December 13, 2007 cameron

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast #34 – The Battle of Waterloo Part 2

The Battle of Waterloo, along with the Battle of Wavre, was fought on 18 June 1815, and was Napoleon Bonaparte’s last battle. His defeat put a final end to his rule as Emperor of the French. It is probably one of the most famous battles in history. It has been the subject of much debate for nearly 200 years and we’ll probably still be debating it 200 years hence. We could have spaced this episode out over several more episodes but this show is about providing an introduction to Napoleon, we’re not trying to deliver the definitive commentary on his life, so we’ve covered the battle, as best we can, in a little over 90 minutes. What were the reasons for Napoleon’s defeat? Was it superior strategy on behalf of the Allies? Inferior strategy on behalf of Napoleon? Treachery? Incompetence? Illness? Bad luck? A combination of all of these?

The Battle Of Waterloo by William Sadler

This show is based on David’s book “Napoleon For Dummies”.


Comments (65)

  1. Another great episode of a fantastic series. John Cleese!? Fantastic! Is he a listener? I’m curious to know how TPN got that plug.

    I sincerely hope that this is only the tip of the iceberg that is the Markham and Reilly history podcasting duo. Until this podcast I had little or no understanding of Napoleon or Napoleonic era history. Thank you both for so enthusiastically, eloquently and entertainingly bringing this character and his remarkable achievements to life. I have certainly become a Napoleon supporter/apologist.

    I waited until I had caught up to the last episode to watch Waterloo the movie. I love the way they portray Wellington. What a putz.

    It has been said before, but I will say it again, I cannot get enough of the series and I encourage long winded episodes!



  2. Robert Thompson

    “Nemo me impune lacessit” you called them badasses and with a motto like that, I am inclined to agree.

    Oh, and just in case anyone is keeping score… This eposode wouldn’t have been so depressing if some cuirassier had done there job and takencare of our old friend Blücher when they had the chance.

  3. Brilliant episode. It really built up the tension and conveyed the atmosphere. The moment when the last French attack failed must count as the most dramatic moment of Napoleon’s career – and that was a career full of unbelievable drama.

  4. I think you guys have hit on a potential means of helping JDM stay retired from teaching: record the Waterloo song (multiple verses of course) and post it on iTunes. We’d all pay 99 cents and download it as a ringtone, eh? Also wondering if we can look forward to a video component to download with audio by next July when you guys are in Ajaccio and on Elba…(still excited about my new nano, sorry) David, are your Byron articles in print or available online? Thanks, guys, for squeezing this in so close to the holidays. It’s inspired me to visit Waterloo after Christmas this year when it’s bleak, mournful, and tourist free. Another option you guys could explore…guide talks to famous Napoleon sites to download. Cheers,

  5. Oh, Sally, you do know how to get to a guy! My singing as a ring tone? I love it!! Beautiful women around the world would call each other just to hear the ring. But nobody would ever actually answer the phone! 🙂

    I’m not sure if any of my Byron work is on-line or not, I’ll have to check. But send me your email and I can certainly email you a copy for your personal use. Last time I was in Scotland I picked up a wonderful engraving of Byron at 17 that you might enjoy seeing as well.

    Glad you all enjoyed the episode, though I’m sure further comments will create a nice discussion. Robert is certainly correct about that cuirassier and Blücher. What a difference that would have made!!

    Several of you appear to be under the misimpression that this series will ever actually end. Do you really think that Cameron and I couldn’t always find something else to say about the Emperor? And, yes, we certainly do plan to do something while we are on Corsica and Elba. For one thing, the plan is to do a podcast of the entire conference and put it on a DVD. We’d have to sell it, of course, but it would be a really great addition to anyone’s Napoleonic library. And we’ve also talked about doing some shows ‘on location’ elsewhere, though that involves a fair amount of time and money.



  6. OK, I just listened to the opening of the episode. There were some technical problems, as I think I did a MUCH better job of singing, and certainly didn’t speed up like that. Maybe Sally is right, I’ll have to do the whole song!


  7. Cameron Reilly

    Ryan, regarding John Cleese, I’ve signed him up to do an exclusive video podcast series on TPN which will be starting soon!

  8. JR

    Finally I’ve caught up with the current episode of the series, and just in time for Waterloo! Keep up the good work!

    In case nobody else has mentioned it, check out the “Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of Empire Style, 1800 – 1815” exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts through Jan 27 here Some interesting objects, odd ones (Gilded cup in the shape of Pauline Borghese’s breast?!), and wallpapers.

