On This Day in Napoleonic History – 21 June 1815

chrono-napoleon-after-waterlooNapoleon arrives at Élysée Palace following the Battle of Waterloo

The exhausted Emperor who hadn’t slept for several nights summoned his family and ministers, seeing them while taking a bath. No one in Paris knew about the defeat. 101 cannon were fired on the 18th to announce the victory at Ligny but there had been no bulletins since.

Napoleon notified the chambers of his return to Paris but later regretted not going there in person. Marquis de Lafayette had orchestrated a parliamentary coup-d’etat, appointing five members of each chamber to take on ministerial functions. Lucien tried to dissuade the parliament from this course but Lafayette was persuasive in his denunciation of Napoleon, even though it was General Bonaparte who had secured his release from Austrian prison as one of the conditions of the Treaty of Campo-Formio in 1797. Accused of treachery by Lucien, Lafayette replied, ‘We have followed your brother to the sands of Africa, to the deserts of Russia. The bones of Frenchmen scattered in every region there are witnesses to our fidelity.’

In his bulletin of the same day, Napoleon said that the Battle of Waterloo was ‘glorious for the French army and yet so fateful.’ It was definitely fateful for Napoleon’s throne. It is possible that Napoleon tried to poison himself again that night, just like he did the previous year. There is only one witness account – that of his physician – to confirm this.

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