Sunday, June 21, 2015

"History is a set of lies agreed upon."
("L'histoire est une suite de mensonges sur lesquels on est d'accord")
Napoleon - THE Napoleon

"Both countries [Britain and France] persist in believing that Waterloo was a British – or even an 'English' – victory."
"More than half of Wellington’s own force consisted of Hannoverians, Saxons, Dutch and Belgians. About a quarter of the 120,000 soldiers who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo were 'British' – and maybe one in eight were English.
"Of the 32 infantry regiments in Wellington’s army of about 70,000, only 18 were British, of which seven were from Scotland. Modern historians estimate that one in three of the soldiers in the “English” regiments were from Ireland. Of the 12 cavalry brigades, seven were British and many of their regiments were German. Half the 29 batteries of guns were Hannoverian, Dutch or Belgian.
"None of these numbers include the 53,000 Prussians who turned up eventually and swung the battle Wellington’s way, just when the French were pushing for a late victory."
(John Lichfield, The Independent, 12.6.15)

The anti-French force was a European coalition commanded by an Irishman who persisted in calling himself English, in spite of his family's residence in Ireland since 1174. Wellington hated Catholics, though a large number of his troops were of that faith. It is claimed that the other ranks of his army in the Peninsular War were 100% Irish Catholic, and the officer class was made up of Scots and Anglo-Irish Protestants like himself.
Ironic then that it was Wellington, as British Prime Minister, who oversaw the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act. His speech to the House of Lords on the subject suggests that he did this with a good grace.

"My Lords, if on the eve of any of those hard-fought days, on which I had the honour to command them, I had thus addressed my Roman Catholic troops; 'You well know that your country so suspects your loyalty, or so dislikes your religion, that she has not thought proper to admit you amongst the ranks of her citizens; if on that account you deem it an act of injustice on her part to require you to shed your blood in her defence, you are at liberty to withdraw.'
"- I am quite sure, My Lords, that, however bitter the recollections which it awakened, they would have spurned the alternative with indignation; for the hour of danger and glory is the hour in which the gallant, the generous-hearted Irishman best knows his duty, and is most determined to perform it. But if, My Lords it had been otherwise; if they had chosen to desert the cause in which they were embarked, though the remainder of the troops would undoubtedly have maintained the honour of the British arms, yet, as I have just said, no effort of theirs could ever have crowned us with victory. Yes, My Lords, it is mainly to the Irish Catholics that we all owe our proud pre-eminence in our military career ..."