  9. andrew

    I wanted to ask David or Cameron for clarification on their statement that some British squares were broken. It wasn;t clear to me whether they were talking about squares being broken during the Wars as a whole (and apparently there were British squares broken at Rio Seco in 1808 and at Quatre Bras), or just Waterloo – because from everything I’ve read no British squares were actually broken at Waterloo – many were severely cut up by French artillery but didn’t break, and the French cavalry attacks had little effect. For instance, I have the Waterloo Companion by Mark Adkin, pub 2001, which I think is considered highly authoritive, and it baldly states on page 356, that the French cavalry “failed to break a single square”. Again, on page 359, it says: “No Anglo-Allied squares were broken. Most suffered heavy losses not from swords or lances but from cannon fire”. The book also says that it is probable not a single French cavalryman was killed by a British bayonet and not a single British infantryman in the squares was killed by a French cavalryman’s sabre – the cavalry rode around the squares and occasionally fired into them with a carbine but there were no clashes – British infantry afterwards said they welcomed the French charges as it provided respite and safety from the appalling losses caused by artillery. I’m told there is a dubious French tradition of a broken square but it seems to me that experts agree it didn;t happen.

    I thought it was an excellent episode by the way, and I’m intereted to hear what happened next as Napoleon’s actions next are much less well known, certainly to me



  10. I haven’t heard of a square being broken at Waterloo either. Presumably any broken square would have been completely wiped out by the cavalry.

  11. Gabriel

    Wonderfull work! I want more, always more! I’m a new listner and I just listen to the 11th podcast (the other are downloading and I will listen to them soon). It is wonderful work and succeed to give me a BIG interest in Napoleon.

    In the 11th podcast you ask where we are from. I’m from Montreal, Québec, Canada. French speaking part of Canada!

    Thanks for the podcast and hope will continue!

  12. rob

    Great series on Napoleon! My perception of him has definitely changed for the better. I listened to the first 14 podcasts while driving from Mwanza, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya to Mombasa, Kenya, and back. I’m eagerly looking forward to catching up with the rest.

    Thanks for making the long drive enjoyable.

  13. Cameron

    Will, I just finished listening to the podcast with Juan Cole. I think his attempt to draw an analogy between Bonaparte in Egypt and Bush in Iraq is drawing a pretty long bow. Whilst I’m the first to agree that the justification for the French invasion of Egypt was pretty skinny by modern standards, we have to put it into context, and at least in the interview I heard, Cole failed to even attempt that. There are a few similarities I can see (both invasions were positioned domestically as “spreading liberty”, both were fought in a desert country, both the French and USA met with a lot of guerrilla resistance) but there are some things in the podcast which are just plain misleading.

    Here’s a list of immediate arguments I’d make.

    1. When France invaded Egypt (over 200 years ago mind you), they weer at war with England. England was using Egypt as a critical part of it’s trade route with India. Egypt was a strategic target as part of an ongoing war. Napoleon wanted to restore Turkish control over the region, weakening the hold of the mamelukes (who were extremely brutal), strengthening France’s relationship with the Turks and hurting England. Now, when the US invaded Iraq, who were they at war with? Nobody. They unilaterally invaded a sovereign nation without the support of the UNSC.

    2. Cole and his interviewer made claims that the French were “brutal”, talk of beheading, etc. That’s just misleading. There was no mention of Napoleon letting over 2000 prisoners go with the promise they wouldn’t fight again. When they made that promise, and then turned around and attacked the French again, yes, there were retributions. How does that compare to Abu Ghraib?

    3. When Napoleon went to Egypt he handed out copies of the Qu’ran to his troops and ordered them to respect the religion of Islam’s traditions. The French were, at this time, without a religion. Napoleon himself appears to have been agnostic or atheist. The leaders of the US, on the other hand, were out-spoken evangelical Christians, some of whom portrayed the invasion of Iraq as a religious war.

    4. The most memorable accomplishment of Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign was the scientific discoveries (the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, etc). By contract, when the US invaded Iraq, priceless historical artifacts were looted and have disappeared from museums in Baghdad, perhaps forever.

    These are just off the top of my head. David and I covered some of these in depth in episode #7:

  14. Napoleon was forced by Nelson’s victory to stay in Egypt…he was essentially stranded there. There’s no such restraint keeping the US in Iraq, and as Cole admits in his interview, almost all Americans want out of Iraq or at least a timeline for getting out.

    As for motive.

    “I was full of dreams,” he said. “I saw myself founding a new religion, marching into Asia riding an elephant, a turban on my head, and in my hand the new Koran.” (quote of NB from the 2000 PBS series on Napoleon)

    GWB was intent on revenge for 9/11, destroying imaginary weapons of mass destruction, and solidifying a link to Mideast oil supplies so Americans could continue to drive SUVs and pay ridiculously low prices for the privilege (mea culpa, former Jeep owner). How his Christian beliefs fit in remain a mystery to me for IMHO if there’s one thing JC preached and demonstrated it was forgiveness and brotherly love. But we’d have to go back to the Crusades to figure that one out.

