Wellington versus Napoleon: Aftermath of Waterloo (2015)


Wellington versus Napoleon: Aftermath of Waterloo is a history documentary that looks at what followed the epic battle of 1815, which saw The Duke of Wellington pronounced a national hero and Napoleon exiled to the island of St Helena.

Part of the ‘A Short History of the World’ series. Pilot’s Productions Short History of the World series covers a diverse range of subjects. Our hosts explore the world’s most historic sites and empires – travelling from the heart of Europe, across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and visiting spectacular sites dating from medieval times to the 19th century.

  • Wellington vs. Napoleon: Aftermath of Waterloo.
  • The Riddle of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • A Short History of the Moors.
  • Short History of Convict Australia.

Outline (General)

In 1815, it seemed that 25 years of war in Europe was finally coming to an end with the surrender of the Emperor Napoleon and his banishment to the Mediterranean island of Elba.

Outline (Chapters from 2015 DVD)

  • Introduction:
    • The Duke of Wellington emerged victorious over Napoleon Bonaparte’s army at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.
    • Without the French Revolution, there would have been no European conflict. Bonaparte created modern France and imposed a new legal system.
    • (Credits).
  • Leadership Style:
    • The Duke of Wellington assumed all responsibility on himself and never gave up.
    • Napoleon was charismatic, clever, and handsome.
    • Both men used trigonometry to place artillery on the battlefield.
  • Battle of Waterloo:
    • France was at war with England and other parts of Europe for 20 years.
    • After abdicating the throne and being exiled in Elba, Napoleon escaped and seized control of France.
    • Prussian forces arrived and provided reinforcements for the Duke of Wellington’s men.
  • Napoleon Defeated:
    • The Duke of Wellington occupied Paris.
    • Napoleon surrendered and hoped for asylum in Great Britain but was exiled to St. Helena.
    • He was not allowed direct contact with the outside world.
  • Exile on St. Helena:
    • Captain Cook and Charles Darwin also visited the island.
    • Napoleon spent his first night in a boarding house and was later relocated to Briars before settling in Longwood.
  • Longwood House:
    • The weather was cold, wet, and windy.
    • Napoleon used the billiard room to dictate his memoirs.
    • The former emperor became ill and depressed.
  • Death:
    • Napoleon could have died from arsenic but the official cause of death was stomach cancer.
    • He was buried in a tomb in a secluded valley in St. Helena until the British allowed the French to return his remains to Paris.
  • Waterloo Gallery:
    • Wellington returned to England a national hero, bought a home next to Hyde Park, and amassed a large art collection from Spain.
    • The Tsar of Russia gave the Duke two torchieres.
    • Napoleon commissioned a sculpture of himself.
  • Dining Room:
    • A table service commissioned by the prince regent of Portugal was used every year to celebrate the victory at the Iberian Peninsula.
    • King George IV gave the Duke of Wellington a portrait that he did not pay for.
  • Entering Politics:
    • The Duke of Wellington became prime minister and created the Catholic emancipation act.
  • Returned to France:
    • Napoleon’s corpse left St. Helena and was interned at Les Invalides.
    • Louis XIV built the Church of the Dome as a royal chapel.
    • The sarcophagus was not completed until twenty years later; Joseph Bonaparte died in Rome.
  • Napoleon’s Legacy:
    • Napoleon commissioned the column at the Place Vendome to commemorate the Battle of Austerlitz.
    • The original metal used was taken from Austrian canons; it has been torn down three times.
    • Napoleon established the Banque de France, wrote the Napoleonic Code, initiated construction on the Arc de Triomphe, and reinvented Paris.
  • Wellington’s Later Life:
    • The Duke’s house was converted into a museum.
    • Louis XVIII gave him a tea service Napoleon commissioned for Josephine.
    • Copenhagen, the horse Wellington rode at Waterloo is buried at Stratfield Saye House.
  • Wellington’s Legacy:
    • The funeral carriage was constructed from guns captured at the Battle of Waterloo.
    • The procession ended at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
    • Napoleon believed his life was a novel and was very ambitious.


Born in the same year, 1769, the two men took up their first commissions in the army around the same time.

Although Wellington spent nearly half of his career fighting the French and defeating them, Napoleon was scathing about Wellington’s abilities referring to him as the ‘sepoy general’, referring to his time in India. On the morning of 18th June 1815 just before the battle of Waterloo Napoleon informed his generals that Wellington was a bad general and they had nothing to fear.

Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo brought to an end a remarkable career.

Wellington in contrast famously said that Napoleon’s presence on the battlefield “was worth forty thousand men”. Privately he criticised his military and political rule, referring to him as ‘Buonaparte’ to emphasise his non-French origins. “His whole life, civil, political and military, was a fraud’.

However, it was Wellington who saved Napoleon after Waterloo. When there were calls for him to be executed, he was strongly against it. Although Napoleon blamed Wellington for his exile to St Helena it was not his choice. Napoleon hated St Helena and he died in 1821, an ill and embittered man.

His will, written on St Helena and amended countless times, contains an interesting addition. He left ten thousand francs to an officer called Cantillion who had been put on trial (and found innocent) for an assassination attempt on Wellington in 1818. He noted in his will: “Cantillion has as much right to assassinate that oligarchist as the latter had to send me to perish upon the rock of St Helena.”

Visitors to Apsley House will be surprised to see so many images of Napoleon and other members of the Bonaparte family. Wellington bought, or was given, paintings of Napoleon including the colossal statue of the Emperor by Canova, which dominates the main staircase of Apsley House.

Wellington became acquainted with Napoleon’s favourite sister, Pauline Borghese, in Paris in August 1814, when he negotiated the purchase of her house, the palatial Hotel de Charost, for use as the British Embassy. The house is still the British Embassy today.

Refer to the Wellington Collection.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
  • Producer(s):
    • Ian Cross.
  • Writer(s):
  • Music:
  • Cinematography:
  • Editor(s):
  • Production:
    • Pilot Fil and Television Productions.
  • Distributor(s):
  • Release Date: 2015.
  • Running Time: 51 minutes.
  • Rating: U/7+.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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