In the distant days before I retired, when I seemed to have so much more time than I do now, this was annually the day when I read Lady Longford's fine account of the Battle of Waterloo.
It will be splendid if some competent historian with a mens vere Catholica can inform us what ... against a broad background ... the significance is of the Battle of Waterloo. It's beyond me. It appears to be a significant repudiation of that gruesome and bloody Enlightenment which had been embodied in the French Revolution and all those nasty little imitative 'republics' imposed by the French armies ... Cisalpine ... Parthenopaean ... ; it restored Bourbon rule to France and Spain ... I have gazed at, and been impressed by, the vestments worn at the Sacring of Charles X, carefully kept in the Sacristy at Avignon. But in France the Restoration fell apart in a decade and a half. We can hardly call this a decisive re-establishment of ancien regime Europe. It put paid (and not only in Beethoven's mind) to the Tyranny of the Inspired Heroic Individual; but presaged the century of Stalin and Hitler, embodiments of Class Struggle or of Racial Identity. It was not exactly the War to end all Wars, and yet its scale foretold the wars of mass carnage in the following century.
Was Waterloo a pyrrhic victory; simply a massively impressive but ultimately empty attempt to prevent the onrush of an unstoppable tide? Was it the last whimper of a Europe of Tradition before the advent of the horrors ... still with us ... of a succession of ruthless ideologies; Stalin's attack upon the Ukrainians; the enormities of Hitler's hate-filled slaughter of the Jews and others; our own more polite and well-mannered slaughter of the Unborn?
But may the British and Prussian ... and French ... soldiers who died this day rest in peace.
Long live Christ the King.