    Napoleon begs study and analysis, not only for the humanity that endears him to us, but for the colossal mistakes he made. The difficulty is in reconciling a modern perspective with an historical viewpoint or insisting on only one conclusion. Sometimes it’s beyond us. It may be convenient for Cole to compare GWB and NB now, what wars don’t have parallels? but 200 years from now will GWB and the Iraq war command such a studious devotion as we podcast pioneers are giving NB?

  15. Dane

    The best podcast available. It is sad that it is winding down, but I’m already excited about the next series. The interaction between Cameron and J. David is terrific, as podcasts that are read from scripts are usually stale and phony. I’ve become very interested in Napoleon and have started to collect some books on the subject. Before this series, the only facts I knew of Napoleon were that he was very short, he had his hand sewn to the inside of his jacket, and he had at least one headache in his life. I’m really enjoying the show.

  16. John

    Thanks again to Cameron and David again. As per the last episode, plenty to discuss:

    – the charge of the Scots Greys – it charged as only a part of the Union Brigade, along with the Household Brigade. David said that the charge was a disaster, but did not specify the losses to D’erlons Corps. Whilst (especially) the Union and Household brigades were severely damaged, they removed the best part of a French Corps from the battle (three divisions of his four, totalling 13,000 men) for the loss of say 1,000 heavy cav.
    – Where is Grouchy? – N’s fans greatest plea, but what about the 17,000 men Wellington left at Hal? If these had been added to W’s force at Mont st Jean?
    – Cameron has pointed out W’s mistakes at the start of the campaign – the performance of W and N now can be starkly contrasted – N sitting on his chair and W being at every point of danger.
    – the role of Hougomount and La Haye Sainte was a little underplayed. They forced N to attack on a narrow front, essentially funnelling both D’erlon and Ney’s attacks into areas that suited W

    I know that this series is about N, but these two last episodes cant help me start thinking about Robert E Lees reply to a question about Gettysburg. He was asked about what caused the Rebel defeat – we expect the usual suspects – Picketts Charge, Stuarts ride, the first day delays. His reply? ‘well, i think the Union army had a bit to do with it’

    Anyhow, thanks for generating interest in the period.


  17. Carl

    Great material as usual. JDM’s singing has brought a smile to my face while I was walking to the bus stop on a pretty cold morning here in Montreal. Now everytime I feel the coldbite, I think to myself “This is not too bad compared to what Napoleon experienced in Russia!”. My girlfriend is starting to think I’m more interested in Napoleon then her now, so David, could you give us some tips on how to handle a relationship around Napoleon fanatism? Today as an example, on my way to my job I listened to half of episode 34, the other half on my way back, I bought a “Millefeuille Napoleon” which is a pastry, very delicious, and played some Europa Universalis 3: Napoleon’s Ambition to end the day. Wonderfull isn’t it? This is the kind of influence that you guys had on me as 5 months ago I didn’t know jack about Napoleon.

  18. andrew

    Cameron –

    i noticed on your blog that chess is one of your interests and i wondered if you had seen this website, which shows some of the famous games of chess Napoleon is said to have played – full of daring sacrifices and brilliant twists – including one against General Bertrand at Elba and the game he famously lost against “The Turk”, which was said to be a chess machine, in Vienna in 1809. Alas, I gather not all experts think the games that came down through history were actually the ones played by Napoleon, but they are fun to watch! Just click on a game and you can play it through.

  19. J. David and Cameron,

    I’d grown so accustomed to your balanced treatment of Napoleon that I was surprised to hear Dan Roberts’ seemingly unfair handling of the man on today’s “A Moment in Time” on NPR. Roberts speaks of “Napoleon’s great megalomaniacal error,” mentions Hitler, and says that Alexander “finally came to his senses” when he “abandoned his flirtation with Napoleon.” This portrayal–especially the bit about Alexander coming to his senses–struck me as slanted oversimplification.

  20. Cameron

    G.S. – comments like his are one of the reasons we are doing the show. Someone needs to balance kind of rubbish out.

    Andrew – I am indeed a keen chess player (as is David btw, we played quite a few games against each other online last year) and my impression of Napoleon’s chess skills, from stuff I’ve read, is that he wasn’t very good. He didn’t have the patience for it I think. He had too many REAL battles to fight! I will go check out those games though, thanks for the link!

    Carl – I hadn’t heard of that game before but it looks interesting! Do you recommend it?

    John – Hopefully I did manage to give Wellington a bit more credit in this episode. I quoted some stuff from Chandler about Wellington, as you say, being “everywhere”. He was definitely more active on the battlefield than N and the results speak for themselves. But, as D said in the show, if Grouchy had carried out his orders, or used his brain, it might have been a very different outcome.

  21. Cameron,

    It was good to hear the positive stuff about Wellington. As I have said before, Nelson is treated as a great hero by the British but Wellington gets much less credit. He was of course not only a great general but also a fairly poor politician. His political shortcomings – he tried to oppose the Reform Bill – have obscured his other achievements.

