Meet and greet with your English-speaking guide / driver in the hotel lobby, from where you will be taken for an exciting guided day, in memory of the Battle of Waterloo.
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 Napoleon was 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 Prince Blücher. Upon Napoleon’s return to power in March 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilize armies. Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled close to the northeastern 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.
Two days before the battle, the French at Ligny had defeated Blücher’s Prussian army. Wellington decided to offer battle upon learning that the Prussian army had regrouped and was able to march to his support. 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, eventually surrendering 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 the municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne. The sites of the battlefield today are dominated by a large monument, the Lion’s Mound. As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved.
After a short 45-minute drive by luxurious private vehicle, we will reach the village of Braine-l’Aulleud, where upon arrival you will be taken for a guided tour of the Memorial 1815 Museum.
Buried at the foot of the Lion’s Mound, the Memorial 1815 Museum allows you to experience one of the most turbulent times in our History, as if you were there. Guided by a soldier of your chosen army, you learn about the machinery that led inexorably to the battle. Dive into the heart of the battle, in a multi- sensory experience, full of special effects, the only one of its kind in Europe! 1815 m2 of immersive journeying in a narrative set designed which focuses on the experience of the battle.
The museum covers the historic events that preceded the Waterloo battle (from French Revolution), a 4D film and the consequences of the battle. www.waterloo1815.be
Next to the visitor center is the Panorama, a huge round building, which holds the canvas painted by Louis Dumoulin in 1912 to mark the first centenary of the battle. The dimensions of this huge fresco are awesome and worthy of its dramatic subject matter – it is 110 meters round and 12 meters high.
The concept behind the Panorama dates from the 19th century. It is a huge and elegant building designed to display massive paintings of up to 110 m by 14 m. Panoramic paintings generally represent famous battles, religious events or landscapes. The Panorama is a unique visual theatre, offering visitors an opportunity to escape into a different world.
The Panorama of Waterloo illustrates a key moment in the raging battle. Louis Dumoulin depicted the Polish Lancers, the charge by Marshal Ney, Napoleon surrounded by his staff, and the resistance of the English infantry squares around Wellington. Its huge size, the portrayal of the soldiers, the weapons and the period costumes make the fresco come to life. Its display in the round leads to total immersion inside the image, making visitors feel like they are at the heart of the action, caught up in an epic saga. The sense of perspective and three- dimensional reality are remarkable, and there is a real feeling of movement and emotion. A soundtrack of clashing swords, cavalry charges, cannon balls, bugles and the cries of the infantry plunge visitors into the heat of the battle.
This Panorama was restored in 2008 and is an important piece of historical heritage because it is one of the few that still exist today. In the early 20th century, these kinds of historical reconstructions were almost ubiquitous, but they have since become less and less common.
Here, we will also visit the Lion Mound. The 40-meter-tall mound was erected at the supposed position where the Prince of Orange (1792- 1849) was injured before becoming King of the Netherlands (from 1840 to 1849). It took three years to build this huge cone of earth (1823-1826). The lion perches on the summit as a symbol of the monarchs’ victories. The single paw which rests on the globe, “announces the peace that Europe has won in the plains of Waterloo”, in the words of the architect.
You can see the whole battlefield from the top of the hillock, which gives a good idea of the square formations of the infantry and where the cavalry was deployed. A panoramic display table indicates the positions defended during different stages of the battle.
We continue the tour with a guided visit to Château d’Hougoumont. Château d’Hougoumont (originally Goumont) is a large farmhouse situated at the bottom of an escarpment near the Nivelles road in Braine-l’Alleud, near Waterloo. The escarpment is where British and other allied forces faced Napoleon’s Army at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. Hougoumont, which had become dilapidated was fully restored in time for the 200 anniversary of the battle and opened to the public on 18 June 2015.
Hougoumont Farm History – The battle’s significance. The Hougoumont battle has often been characterized as a diversionary attack to cause Wellington to move reserves to his threatened right flank to protect his communications, but this then escalated into an all-day battle which drew in more and more French troops but just a handful of Wellington’s, having the exact opposite effect to that intended. In fact, there is a good case that both Napoleon and Wellington thought Hougoumont was a vital part of the battle. Certainly, Wellington declared afterwards “the success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at Hougoumont”. Hougoumont was a part of the battlefield that Napoleon could see clearly, and he continued to direct resources towards it and its surroundings all afternoon (33 battalions in all, 14,000 troops).
We will also do a tour of the actual battlefield. Although in 200 years a lot has changed, we will drive towards Napoleons command post and have a better understanding of his strategy, decisions and mistakes. We will drive through the famous “hollow road” and by the different farms that were so crucial during the battle on June 18, 1815.
In between there is leisure time for lunch. Depending on where you are when you would like to have lunch, your guide will give you some suggestions.
From here, you will be taken back to your hotel in Brussels, where you will have the remainder of the day for your own leisure. You will arrive back around 5pm.