Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds CHRIS WOOLGAR: We have been talking about the Battle of Waterloo itself. But it’s important to remember that the battle does not conclude the campaign against Napoleon. The Allies have three key objectives; the invasion of France and the reestablishment of legitimate authority. Secondly, the capture of Napoleon. And thirdly, a peace settlement for France and for Europe.
Skip to 0 minutes and 37 seconds KAREN ROBSON: Even before Napoleon attacked, the Allies were preparing to invade France. They now advanced these plans and crossed the border into France on the 21st of June. France was to be treated as a friendly country, as Louis XVIII was an ally. And instructions were given to troops on how they were to behave and receipts to be given for anything that they took. Wellington and Blucher knew that they had to manage the invasion in such a way as to prevent French resistance but also with minimum damage to the country. But there is resistance to the Allies, and several engagements take place as they advance. Wellington urges Blucher to wait while an approaching Allied army arrives.
Skip to 1 minute and 22 seconds This would provide overwhelming forces should an attack on Paris be made.
Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds CHRIS WOOLGAR: As the Allies surround Paris, the French provisional government begins to think about a way of stopping the war from their perspective. On the 26th of June, they send commissioners to negotiate with Wellington. But both Wellington and Blucher believe this is a ruse. They know there are something like 40,000 to 50,000 French troops in Paris. Negotiations continue, however. And on the 3rd of July, they agree that there will be a formal military convention. And this is an armistice that effectively stops hostilities. What it doesn’t do is to solve any of the political questions that are still pending. In parallel with the Allied invasion, Wellington encourages Louis XVIII to return to France.
Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds The Allies are somewhat uncertain about whether a restoration of the Bourbons will, in fact, succeed. But they are prepared to see how far things can be stabilised under the king. The second of the Allied aims is the capture of Napoleon. This war is being waged against him personally.
Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds After the Battle at Waterloo, Napoleon withdraws into France and concentrates his troops in Laon and then on Reims. What is apparent, however, is that the French army is not in a good condition. And Napoleon himself withdraws again to Paris. The politicians in Paris are concerned that the Allied invasion will not halt while Napoleon remains in power. And there are many there who think of ways of disabusing themselves of him. Napoleon decides that it’s time for him to abdicate for a second time. And on the 22nd of June, he abdicates in favour of his son. This, however, is a solution that is not going to be acceptable, either to the French Parliament or to the Allies.
Skip to 3 minutes and 30 seconds KAREN ROBSON: One option was to flee to the United States. This had provided asylum for a number of revolutionary and imperial refugees. Napoleon decides that he might be better off in the hands of the British, rather than of his fellow countrymen, and surrenders to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon on the 15th of July, therefore placing himself at the mercy of the Prince Regent.
Skip to 3 minutes and 58 seconds CHRIS WOOLGAR: Before Waterloo, the Allies had given comparatively little consideration to the question of what should become of Bonaparte. This was now something that they had to respond to quite urgently. There were a range of opinions, from trial and execution through to exile. The Allies came to agree that if Napoleon surrendered to the British, they were quite happy for the British to keep him in secure custody. The British were looking for a solution that put beyond all possibility Napoleon’s ability to disturb the peace of Europe. They, therefore, decided that exile on a very remote island, St. Helena, was the best option. And they hoped, probably quite mistakenly, that he would be forgotten quickly.
Skip to 4 minutes and 48 seconds KAREN ROBSON: A key aim of the Allies was to stop the war in a way that gave the French king sufficient authority to govern. The French army, under a military convention, was required to withdraw from Paris to across the Loire (river). But Wellington is very concerned for the potential for disorder and also for maintaining supplies for his troops. He needs to act swiftly to make sure that there’s no potential for an uprising.
Skip to 5 minutes and 18 seconds CHRIS WOOLGAR: The Allies agree that it is essential that there is a military occupation of France. In November 1815, a formal treaty is agreed by which the Allied powers– Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia– agreed to contribute some 30,000 troops each, with further contributions from other powers for an occupation force that will remain in France for between three and five years. The treaties of November 1815 also placed a heavy financial penalty on France. It was agreed that France should pay some of the costs of the war and that she should pay for the army of occupation. What happens next is that the French are very keen to bring the occupation to an early close.
Skip to 6 minutes and 12 seconds There is provision for reducing the size of the army. And this does, in fact, happen in 1817, when the army is scaled back by some 20%.
Skip to 6 minutes and 25 seconds Other people believed that it would be right to relieve France of some of the burdens, particularly the financial burdens. The City of London, for example, is keen to have France again as a trading partner. And this means that she has to be relieved of some of the debt that she faces. Loans are negotiated. The indemnity is agreed as paid off at a reduced rate during 1818. And by the end of 1818, the Allied powers have agreed that France may effectively be welcomed back into the international fold. And the army of occupation is withdrawn from the country during October and November 1818.
After the battle
Winning the peace is often harder than winning the war, and the Allied Powers needed to move quickly to stabilise France and reestablish an acceptable and legitimate authority. An army of occupation is needed to avoid disorder and the threat of another revolution, and the desire by some allies for punitive reparations must be settled.
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