Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Edinburgh Waterloo Trail

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo our trail highlights some Edinburgh connections to the famous battle.

Jun 12, 2015

Edinburgh Castle

•    The 45 Eagle (Photo courtesy of Museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who hold copyright)

One of the most notable individual acts of the battle of Waterloo was the capture of an enemy standard by a Scottish soldier called Ensign Charles Ewart of the 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys).Amidst furious fighting he engaged fiercely with the 45th Ligne’s standard bearer, bested him and captured the Eagle of the 45th French Regiment, a morale boosting feat for his regiment.

The Eagle is usually on permanent display within the museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in Edinburgh Castle but until the last day of August 2015 can be viewed in a special Waterloo 200 exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland Chambers Street.

•    Scottish Regimental flags from Waterloo

This summer, for the Waterloo 200 celebrations, visitors to the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle can view two Regimental flags which accompanied the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Scots during the Battle of Waterloo. This public display, until the last day of August, is a very rare and unique opportunity as, due to the fragile nature of these relics, they are normally in protective storage.

•    Grave of Ensign Ewart (North side of Castle esplanade)

The captor of the 45 Eagle was a remarkable man described by a contemporary as “a man of Herculean strength, and of more than ordinary stature, being six foot, four inches, and of considerable skill as a swordsman.”

Following his triumph at Waterloo he was commissioned from the ranks and, on leaving the army, he was given a pension of 5/10d per day. He settled in Salford where he supplemented his income by teaching swordsmanship. He died in 1846 but in 1938 his remains were moved from Salford to a memorial grave on Edinburgh Castle esplanade.

Princes Street: Statue of the Duke of Wellington

Following his victory at Waterloo the Duke of Wellington was a national hero, and for decades inspired many public monuments. In Edinburgh a magnificent bronze statue of Wellington mounted on a rearing horse was sculpted by Sir John Steel (1804 - 1891). Some lobbied for it to be placed atop Arthur’s Seat but, in 1852, it was erected outside Register House where it remains to this day.

The Duke himself sat for the sculptor, and was so pleased that he commissioned two further casts, one for his home, Apsley House and the other for Eton.

Waterloo Place and Regent Bridge

A new road extending Princes Street to the East was begun in 1815 and took its name, Waterloo Place, from the victory of that year. No. 23 was originally built as the Waterloo Hotel.

The new road required a bridge over the Calton valley and in 1819 the Regent Bridge was completed. The bridge also celebrated Waterloo with ‘triumphal screens commemorating the battle’.

National Monument, Calton Hill

In 1822 many leading Scots including Sir Walter Scott, Lord Cockburn and Lord Elgin raised subscriptions to build a monument in memory of those who fell in the Napoleonic Wars. An appeal for £42,000 ‘to erect a facsimile of the Parthenon’ on Calton Hill was launched. Less than half of this was ever raised so the monument stands unfinished to this day giving the impression of an ancient ruin on the skyline.

Assembly Rooms, George Street

In 1816 The Caledonian Mercury reported on a dinner held in the Assembly Rooms to celebrate the first anniversary of victory at Waterloo. In the chair was William Arbuthnot the Lord Provost and there were many Scottish noble and senior military figures present.

After dinner the Mercury reports the following toasts were drunk:

•    Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, which was drank with acclamations and followed by the tune of the Duke of York’s new march by Mozart.

•    Marshal Blucher – three times three – Tune Bold Dragoon.

•    The Officers and Soldiers who so nobly supported their General at Waterloo – three times three.

•    The memory of the gallant men who fell at Quatre Bras and Waterloo – drunk in silence.

