables (Gutenberg: Les Miserables: Text,HTML) As a sort of interlude in his Les Misérables, after the death of Fantine in Montreuil-sur-mer but before Jean Valjean arrives in Paris, Victor Hugo recounts his visit to the battlefield in 1861 and recites his version of the battle.
  • Mallinson, Allan: The first of his Matthew Hervey novels, A Close Run Thing (1999) culminates with Hervey's experience in the Battle of Waterloo.
  • In Terry Pratchett's novel, Nation, Daphne compares Mau's deceptive strategy against First Mate Cox to the Battle of Waterloo.
  • Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle), The Charterhouse of Parma
  • Thackeray, William Makepeace, Vanity Fair (1848): this novel contains several chapters revolving around the events at Waterloo.
  • Willis, Connie, To Say Nothing of the Dog: the Battle of Waterloo is used as a reference point to model how reality is believed to adjust to neutralize the effects of a temporal paradox. There are so many critical turning points in the battle, it's explained, that a time traveler would have many opportunities to affect the outcome. Oddly - whether by accident or design - Willis consistently refers to the battle as taking place on 18 June 1814, precisely one year earlier than it did.

Non Fiction[edit]

Films and television[edit]

Films[edit]

Television[edit]

Series and standalone programs
Episodes
  • "Battle of Waterloo", one episode of the 2005 Discovery Channel series Battleground: The Art of War.
  • "Waterloo", Mad Men season 7, episode 7
  • The Battle of Waterloo is referenced during "The Safe Harbor" episode of The O.C..[citation needed]
  • In an episode of Dad's Army entitled "A Soldier's Farewell", Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) dreams that he is Napoleon during and after the Battle of Waterloo.
  • In Swedish television series Bert from 1994, the episode "Det viktiga är inte att kämpa väl utan att vinna" features Torleif's little sister wrongly referring to the battle as "Waterloo var ju 1812, Gud vad dum du är Torleif!" ("Waterloo was 1812, Oh My God how stupid you are, Torleif!") when their family plays a quiz.
Spin-off media
  • The Doctor Who series features two stories in spin-off media set around the Battle of Waterloo; in the novel World Game, the Second Doctor poses as Napoleon to carry messages across the French lines to warn the British and their allies when time-travellers attempt to change the battle for their own amusement, and in the audio drama, The Curse of Davros, the Sixth Doctor has to prevent his old enemy Davros, creator of the Daleks, from helping the French to win the battle using mind switching technology, convincing Napoleon to accept defeat to save humanity from being conquered by the Daleks.

Interactive media[edit]

Battle of Waterloo simulators[edit]

There are two simulators on the internet, one at PBS.org,[4][5] and one at the BBC online[6]

Games[edit]

  • 1815, published by GDW in the 1970s.
  • Napoleon's Last Battles, published by SPI in the 1970s and consisting of games of Ligny, Quatre Bras, Waterloo and Wavre. Counters are brigades or regiments, with separate counters for corps commanders (division commanders for Wellington's Army) and senior generals - a player only has full control over those units within easy galloping range of the chain of command. The maps can be placed adjacent to one another to play the whole 16-18 June period. The game was reprinted in the 1990s with an extra scenario for the French Charleroi crossing.
  • Wellington's Victory, a complex game with detailed rules for artillery and cavalry published by SPI in the 1980s and republished in the mid 1980s.
    • An introductory game, Ney v Wellington, covering Quatre Bras, was published in Strategy & Tactics magazine.[citation needed]
  • Waterloo (video game), a 1989 strategic computer game by PSS
  • In the computer game Empire Earth (2001), the Battle of Waterloo is the last mission of the English campaign.
  • In the video game Psychonauts (2006 and 2009), Fred Bonaparte, an insane asylum employee turned inmate and descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte, loses his sanity after continuously losing a game of Waterloo with a patient and develops a split personality between himself and his ancestor.
  • The PC Game Napoleon: Total War (2010) features the Battle of Waterloo as an "historical battle".
    • The NTW 3 mod for Napoleon Total War goes more in depth with a reworked map and actual order of battle.[citation needed]

Music[edit]

Waterloo, Waterloo
Where will you meet your Waterloo?
Every puppy has its day
Everybody has to pay
Everybody has to meet his Waterloo.