  22. Simon Foster

    I watched a programme the other week on UKTV History called The ‘War against the French’ and it almost brought my blood to boiling point. The treatment of Our friend was unbearable to watch in parts.

    They might as well have painted two big horns on his head and called him Satan. I was shouting at the screen that much it caused my wife to come in and see what was going on. They completley ommited all the great things he did and focused on a few brief highlights (mainly his mistakes and defeats), and at one point I’m sure they were infering that WW1 was a direct result of some of his actions (they will blame JFK on him next)

    I feel sorry for anybody watching it who knew little about the great man and had a few hours of tripe inserted into the brain from a few British TV execs wishing to extol the mighty British Empire.

    I urge any of the fellow Napoleon admirers to stay away from this documentry (if you could call it that) unless you wish to throw your TV out the window.

    P.S Before any of the British radicalists start on me I am English (Or European if I had my way) and Cameron you should feel free to say what you like about the British during this period, whats the point in having opinions if you cant offend people once in a while, there’s always the off button if they don’t like it.

  23. Who are these British radicalists of whom you speak? Napoleon is undoubtedly a great figure in history with many great and even amazing achievements. I am glad he was ultimately defeated though. Imagine the terrible legacy of successful violence and conquest he would have left behind if he had managed to keep his empire. I don’t think that a worldwide french empire would have been a positive thing either. Look at Algeria and Vietnam.

  24. Cameron Reilly

    Colin’s right. Just imagine what wonderful wars we might have avoided in the 20th century if Napoleon’s dream of a united Europe had been achieved during his lifetime. We wouldn’t have had tens of millions of people die in WWI or WWII. What a shame that would have been.

  25. Nick

    Another great episode!

    In response to the earlier question of whether or not any British squares were broken at Waterloo, I’m not sure, but perhaps some other Allied squares were broken. For example, in the Sharpe series (I know this isn’t the best source), the book on Waterloo describes at least one Dutch square being broken due to the incompetence of the Prince of Orange.

    On another point, I know someone else already mentioned this, but all the “what if’s” of Waterloo definitely called to mind the battle of Gettysburg for me. I don’t know if the battle is studied much outside the US, but here it’s always been seen as the turning point of the Civil War and if only this or that had happened, the Confederates would have won the battle and the whole war. But as many people noted in posts about episode 33, Napoleon may well have won at Waterloo yet still eventually been defeated. so too with Gettysburg – even though the North won the battle, it still took another 2 years of fighting for them to win the war. If a victory by Napoleon at Waterloo would simply have delayed the inevitable… well, I guess that’s just another “what if” – and probably the most important of them all.

    anyway, I hope you guys come up with a lot of post-Waterloo episodes, because I don’t want to go into “Napoleon-withdrawal.”

    – Nick

  26. Cameron Reilly

    Nick, David and I chatted about after the last episode and we figure we have another 6 months to go. And then we’ll both be in Ajaccio for the INS conference, a I’ll be recording the speakers.

  27. Marcus

    @ Simon Foster

    How the programme The ‘War against the French’ made you feel? Well, that is how many of us feel about this series of ‘history’ podcasts by Cameron and David.

    As Cameron would say: Suck it up!

  28. Cameron Reilly

    Ouch, Marcus. I am pretty sure we’ve never demonized the British. We have, from time to time, pointed out their share of the blame for the wars and pointed out the excessive propaganda about some of their victories and commanders, but David in particular has spoken about some of the great things the British had on record.

  29. Antonio

    Dear Cameron and David,

    I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I can’t wait for all the great shows you’ll have for us in 2008. Thank you very much.

    Best wishes


  30. Alan

    At a talk on military history I attended a few years ago the speaker offered a different take on Ney’s actions at Waterloo that I found interesting. The speaker suggested that his cavalry charges weren’t just foolish grabs at glory, but a fundamental part of Napoleon’s master plan. The British center was situated behind the top of the ridge protected from artillery. They weren’t going to come out unless attacked. Therefore, the point of the charges was to force the British to come forward to deal with the French cavalry. That in turn left them sitting ducks for Napoleon’s artillery. Once they retreated back to safety Napoleon had Ney repeat the cycle. Once the line was properly weakened the Emperor sent in the Imperial Guard to finally sweep the British (and allies) away. Unfortunately for the French the Guard got confused and assaulted the far fresher British right. If they had managed to stay on course they would have instead smashed into a British center already on the verge of breaking.

    I don’t know enough about the specifics of the battle to properly judge how well this theory works, but I like how it doesn’t require Napoleon to suddenly become inept or Ney turn into an idiot. Instead, it would suggest that the French had a definitive battle plan that came within a hair’s breath of succeeding.