Mr Walter Scott (later Sir) was present and, according to the Mercury, ‘proposed a bumper to the health of Ensign Ewart, late of the Scots Greys, whose bravery was conspicuous in the memorable victory of Waterloo, where he took a French eagle, and killed with his own hand three of Bonaparte’s guard, who made desperate efforts to regain their standard’

The Lord Provost announced that Ewart would now address the company. However:

‘After a short pause,  the Lord Provost rose, and, at the request of Mr Ewart, stated  how much he felt honoured by this mark of the company’s approbation; but that he would rather fight the battle again than make a speech. (Great applause)’

Waterloo 200 Exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland

This summer, until the last day of August 2015, the NMS at Chambers Street is hosting an exhibition of items relating to Scottish links with Waterloo. The 45 Eagle captured by Ensign Ewart is on display. Other items include battlefield weapons, contemporary paintings, a Scottish Waterloo victory medal and a cross axed badge (illustrated below) from a French grenadier’s cartridge pouch, brought back by Sir Walter Scott who visited the battlefield in August 1815.

Cowgate: Site of Elphinstone Court and House

No.270 Cowgate was once the site of Elphinstone House (view photos taken before its demolition). One branch of the Elphinstone family was from Inveresk to the east of Edinburgh, and one actually met Napoleon at Waterloo.

Lt Col James Drummond Fullerton Elphinstone. (Born 4 May 1788; died at Carberry 8 March 1857) was a cavalry officer in the 7th (Queen’s Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons. He served in Wellington's army in Spain in 1808 -09 and again in 1813 – 14 when he was promoted in the field from Captain to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. In the Waterloo campaign of mid-June 1815 he was involved in a cavalry charge at Quatre Bras. He received serious wounds to his left breast and left arm. The charge failed and he was taken prisoner.

Elphinstone was brought before Napoleon Bonaparte himself who asked “what country are you of?" He answered "Scotland". Napoleon then had his own surgeon treat Elphinstone’s life threatening wounds and gave him a drink from his own canteen. In gratitude for the life-saving succour given to his brother by Bonaparte, Elphinstone’s brother John was later to send a set of Chinese chessmen to Napoleon in his exile on St Helena.

Picardy Place: Conan Doyle’s fictional Waterloo heroes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh. Although best known for writing about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, he was inspired by the history of Waterloo to create two fictional characters from the opposing armies.

•    Corporal Gregory Brewster was the hero of a one man, one act play written by Doyle in 1894 called ‘A Story of Waterloo’ or sometimes more simply as ‘Waterloo’. The play opened at the Prince’s Theatre, Bristol, travelled around the UK and had successful runs in the West End and also in New York. The role of the heroic corporal was played by one of the leading actors of the time, Henry Irving (later knighted), who also produced and directed it. Doyle is said to have had Irving in mind as he penned the play.

•    Brigadier Etienne Gerard was a rather comical character which Conan Doyle created after he ceased to write the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Brigadier Gerard first appears in 1896 and the stories are written in the first person immodestly recounting his role as a young French cavalry officer in the time of the Napoleonic wars. The Brigadier absolves himself for French failure at Waterloo thus:

‘Of all the great battles in which I had the honour of drawing my sword for the Emperor and for France there was not one which was lost. At Waterloo, though I was present, I was unable to fight and the enemy was victorious. It is not for me to say there is a connection between those two things . . . But it gives matter for thought and some may have drawn flattering conclusions from it.’

No.9 George Street (Now the site of Standard Life Investments)

Thought to be the home of Sir Charles Bell (pictured left) who was born in Edinburgh in 1774, the son of the Rev William Bell of ‘Fountain Bridge’. He is described by the historian Michael Fry as the ‘father of neurology’ and became a professor following his good service as chief surgeon at the Battle of Waterloo. Bell’s illustrations of the wounded at Waterloo were to prove to be remarkable teaching aids in medical schools. Read more on the Waterloo 200 site.

No.33 Northumberland Street

The home of James Simpson, Scottish advocate and author. Born in Edinburgh in 1781, the son of William Simpson, minister of the Tron Church, Edinburgh. He became an advocate in 1801. In early life he was acquainted with Sir Walter Scott, and was one of those who read the Waverley novels before publication.

In 1815 he visited the scene of the battle of Waterloo immediately after the event and subsequently published ‘A Visit to Flanders and the Field of Waterloo, Edinburgh, 1815,’ which rapidly went through nine editions. Simpson died on 2 September 1853, at his house in Northumberland Street.

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