This summer marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, when fine London venues bring history to life with events and new exhibitions.
The battle, which took place on June 18, 1815, was considered one of the most important in European history, when a violent confrontation saw the first Duke of Wellington command an allied army that defeated the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Now, you can get more of an insight into this amazing piece of history and a national hero – known as 'the Iron Duke' – at three important historic attractions in London.
Apsley House, officially known as ‘Number 1 London’, was an 18th-century house designed by Robert Adam, later remodeled for the Duke of Wellington in 1819. He lived here after defeating Napoleon, and the house has been a shrine to him since he died in 1852. Even now it is a residence of the present-day Dukes of Wellington.
Visit the house, and inside you will see the Waterloo Gallery – where Wellington held his annual Waterloo Banquet – with a special facelift to mark the event. The Waterloo Banquet has been beautifully recreated, so you can see a copy of the only surviving menu plan, and the magnificent Portuguese silver centerpiece and dinner service. Also in the house, a new exhibition of Waterloo memorabilia has four new multimedia tours to bring the events and exhibits into the 21st century.
In addition, there are many special events during weekends throughout July commemorating the anniversary, where you’ll get an insight into the battle. There is also a lecture series from expert historians.
Opposite Apsley House lies the spectacular Wellington Arch, built in 1827 to mark Wellington’s victories over Napoleon. The arch is topped with the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, depicting the angel of peace descending on the four-horsed chariot of war. Here, on its third and fourth floors, the landmark exhibition Waterloo 1815 – The Battle for Peace sees the Duke of Wellington’s handwritten orders from the Battle of Waterloo, his battle sword and even a pair of original ‘Wellington Boots’, among unique objects on display. You can see the exhibition until November 2015.
Located in the original 18th-century stables, the unmissable "living museum," the Household Cavalry Museum, takes you behind the scenes of the Household Cavalry, the oldest and most senior regiments of the British Army. It too is celebrating the 200th anniversary with some stunning new displays in its new feature, Waterloo 200, which also commemorates the action with the Union Brigade.
The museum houses astounding Waterloo-related exhibits – rare items and personal effects such as the bugle on which the Household Brigade Charge was sounded by the 16-year-old John Edwards. Don't miss the full-scale replica of Corporal Stiles, with the captured eagle of the French 105th regiment. Look out for the remarkable hoof, complete with a small lock of hair, that belonged to Napoleon’s barb charger Marengo, which he rode at Waterloo. The hoof has now been fashioned into a silvered snuffbox!