On his return to Paris from exile on the island of Elba, the Emperor Napoleon found Europe united against him. Unable to achieve peace with the nations he decided to destroy two armies stationed in the Belgian provinces, which at the time were allied to the Netherlands.
On 15th June 1815 the French army crossed the border and headed towards Charleroi. On 16th June Napoleon defeated the Prussians at Ligny, but Marshal Ney on the left flank failed to take the Quatre-Bras crossroads at Baisy-Thy. On 17th June with Napoleon believing that the Prussians were beating a retreat to the east, they in actual fact were heading northwards intending to rejoin Wellington’s army.
A violent storm slowed all movements down.
On Sunday 18th June at Mont-Saint-Jean to the south of the hamlet of Waterloo, Wellington’s troops (67,000 men) initially came face to face with the French (71,000 men). Even with the courage of the French infantry and the glorious charges of the famous cuirassiers, Napoleon could not break through the lines of Wellington’s troops, who, although exhausted, held their positions. Late on the same afternoon three Prussian regiments burst into the fray on the right flank of the French army and the fate of the battle was sealed.
It is estimated that some 48,000 were lost in this battle, 10,000 of whom died and remained on the battlefield.
Napoleon returned to Paris, abdicated for a second time and lived out his destiny on the island of Saint Helena in the Southern Atlantic.