The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive at a memorial service for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo at St Paul’s Cathedral The Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister have arrived at a memorial service for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – a victory which finally toppled French emperor Napoleon.
British soldiers in full military regalia, some wearing plumes in their hats, stood to attention outside the cathedral next to old military guns as the guests went in.
The Earl of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Boris Johnson and descendants of those who fought in the bloody battle, including the 9th Duke of Wellington, were among those at the service.
Guests filed in to remember the day, 200 years ago, when nearly 180,000 men from across Europe converged on the muddy battlefield at Waterloo in modern day Belgium.
Squadron Sergeant Major Tony Gray, 76, of the Light Cavalry, proudly wore three medals, including the Queen’s Medal for distinguished service, pinned to his uniform.
He said: “This anniversary means a great deal. The battle changed history. Had we not won, we probably would be speaking French now.”
On June 18 1815, Napoleon’s formidable Grande Armee clashed with Allied troops, led by the British military commander, the Duke of Wellington.
The French leader had returned from exile that year and, in what he hoped would be a decisive blow, attacked allied troops which had massed on the border.
But in what the Duke of Wellington described as “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”, the Allied army of British, Dutch and Prussian troops defeated Napoleon’s forces.
Stirring extracts from accounts of the battle – the “clashing of swords, the clattering of musketry, the hissing of balls” – were read by British, French and German readers.
Lieutenant Achilles Barron of The Rifles read an extract from Major George Simmons of the 95th Rifles, who recounts struggling with the “thick clayey mud” and rain which lashed down on the eve of the battle.
Lt Barron said: “Bad weather is something any soldier can relate to, I feel sympathetic to the men who were there – before the battle has even begun. It is a massive honour to be chosen to give the reading.”
He warned the battle risks “fading” from people’s memories, and it is important the Napoleonic Wars are remembered.