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Edinburgh at Waterloo: Meeting Napoleon

Waterloo archive anecdotes: 17 June 1815


Jun 17, 2015

After the battle of Quatre Bras many Scottish prisoners were taken by the French, and one actually met Napoleon in person.

Lt Col James Drummond Fullerton Elphinstone. (illustrated right) 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.

He was involved in a cavalry charge at Quatre Bras. He received serious, life threatening, wounds to his left breast and left arm. The charge failed and he was taken prisoner by the French.

Elphinstone was brought before Bonaparte himself who asked “what country are you of?" He answered "Scotland". Perhaps minded of the 'Auld Alliance' Napoleon then had his personal surgeon treat Elphinstone’s 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 later sent a set of Chinese chessmen to Napoleon in his exile on St Helena.

Although James was from Carberry, where he died on 8 March 1857 and was buried in St Michael's Kirk in Inveresk, his family had links with Edinburgh's Old Town. No.270 Cowgate was once the site of Elphinstone House situated in Elphinstone Court near the site of St Patrick's RC Church today. (Click here to view some early twentieth century photographs taken by Francis M Chrystal around the time of the demolition of Elphinstone Court)



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