In case you’re wondering why 19th-Century (and 18th-Century) cavalry  feared a British square, here’s a look at a reenactor version:

The battles are scripted, but only to an extent. It is impossible to plan how a cavalry charge will turn out while the melees often descend into something akin to a rugby scrum. In previous re-enactments, it is said, over-zealous French units have taken it upon themselves to try and win.

via Portable loos and Belgian officiousness: When ‘war’ breaks out at the Battle of Waterloo, 2015 – Telegraph.

We’ve always thought of reenactors as something specifically American and Civil War oriented. It turns out there are a lot of European reenactors doing Napoleonic battles, which have just had their bicentennial.

The “French” may include people from all across the EU (and beyond) who enjoy portraying French soldiers of the 1st Empire, and the “British” include everybody who wants to be part of Wellington’s victory — including a designated “Wellington,” just as the French have their own “Napoleon,” and specific role players as other generals in the complicated coalition battle.

Cambridge Map of Waterloo

Even playing at soldiering can be pretty hard, and there’s often deaths — especially among the, er, more seasoned reenactors — and hospitalizations. This year’s Waterloo was no exception, being the figurative Waterloo for one Canadian reenactor — sadly, not from Waterloo, Ontario.

The entire report in the Telegraph is insightful, curious and perceptive, and seems to take these reenactors at face value, rather than take a superficial scan of the event and deliver the supercilious mockery that credentialed Acela Corridor journalists would. So hie yourself hence and Read The Whole Thing™.

Gee, if only Napoleon had had the insight of the brilliant men in suits in the Pentagon, he could simply have mobilized a regiment of female Chasseurs and driven Wellington from the field. (There actually are women reenactors, but they play camp followers and/or courtesans).

This entry was posted in The Past is Another Country on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

8 thoughts on “Reenacting Waterloo


I saw a picture of two reenactors at Waterloo station, complete with muskets. I of course can’t help but wonder about the legalities of such things over there. In most of the US such weapons are not legally considered to be firearms. Over there though I wonder if they give them a pass since they are in uniform, or if they are inert.

Hognose Post author

Here’s the Crown Prosecution Service guidance. It looks like a “catch me, fuck me” law:

Again, IANAL, especially not a barrister/solicitor/limey lawyer, but it looks to me like a sufficiently old antique (or reproduction) is exempt from licensing unless you have ever shot it, in which case it’s treated like a modern firearm.

So much for the Magna Carta.

Think Defence

Thought you might like this


I have done few reenactments myself but older period (late crusades time – early hundred year war) here in Czech republic, and we even had women in the battle, but they had to wear such armor + costume so that they would not be recognizable from men, at least not on the first sight.

Regarding firearms, single or two shot front loaders of any type aren’t regulated except for having the legal age, i.e. you can buy it if you’re 18+. I guess the western Europe would be much more hysterical. That was one of the silver linings of the communist era cloud – the weapons were generally banned and when the communism fell, it resulted in fairly liberal firearm laws, especially today, compared to western countries like UK or even Germany. We get shall-issue CCP if the demands of the law are met.

Think Defence

I thought the funniest part of the Waterloo re-enactments was the Belgian police giving ‘Napoleon’ a parking ticket


Oh, and the Belgians (again) issuing a commemorative Waterloo coin, despite the French having a sense of humour failure and trying to stop them doing it

Double priceless 🙂


Some beautiful photographs over at The Atlantic. You can get your daily dose of Progressiveness while you are there!

John Distai

Next time, please include the photos of the courtesans. Thanks! 🙂


Europe has a pretty healthy reenacting community, considering there are a number of Roman and middle age groups, and reenactors that build trebuchet and other seige artillery. European reenactors show up all the time on the types of real history shows that History Channel dumped years ago for chasing ancient monster ghoast alien occultist nazis pawn shops.