  31. Marcus

    @ Simon

    Mate, nice analogy, but wouldn’t the British be the Athenians and the French Sparta?

  32. Scott Richerson

    Hi Guys

    Love the podcast, great etc.

    Speaking of Napoleon-related music, I wonder if you’ve heard the new Hal Wilner compilation, “Rogue’s Gallery,” which is a collection based loosely on a “pirate” theme. It’s great, and it happens to begin with a song called “Boney Was a Warrior,” rumored to be sung by Johnny Depp. He’s not credited, but he was involved in the production of the album, and the song is credited to “Jack Shit,” suspiciously similar to “Jack Sparrow.” Anyway, though it contains some factual errors (it seems to imply that N won Trafalgar, and that Austerlitz was a river he crossed on the way to Russia:), it’s a catchy little song, and shockingly enough is more complimentary than not.

    Episodes and episodes ago, I had noted that in E.M. Forester’s “Hornblower” series, which is pretty virulently anti-“Boney,” two of Hornblowers most salient characteristics were his lack of luck and his lack of confidence in himself, despite his abilities. Do you think, or have you heard speculation, that Forester was deliberately creating a foil to the British idea of Napoleon: A man of undeserved self-regard, who got by on his good luck? Sorry to bug you with my pet theory.

  33. Scot, there is an old English song called Boney was a Warrior – I am sure I have heard it sung but I can’t at the moment recall either the tune or any of the words. I will rack my brains and see if I can remember anything about it.

  34. Cameron

    Scott, I think “Jack Shit” is actually the name of a band made up of Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher, former members of Elvis Costello’s band. I checked out the album “Rogue’s Gallery” at Amazon ( and it has some big names! Lou Reed (I’m a huge fan of Lou), Sting, Jarvis Cocker, Bryan Ferry, etc.

    I’ve got no idea on Hornblower, as I’ve never got into it. I’m not much of a fiction guy.

  35. Cameron / David, First my best wishes to you both for the Festive Season, and to you David, Happy Birthday!. Also David, I hope Madison wasn’t too cold for you! (It was only 26c here yesterday!!)
    Gentlemen, I have enjoyed, hmmmm actually enjoyed may not be the best word, after all we are talking about Waterloo… perhaps been ‘fascinated’ might be better, with the last two instalments. Again you have both managed to bring to life a epic period in the Emperors life! (And it sure didn’t seem like it happened 200 years ago!) I learnt a great deal about the battle, but I have one question for you and it relates to the way Wellington conducted the battle. Are you able to confirm something I thought I read, was told, not sure where I heard it… that Wellington had actually visited Waterloo about a year prior to the battle and had ‘cased it out’ on the chance that he might have to fight there one day?? (Sorry if you did mention it but I missed it in the Podcast) If this is the case it sure would have given Wellington a huge advantage!
    Cheers Ken
    Ps. Cameron I have added the Podcast as a link on my web site. Hope it manages to bring a few people your way!

  36. Joshua Parker

    Oh dear that time of year I’m getting behind on all my so called “private study” which involves the Napoleon podcast amongst other things 🙂 My friends have a good laugh at that *rolls eyes*

    With all this singing its beginning to look like a parody video of ‘Obama Girl’ might appear involving Cameron and David dancing and singing for Napoleon 08 lol

    As for Napoleonic videogames. looks to be the creme de le creme whenever it will be released.
    I have heard Europa Universalis 3 is great also but is of a more strategic nature and has a steep learning curve.
    Total War Empires will probably be fantastic once its released and very accessible.
    Cossacks 2 European Wars is good but not great. It can be picked up pretty cheap.

    and hell you can’t go past Civilization IV and all its expansion packs for a more general historical game.

  37. Austin

    There is also a mod for Rome Total War called Napolionic Total War. Its made by the Lordz.

  38. Dear Friends,

    This past year has been wonderful for me, and your loyal support of the Napoleon 101 Podcast is one of the main reasons. I thank you one and all from the very bottom of my heart, and I thank Cameron for making it all possible. For once, I’ll be a man of few words:

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!


  39. Adam

    Cameron and David,

    I have the dubious honour of writing this from just outside Picton, New Zealand. (for those who don’t know, Sir Thomas Picton was one of Wellington’s generals, who got a musketball through the head at Waterloo, and quite unsuprisingly, died. Picton is across Cook Straight from the capital of NZ, a city called Wellington, and about an hour away from a town called Nelson. but at least there is a creek on the about an hour away called ‘Napoleon Creek’ which one must cross to get here.) anyway, that’s beside the point.

    i want to say that i am enormously looking forward to the climax of the story and St Helena (even though Napoleon got entirely shafted by the British, i find it maybe the most fascinating period of his reign as emperor.)

    the main purpose of my writing is to ask a question of David, about Napoleon’s attitude at the very end of the Battle of Waterloo. I can’t remember which book it’s in (i’m reading Barry O’Meara’s ‘Napoleon in Exile, or A Voice from St Helena’ at the moment, and just finished ‘Napoleon’s Wives and Women’ by (Christopher?) Hibbert. Anyway, in one of them, at the climax of Waterloo, when the Imperial Guard was being beaten back, and was in (so the book says) a few hundred yards of Napoleon, Napoleon realised that all was lost, and he shouted out “Faut me mourir sur le champs de bataille'” = ‘I must die on the battlefield’, and that Gourgaud, and the 2 or 3 other people who were physically in a position to stop him galloping away on his horse into the firefly, got in his way and stopped him, and persuaded his that he would be recognised, and rather than be killed, be captured.

