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This was the scene after midnight, 19. June 1815: On the battlefield more than 50,000 men and 7,000 horses lay dead and wounded; the wreckage of a once proud French Grande Armee was struggling in abject disorder to the Belgian frontier pursued by murderous Prussian lancers; caked in dust and sweat, the Duke of Wellington began writing the dispatch that would send his country into mourning and jubilation; and Napoleon Bonaparte, exhausted and stunned at the scale of his defeat, rode through the darkness towards Paris, abdication and the end of his Empire. In the hours, days, weeks and months that followed, news of the battle would begin to shape the consciousness of an age; the battlegrounds would be looted and cleared, its dead buried or burned, its ground and ruins overrun by voyeuristic tourists; the victorious British and Prussian armies would invade France and occupy Paris. And as his enemies within and without France closed in, Napoleon saw no avenue ahead but surrender, exile and captivity. In this dramatic and ground-breaking account of the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo, Paul O'Keeffe employs a multiplicity of contemporary sources and viewpoints to create a reading experience that brings into focus as never before the sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield, of conquest and defeat, of celebration and riot.
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