18 June 2022

The Battle of Waterloo

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.


Matthew F Kluk said...


Christopher Boegel said...

Long live Christ our King. Amen.

IanW said...

Remind me : when was the next general European war? It's best to understand grand politics in terms of the lesser evil.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

In terms of the lesser evil, although Napoleon was a mason, be dared, totally out of madonic character, to try to take on the money power, and failed. Perhaps that was a function of his residual catholicism. For all his faults, I think he was the lesser evil.


Percy said...

When the Holy Roman Emperor, Tsar of Russia and King of Prussia divided up and extinguished the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, they did more damage to the concept of monarchy than the mobs who beheaded the monarchs of France. The door was opened for Napoleon to extend their logic across much more of the continent. Restoration was never taken seriously as anything other than a human effort.

Andrew T said...

Albrech, please provide convincing contemporary evidence that Bonaparte was a Mason.

Nic said...

Pyrrhic victories all round I think
I was thinking the other day about what happened to France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The monarchy fell in 1789 because the state was bankrupt after bankrolling the American revolution – to little or no gain.
France had a go at taking Spain’s position as ranking world power that it got from possessing most of the New World. France succeeded for a while until Britain twigged it could do the same so it did, the Spanish succession John Churchill and all that. I see Snr Buonaparte, who thought he was French for some reason, as a last desperate attempt, always doomed to failure, to regain French hegemony after it was irrevocably lost to Britain. Waterloo cemented Britain’s dominance to those in any doubts.
After dominating the seaborne world for a century Britain decided to throw everything away trying belatedly to reverse the fait accompli of Bismarck’s united Germany that dominated the continent. After which we threw everything else away, including self-government for Canada and New Zealand that recently have shown themselves incapable of choosing leaders with any ambition beyond acting as prison warders.
Considering the dire straits in which we now find ourselves combined with the mind-set of believing the illusion that we are a ‘great power’ better not to have had the empire at all really.