    My questions are a few. Firstly, I have read that O’Meara tends to be pretty biased towards Napoleon and that his ‘Voice from St Helena’ isn’t the most historically reliable of works, (i have a suspicion that O’Meara will pop up in a few episodes time) Also, i am pretty darn sure that in ‘Napoleon’s Wives and Women’ Hibbert states Napoleon’s date of death as 6 May 1821 rather than 5 May (but that may just be a printing error.) Having already talked about Napoleon’s previous suicide attempt after being exiled to Elba, and now having been defeated at Waterloo, and realised that it was all over for good now, what his state of mind was. I, for one, can totally understand the mindset of just charging into the battle and being killed, but I’m wondering what other sort of evidence there is to back this up.


  40. Rocky

    I’ve listened to the series now twice and have really become so much more knowledgeable about Napoleon. I’d like to know where the much discussed movie “Napoleon” starring Orson Welles and Rod Steiger can be purchased. This would be a great item to sell through this site or at least furnish a link to a site that the movie can be purchased at. Perhaps this would be a small way to generate some funds for this site that would allow these great educational podcasts to continue. Thank you so much Mr Reilly and Mr Markham. I look forward to more of you good work.

  41. Greg McP

    My God, I’ve finally caught up.
    Thanks! It’s been a hugely entertaining 34 episodes, and a good example of how to do a podcast right. I’ve been listening to other historical podcasts which often involve a single guy reading their essays, which are very information dense and hard work sometimes to absorb. Especially whilst you are driving in busy traffic.
    A “chat show” is far easier to take in.

    Thank you for making sense of the Napoleonic Era. Before this it was a collection of disjointed facts and battles, and you have finally put some sense to it for me.

    I wish this series could just keep chugging along in time after Napoleons death, and explain the complications of European history in his aftermath. Who the heck Napoleon III was, why the Franco Prussian war occurred and so on. But I expect your efforts will wander elsewhere, and I will be listening wherever you lead.

  42. andre

    I found your podcast surfing trough the web more than a year ago and I’ve been hooked ever since, I just can’t wait to download the next episode. I think you guys have a great format, and you work really well together. I particularly like the fact that you take your time during the show and don’t try to cram the entire episode in a 25 min podcast.
    It’s sad that the show is finally dragging to an end, but I’ve really enjoyed it and definitely hope you guys move on to future projects together. And David, you once said you would like to know from where your fans were toning in from, well let me congratulate you on your podcast from San Jose, Costa Rica.

  43. Rocky, has Waterloo in VHS and DVD formats. Just be careful not to get Region Two unless you are from Europe. Its well worth it, as its a great movie! I also picked up a copy on CD of all things, but I don’t recall where I got that (and I’ve never watched that version).


  44. Frelt

    Jim Mowatt of the Historyzine podcast said Cameron and Markham were going to do a Julius Ceaser podcast next. Is that true?

    I’m presently on the 8th Napolean podcast, so maybe the answer to my question is in a hitherto unlistened to show/s.

    Napoleon is certainly a very interesting topic. However, so are Julius and Alexander, so I hope to get a good podcast education on them to, and perhaps consider that preferable to getting an even better education on Napoleon than these 32 podcasts provide. No matter what Cameron and Markham do will be well worth listening to however.

  45. Cameron

    Frelt, Jim Mowatt speaks the truth. We have committed to Julius as our next series but we’re also starting a new show shortly called “The Biography Show” where we will do one famous person from history per episode. The first episode, which we’re recording shortly, will be on Alexander.

  46. Frelt

    I was reading about how your going to have the Julius Ceaser podcast be accessible only via premium subscription. I really have nothing against paying for them, but being the young whipper snaper I am, I lack familiarity and to a lesser extent access to bank accounts and credit cards. Paying through Itune cards would be best for me, and I am sure for some others. You could do paypal as well as book the episodes individually and sell them. You may not be familiar with the latter process, but that will only make use of it more profitable to yourself. To clear away a possible misconception, it is not unheard of to book Audio segments between 40 and 80 minutes long.

    I am personally against a monthly fee, because then concurrent listeners would have to pay more than people who subscribe at the end, and in the long term you’d make less money.

