Category: BATTLE NATIONS (17-01-2014)
$1200 clue: Go to this country to meet your 1815 battle site Waterloo.
Correct response (highlight to see): BELGIUM
The gist: The clue’s presented as a bit of lame wordplay on the phrase “meeting your Waterloo,” a gag that certainly doesn’t help you if you don’t know the answer anyway. The Battle of Waterloo, in Belgium, was the 1815 battle that finally saw the defeat of Emperor Napoleon by the Seven Coalition, an amalgam of European armies led most famously by Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington.
After his disastrous invasion of Russia, Napoleon was on his way back to France to defend it from attacking Coalition forces in order to preserve his throne.* In late 1812, Napoleon’s devastated forces had limped back westward after their disastrous half-year-long invasion of Russia. Back in France, Napoleon was able to muster 350 000 troops in the winter of 1813, with which he engaged the Sixth Coalition army, but by mid-1814 he was forced to abdicate the French throne and to go into exile on Elba. On his escape from the island in March 1814, he regained the loyalty of the French army and retook Paris from King Louis XVIII. In response, the Seventh Coalition was formed at the Congress of Vienna. Napoleon saw that he had no chance to keep Paris if the Coalition armies were able to coordinate their attacks. In an attempt to defeat as many of the Coalition’s contingents individually possible, he first won a victory against the Prussian forces at Ligny. He then elected to engage the British (and Dutch) forces at Waterloo, about 13 kilometres south by south-east of the Belgian capital Brussels. Although the battlefield presented significant advantages to Wellington’s forces, Napoleon decided he had no other choice, and Wellington offered battle upon learning that the regrouped remnants of the Prussian contingent, under the command of Gebhard von Blücher, was near enough to offer their support in battle. That decision would prove conclusive when a Prussian attack broke through Napoleon’s right flank, allowing Wellington’s forces to go on the offensive, throwing the French army into disarray. Both sides suffered huge losses, though Napoleon suffered more – the battlefield following the fight, strewn with enormous heaps of mangled bodies, was described as a “sight too horrible to behold” by Major W. E. Frye. After Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated his throne and was exiled to Saint Helena, a small volcanic island more than 2000 kilometres from the western coast of Africa, where he remained until his death in 1821.
In Jeopardy!: A favourite. Waterloo appears in 81 clues in the J!Archive, 62 of which have some sort of military flavour, be it mentioning a general, a battle, Napoleon himself, or something else along those lines. Again we see a familiar triangle, where many clues give two of “Napoleon,” “Wellington,” or “Waterloo,” and the correct response is the remainder. Many of the clues, including this one, also mention 1815, the year the battle took place, but 1815 also shows up with reference to a number of other things, including the Battle of New Orleans that was won by Andrew Jackson, so better not to rely on the year in this case, although a couple clues are looking for “1815” as the correct response. Also coming up as responses are Napoleon’s “Old Guard,” which made the final charge at the battle.
Beyond those, Waterloo does come up in some other contexts: we see Abba come up in three clues for their hit song “Waterloo,” and a number of American cities called Waterloo are mentioned, most notably Austin, Texas, which was originally named Waterloo.
(There also happens to have been a stint of filming Clue Crew clues at the Trek Bicycle Corporation in Waterloo, Wisconsin, so those six clues all appear in Archive searches as well. We won’t worry about them here).
Ed. note: reader Justin pointed out that this leaves quite a lot of time and important events out of Napoleon’s story, so I’ve attempted to improve it. I also added a pretty painting.