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Who Beat The French Imperial Guard At Waterloo

By Gareth Glover (Book Blurb)

As the Battle of Waterloo reached its momentous climax, Napoleon’s Imperial Guard marched towards the Duke of Wellington’s thinning red line. The Imperial Guard had never tasted defeat and nothing, it seemed, could stop it smashing through the British ranks.

TBritish troops at the 'Victory Parade' at the town of Waterloo the day after the 'battle' (reenactment). In this case the 21st June 2015.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

However, it was the French Imperial Guard that was sent reeling back in disorder, its columns ravaged by the steady volleys of the British infantry on the ridge at Waterloo.

The credit for defeating the Imperial Guard went to the 1st Foot Guards, which was consequently honored for its actions by being renamed the Grenadier Guards. The story did not stop there, however, as the 52nd Foot also contributed to the defeat of the Imperial Guard yet received no comparable recognition.

Gareth notes (on his website):
One of the most enduring arguments regarding Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and the one which is fought over with perhaps the most vitriol and passion on both sides, is that of the defeat of the Imperial Guard at around 8 pm on the evening of 18 June 1815. It is rightly seen as a decisive moment, when Napoleon launched a final all-out attack with his finest troops, his world-renowned Imperial Guards, only to see them defeated and chased from the field of battle. The sight of the failure of his ‘Immortals’ shocked his army to the core and morale, already shaken by the sound of the Prussians arriving and attacking their flank, collapsed disastrously and caused them to turn and flee on mass, ending Napoleon’s dreams of re-establishing his glorious empire for ever.

This controversy of which corps deserved the credit for defeating the Imperial Guard has continued down the decades and has rightly become a highly contentious subject over which much ink has been spilled. But now, thanks to the uncovering of the previously unpublished journal of Charles Holman of the 52nd Foot, Gareth Glover is able to piece together the exact sequence of events in those final, fatal moments of the great battle.

British troops fire into the French lines as the battle nears its climax.  

Along with numerous other firsthand accounts, Gareth Glover has been able to understand the most likely sequence of events, the reaction to these events immediately after the battle and how it was seen within the army in the days after the victory. Who did Wellington honor at the time? How did the Foot Guards gain much of the credit in London? Was there an establishment cover-up? Were the 52nd robbed of their glory? Do the recent much-publicized arguments stand up to impartial scrutiny?

Who really beat the French Imperial Guard in the closing stages of the Battle of Waterloo? This short video is part of talk by Gareth Glover presented in Waterloo, just days before the bicentenary of the battle, where he discusses various issue from his new book Waterloo: Myth and Reality. For more details see: http://garethglovercollection.com

Allied artillery prepares to fire into the French lines.  

This book 'The Great Waterloo Controversy, The 52nd Foot in the Waterloo Campaign'' is now the definitive answer to these questions and will finally end this centuries-old conundrum.

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