  47. Luis

    Hi. This time is taking very long to have a new Pod.

    I whish I could ear one more episode from you guys…

    Any time soon?


  48. Cameron

    Luis, we recorded one last week but there were technical issues with the recording which I’m currently trying to resolve. Hope to have it up soon!

  49. I am glad to hear it. It will leave a gap in many of our lives when it finishes. Many of us will need counselling.

    I have been listening since the first one – I seem to remember that there was a list of the prospective 20 episodes with titles on the website at one point? But I am glad that you have found so much to tell us about. It is a real education.

  50. Luís

    Thanks for the answer, Cameron

    In what concerns me, I could bear another round 🙂

    Please consider

    a) continuing podcasting with Sir David Markham, in Napoleonic issues

    b) if he prefers to stick around with only the Napoleonic era, how about to get someone to continue discussing history until our time. I suggest that you and a guess of yours (or several), would take where the great David Markham leaves, and then extrapolate to present day situation… for example, what were the consequences of Napoleon defeat in the long term political scenarios in Europe and elsewhere?

    Anyhow, I wish to thank you for the uncountable hours that you, Mr. Markham and the rest of the audience who participated in these debates, have given me.

    This has been a fantastic show!!


    1) sorry for my occasional typos
    2) some ideas expressed here were already expressed by others above

  51. Anthony

    Astonished, yes.

    Wellington was not aware of the French advance, because Napoleon and the Imperial Guard were in Paris on the 14th June, the Army of the North was mobilised and manoeuvered in secrecy to the Belgian border, and all crossing points were sealed. The French attack was therefore a surprise to both Wellington and Blucher. Napoleon only arrived with the army du Nord by travelling overnight from Paris.

    Hougomount, How could the Artillery dismantle cannon , the smallest cannon barrel 6 pounders weighed just under 1 ton, take through an dense forest, are remount in the face of enemy fire?
    Let alone transportation of the ammunition? A 6 pounder took 4 horses to move on wheels???

    Acre, Hot air ballons can only be used where the ambient air temperature of the air is several degrees less than the air in the ballon. In the Middle East the ambient air temperature is much higher than in Europe, and therefore the balloon could not be inflated.

    The Scots Greys were a fine unit, they took the 45th Eagle, but they were not attacked by the Imperial Gds they were shattered by Chevau Leger lancers of D’Erlons Corp. Was this charge so successful, there were 16 battalions in the Ist Corp attack. The British Heavy Cavalry Brigade was however badly mauled.

    The British Cavalry had one weakness, their formation did not have the essential discipline to re-form effectively after a charge, and they did not have a reserve to fall back on and the defend their reforming squadrons. The French charge doctrine for Cavalry always had this reserve formation.

    Only one French Eagle (45th) was taken at Waterloo I believe, even though they were in a chaotic retreat? – was this such a bad defeat as it is claimed to be? If it were would not more eagles have been abandoned and lost.

    At Quatre Bras, the British lost a standard, when a square was broken in forming. But only the Dutch/Belgian militia squares after they had been severely mauled by the French Artillery, were broken at Waterloo. The French cannon could not be moved forward due to the state of the ground.

    The British Army itself may well have been well ordered after the collapse of the Middle Gd attack, but more than half were militia units or conscript units, and they had been badly battered at Quatre Bras and Waterloo. Was the retreat so chaotic, a really dis-organised retreat maybe, but the British Army was so badly mauled it could’nt move for several days after the battle.

    The eventual arrival of 2 corps of Prussians raised the numbers of allied troops by approximately 40,000 plus bayonets, and up to 50 plus cannon. A relatively fresh Prussian corps arrived in the battle which had not been engaged at Ligny, or Wavre, it was this corp that followed the French armis retreat.

    The Prussian started arriving on the field at 2pm, D’Erlons Ist corp after the charge of the British Heavy Cavalry, had to reform and take on a defensive stance against the Prussians advance on the right. The VI corp the young Guard and the Old Guard defended Plancenoit against the Prussians. 24,000 Prussian Bayonets against 6,000 French Bayonets.

    Had not the Prussian arrived, on the field of battle, the VI corp, the Young Guard and the Old Guard as well as the Ist Corp would have been able to attack the British line.

    The Imperial Gd that attacked were the middle Guard, and were only formed in the previous few weeks, as they were completely disbanded in 1814 (30 Grenadiers were sent from every line unit to form the Middle Guard). So the attack of the Imperial Gd west (left) of La Haye Sainte was not the real Imperial Gd, as they only had had a few days to train together and establish a corp d’esprit. They performed well at Ligny though.

    The Old Guard that followed Napoleon to Elba, were sent to retake Plancenoit by bayonet, which they did.

