My friend, Richard, who has been a.w.o.l. from these distinguished columns for some time (and will therefore be up on a charge when he returns!) did at least send me an interesting essay on the Battle of Waterloo. It is irritating to amateur military history buffs like me that so many myths arise almost instantaneously after a battle. Given the critical importance of Waterloo it is important to separate fact from fiction although there is some interest to be derived from the way in which different myths are invented to suit different parties to the proceedings. Thus, the author of the essay, Prof. Tim Blanning, completely squidges that old fairy-tale about the French Imperial Guard forming square at the end of the battle and replying to a British demand for surrender by a one word answer - "Merde!"
He implies, quite correctly in my view, that Bonaparte's mad return to France from his prison on Elba was an extreme gamble by any measure. As I have mentioned before, it is worth noting that when news of his escape and return reached the Congress of Vienna it only took a few days for all the Grand Panjandrums of Europe to agree that they would all go back to war until Bonaparte was utterly finished. Just think, these days, how long it takes the EU leaders to agree on the time of day let alone matters of war and peace.
Bonaparte was just another in a long line of murderous, maniacal egotists who wreak havoc whenever they arise. The fact that even today most Frenchmen admire him tells you all you need to know about the folly of 'The People' - dread words!