Sometimes small incidents, rather than glorious exploits, give us the best evidence of character. So, as portrait painters are more exact in doing the face, I must give particular attention to the marks of the souls of men. — Plutarch

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Battle of Waterloo

After the failure of his plan for crossing the Channel, Napoleon plunged into new ventures. He suddenly marched off to attack Austria and Russia, and won battle after battle in central Europe. Then, hoping to make Great Britain poor, he declared that none of her vessels should be allowed to come into any port on the Continent, to buy or sell any merchandise. Of course, such an order made the British angry; and when they heard that Napoleon intended to seize the fleet of Denmark and use it against England, they bombarded Copenhagen and seized the Danish ships.

Spain and Portugal, indignant at the treatment they received from their French conquerors, now declared war against Napoleon. They asked the help of the English, so Wellington, the "Iron Duke," immediately set out for the south. With a force of ten thousand men, he won the battles of Talavera, Salamanca, and Vitoria. This war, which lasted from 1808 to 1814, is generally known as the Peninsular War, because the principal battles were fought in the peninsula formed by Spain and Portugal.

Although it seemed as if Great Britain had already enough to do in fighting the greater part of Europe, she was soon called upon to fight against the United States also. In this War of 1812, about which you can learn in your American histories, King George took no interest; for he was now both blind and insane, and his son George was acting as regent in his stead.

Wellington and Blucher.

Napoleon, having failed to conquer Russia, was obliged to face all the European powers. They defeated him at the battle of Leipzig, or the "Battle of Nations," in 1813, and drove him back to France, where, in 1814, they forced him to give up the crown to Louis XVIII., a brother of the beheaded Louis XVI. Napoleon was then sent to the island of Elba, in the Mediterranean Sea. But while the different nations were assembled at Vienna, trying to decide how to divide his conquests, he suddenly escaped. Landing in France, he was joined by a large force, and for nearly one hundred days was again supreme.

The European powers, however, were determined not to allow him to reign long, and prepared for war. The British under Wellington, and the Prussians under Blucher, were first in the field. Napoleon met them at Waterloo (1815 ), and there, in spite of all his genius and the great courage of his soldiers, he was completely defeated.

"It is all over; we must save ourselves," said Napoleon, who had been in the midst of the fight, but was still unwounded. He was right; all was indeed over for him. He went back to Paris, and thence to Rochefort, intending to escape to America. But the British fleet blocked the port; and, being assured of honourable treatment, he went on board the Bellerophon.


Napoleon had been so dangerous a foe that, in spite of all the promises made to him, the British rulers finally decided that it would be best to exile him to the island of St. Helena. Here, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, closely watched by soldiers who allowed him no privacy, Napoleon spent six lonely years. He died of a painful disease in 1821, and the British vessels which had cruised around the island to prevent his escape then returned home.

It will probably interest you to hear that it was Wellington, the victor of Waterloo, who put an end to dueling in the army, by telling his soldiers that it was far more cowardly to accept a challenge than to refuse one. Since then, British soldiers have ceased to fight, except when in the presence of the enemy.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee