The battle in which Napoleon was finally defeated by British, Dutch, Belgian and German forces commanded by Wellington, and the Prussians under von Blucher, on 18 June 1815 at Waterloo in Belgium has become one of the most famous in history. Battles were then localised affairs: Waterloo was fought on a piece of land approximately the size of Central Park or the combined areas of London's Hyde, Green and St James's Parks. Parks are an apt analogy, lending the sense that war was something of a social occasion. The famous quote about the battle having been 'won on the playing-fields of Eton' has a resonance that goes beyond its apparent fatuity. For a good many of the men who fought at Waterloo, war was something of a sporting occasion in England. Indeed the sense of Waterloo as a 'school match' is reinforced by such images as the Duke of Richmond turning up at the battle to cheer on his sons who were fighting. However, there are few social and sporting occasions that end with 56,000 dead, dying and wounded men, and at least 10,000 horses in a similar state strewn across an area the size of Central Park.
Nick Foulkes' brilliantly realised portrait of the eve of battle brings a fresh perspective to this turning-point in European history.