    The French Left wing retreated on the VI corps 21st division, which had been kept in reserve south of Quatre Bras, which stopped the Prussian from following the French retreat. The army reformed on the French/Belgian Border, and on the 20th consisted of 30,000 formed troops. Grouchy led a very professional retreat back to France and Grouchys 33,000 men wing was able to reach France un-defeated.

    I would contend that the political battlefield defeated Napoleon, not the might of the allied armies, yes a reversal but was this the end. Leipzig, 1813, and 1814 showed what Napoleon was capable of with a severely outnumbered army, given the right political support.

    The battle of Waterloo was an allied victory there is no doubt, and the political ramifications led the French to remember the 1814 campaign which demonstrated that even Napoleons Military capabilities were unable to defeat multitude of allied armies, no matter how many times he could out manouvre them. The writing was on the wall.

    He did the honourable thing in the end, his one opportunity to regain France by defeating the enemy in detail had been lost, and he had in doing so lost the political support he so badly needed.

  52. Drew Davis

    I love this series and you have convinced me that Napoleon was one of the greatest leaders in recorded history. That being said I can not understand why you are so dismissive of Wellington.

    1. He is the only general that beat Napoleon. Granted it was with a defensive line but that makes it even more remarkable. France had the larger army and all of the initiative. You suggest that it was won just by chance yet both Generals suffered mistakes/mishaps with their cavalry and communications. Each also had to address the weather yet at the end of the day Wellington won.

    2. Wellington I would agree was not a Napoleon but as a leader his war record was outstanding. Not sure of the exact number, I think there was only one loss early on in his career vs 19 wins. Considering what he was working with during the Peninsular War and at Waterloo it makes it that more remarkable. Who during this period has record even close.

    Now my biggest issue was your comments regarding AW behavior before the battle. If Wellington was at a dance or a rugby match do you really think he knew Napoleon was on the field. Don’t you think that it may be more fair to assume that he thought he had another 24 hours. He was leading a combined force of multiple nations and the politics would have been exceptionally difficult to manage. Maybe he felt he had to go to the party just like Napoleon had get back to Paris (leaving the Army) after the Russian withdrawal. To assume otherwise suggests incompetence from a man who simply does not deserve it.

  53. Cameron


    I think Wellington had a reasonable military career, but I wouldn’t call it ‘outstanding”. What he was “working with” at Waterloo was the ENTIRE ARMED FORCES OF EUROPE against one man – Napoleon. I’m sorry, I just cannot compare a guy who worked for a government which was trying to overturn the decision of a sovereign people by amassing the combined forces of Europe against those people for 20 years to a guy who successfully defended his country against the onslaught for 15 of those 20.

    As for his behaviour before Waterloo, I still think it is incomprehensible and inexcusable that he partied while the greatest general the world had seen for 1800 years was marching on him. Luckily for him, Napoleon wasn’t at his best and Wellington got away with it. That doesn’t excuse it though. I have no doubts that if the battle had occurred 2 or 3 years earlier, Wellington would have been defeated and, if he survived the battlefield, courtmartialed for his display of arrogance.

    Wellington’s unpopularity back home in England during his brief reign as Prime Minister is something else interesting to compare to Napoleon’s massive popularity in France. There are no stories of Napoleon’s windows being shattered by stones thrown by the people on a regular basis.

    I know my position is unpopular, particularly with our wonderful British audience, but it’s my honest feelings. I don’t Wellington was a bad general, but I don’t think he deserves the pedestal he’s been put on by the British either.

  54. Anthony

    Had Napoleon won Waterloo, it is doubtful if the Russians and Austrians, who had a dismal record on the battlefield against Napoleon would have carried on the fight.

    Probably the long sought after peace would have been achieved.

    As it was with Napoleon safely held in St Helena, Louis came back on the throne, and there was peace in europe. Thr Royalistsd tried to recapture their lost privileges, but thet were gone forever.

    I can only wonder what Napoleon might have achieved had he completed his reforms.

  55. Alan

    Thanks for offering this show for our enjoyment. People like you make the difference. Your podcast has inspired me and I plan on including the following quote made by Napoleon into my thesis:

    Men are Moved by two levers only: fear and self interest

    Does anybody know the source? Thanks in advance for any help!

  56. Chris


    First off I wanted to say how much I enjoy the podcast. It is currently January of 2013, and I have just finished this episode (Waterloo Pt II). I’m hooked. I’ve been a military history enthusiast since I was young, and the Napoleonic Wars have almost always been my favorite period of history to study. Your podcast has been such a great tool to learn more about this time period, so THANK YOU!

    I was wondering if it would be possible to get Peter Hofschröer, author of “1815: The Waterloo Campaign—The German Victory” on for an episode? I think it would be very interesting to get the German perspective of the Napoleonic Wars, particularly the Waterloo campaign, and it would also give you another opportunity to have to defend yourself of accusations of “England-Bashing”… It’s a win-win proposition!



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