And the last verse ends:

And that's how Tom Dooley met his Waterloo.
Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is The Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it The Wreck of the Hesperus too.
And proudly above waves the red, white, and blue.
You can learn a lot from Lydia!
  • "You're My Waterloo" is an unreleased song by The Libertines.
  • Waterloo to Anywhere is the debut album by Dirty Pretty Things, though this is more likely a reference to the London railway station.
  • La Belle Alliance is an alternative electronic band from Cork, Ireland named after the Inn which served as Napoleon's headquarters during the battle of Waterloo.
  • The Irish singer-songwriter Percy French's song "Slattery's Mounted Fut" opens with a satirical comparison between Waterloo and an Irish rebel group:
You've heard of Julius Caesar and the great Napoleon too,
And how the Cork Militia beat the Turks at Waterloo;
But there's a page of glory that, as yet, remains uncut,
And that's the warlike story of the Slattery Mounted Fut.
  • "Waterloo Sunset" by British rock band The Kinks, arguably amongst the most famous songs referencing Waterloo, is actually an ode to London's Waterloo railway terminus.
  • Andrew Bird makes reference to it on the song "Plasticities" from his 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha, with the line: "You're bearing signs on the avenue, for your own personal Waterloo."
  • Gilbert, William Schwenk: In the first act of the Savoy opera "The Pirates of Penzance" (1879), Major General Stanley sings a patter song in which he boasts "I know the kings of England and I quote the fights historical, from Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical."
  • Gilbert, William Schwenk: In the second act of the Savoy opera "Iolanthe" (1882), Lord Mountararat sings "When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte, as every child can tell, the House of Peers, throughout the war, did nothing in particular, and did it very well."


Labels and companies[edit]

Works[edit]

Albums
Songs

Sports[edit]

  • During the Denver Broncos' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium, where Denver's coach Mike Shanahan was 3-11, Dan Dierdorf made the comment, "If Mike Shanahan was Napoleon, then this [Arrowhead] is his Waterloo."

Other[edit]

Downfall[edit]

  • In recognition of Napoleon's defeat, "to meet one's Waterloo" (or similar) has entered the English language as a phrase signifying a great test with a final and decisive outcome - generally one resulting in failure and proving vincibility for something or someone who had seemed unbeatable.[7][8]
  • Jim DeMint, a Republican United States Senator of South Carolina, made a well-publicized comment during a conference call with conservative activists on July 17, 2009 in which he encouraged conservatives to go after President Barack Obama's Health Care Reform efforts, saying "[i]f we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."[9] In response, DeMint's Facebook fan page was spammed with hundreds of postings of the link to the YouTube video of Abba's Waterloo. After the passage of the health care reform bill, conservative pundit David Frum criticized the opposition strategy exemplified by DeMint's comment, saying, "it’s Waterloo all right: ours."[10] Some liberal commentators claimed that it was his Waterloo, as DeMint predicted, but that Obama played the role of Wellington rather than Napoleon.

Honorable recognitions[edit]

  • The Waterloo Medal was issued to all ranks of the British Army who participated, including supposedly a baby born on the field to one unit's auxiliary woman aide. It was one of the first general medals issued. One can be seen with Wellington's uniform in the basement at Apsley House.
  • When French President Jacques Chirac visited the UK to celebrate the centennial of the Entente Cordiale, the Waterloo Room in Windsor Castle was renamed the Music Room, and then renamed the Waterloo Room following Chirac's departure.[11]

Other uses[edit]

  • The famous quote attributed to Wellington "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton" was probably apocryphal.[12] Unlike his older brother, Wellington was not an academic success at Eton; on one of his rare visits back there, the only athletic activities he could remember were skipping across a brook, and fisticuffs with a fellow student. See also Wikiquote.

External links[edit]

Reenactment societies

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ UK Waterloo insult to French visitors BBC website November 6, 1998
  2. ^ W.S. Gilbert: His Life and Letters
  3. ^ Hodge, Jane Aiken (1984). The Private World of Georgette Heyer. Arrow Books. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-09-949349-5. 
  4. ^ PBS - Napoleon: Interactive Battle Simulator
  5. ^ PBS' Waterloo Interactive Battle Simulator from the "Age of Empires" series
  6. ^ BBC - History - The Battle of Waterloo Game
  7. ^ Travis, Alan (13 June 2001). "Poll scars". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ Comment Order of the boot for plucky Pangbourne Daily Mail 4 November 2005
  9. ^ Waterloo Or Verdun? July 22, 2009
  10. ^ Frum, David (March 21, 2010). "Waterloo". Frum Forum. Retrieved April 3, 2010. 
  11. ^ "The Royal Family welcomes the President of the French Republic and Madame Jacques Chirac on their Official Visit to the United Kingdom 18-19 November 2004". Royal.gov.uk. December 2004. 
  12. ^ Chambers Reference Online cites Chambers 21st Century Dictionary,: "Attributed, and probably apocryphal. Quoted in Count Charles de Montalembert, De l'Avenir politique de l'Angleterre (1856), ch.10."